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August 29, 2006


John E

The "walking around preaching" reminds me of an elderly deacon in our church a few years ago. He has a great voice and often sung a hymn as part of his homily. One time though, during his homily, he came up to a pretty young lady who was in RCIA, touched her hand, and sung to her. She was embarrassed and I was embarrassed for her. Perhaps it would've been more appropriate at a nightclub.

Other priests in the past have done the talkshow host bit, coming out to the "audience" to get them to answer questions. Another novelty I've seen is to take a 5-minute break while everyone is to choose someone nearby that they've never met and chat with them. I got the elderly Vietnamese man who was hard of hearing and spoke little English and who was just about as excited to take part in the little exercise as I was.

Brian Day

Good post. Can I get an Amen?!


We have a visiting priest from Italy who will make a statement in his homily and, when he wants agreement from the congregation, will say


and the 'correct' response is


He's a lovable individual and Italian to boot so it doesn't seem to offend even the most conservative element.


I was going to put up a brief defense of the Latin language, with some comments on the loss of "h" in Latin, and how in fact both spellings of (H)alleluia are found in Latin texts.

But I think this is much better:

"Look, O Lord God, and see patiently, as Thou art wont to do, how diligently the sons of men observe the rules of letters and syllables received from previous speakers, and neglect the eternal rules of everlasting salvation received from Thee. They carry it so far that if one who practices or teaches the established rules of pronunciation has said "'uman" without aspirating the first syllable, contrary to grammatical usage, [that is, has said "ominem" for "hominem"], he would be more displeasing to men than if he, although he is a human, were to hate another human contrary to Thy commandments."

- St. Augustine, "Confessions" 1.18.29

(Incidentally, I don't mean to imply that you are unconcerned with God's commandments; likewise, I know full well that this passage applies equally, if not more so, to myself. I just thought it was apt. Nihil novum sub sole, as it were.)


In the defense of "alleluia" as a word, it does sound more elegant by not having the harsh H sound in the front.

It's not often that words get adapted to other languages without some, well, adaptation. :)


While I was a student at Steubenville and at Saint Louis, I had clases with a number of priests and nuns from Africa. They told me that homilies in Africa run as long as two hours, and that the congregrations love it that long! Many Africans travel for miles (and not typically by car) to attend Liturgy and expect to hear an outstanding, moving sermon. Many of my African peers even remarked how short even Steubenville sermons were (and these were 20-25 minutes).

I was glad to read that an effort was made toward refining and even accenting inculturation in the African Church. It reminds me a quote from Ratzinger:

"Prior to Trent a multiplicity of rites and liturgies had been allowed within the Church. The Fathers of Trent took the liturgy of the city of Rome and prescribed it for the whole Church; they only retained those Western liturgies which had existed for more than two hundred years. This is what happened, for instance, with the Ambrosian rite of the Diocese of Milan. If it would foster devotion in many believers and encourage respect for piety of particular Catholic groups, I would personally support a return to the ancient situation, i.e. to a certian liturgical pluralism." (The Ratzinger Report, p. 124).

Evangelical Catholicism


15 minutes of pablum is worse than 45 minutes of a really good homily.

I've experienced both, and I'll take a good homily over the stuff that gets served to me every Sunday. Content, content, content.


Doh! Looks like Michael beat me to the explanation. I've heard the same thing.

J.R. Stoodley

I for one, coming from a tame Methodist background and now a Catholic, can not possibly imagine how people shouting random stuff in the middle of mass could not be disruptive.

Probebly this is my personal lack of understanding and there is some way of having a mindset where it is not disruptive and disrespectful. However, I think when the congregation is not desensitized to that kind of chaos it is an abuse. Therefore if such practices are not tradtional to African religion (and I doubt they are) it would be an abuse to transfer something disruptive from Evangelical America to the African Church for some dumb racial reason (these people are black so lets have them worship like in many black Protestant churches in America) or because the missionary just likes it and wants to establish it as a tradition. Bad news.

About Alleluia, that if that is the Latin form of the word then I am fine with it. The language of the Latin rite is Latin not Hebrew. We don't pronounce most of the Hebrew biblical names "correctly" anyway and neither did the New Testament writers, so why switch from Hebrew to Latin. Alleluia sounds better anyway, which I bet is why the Latin speakers made the change anyway.

J.R. Stoodley

sorry, I meant "why switch from Latin to Hebrew?"


I love a good sermon, coming from a Protestant background, and a good homily at Mass is a rare and precious thing to me. :-) I have no objection when the homily runs longer than 10-15 minutes (which seems to be the standard), provided it's worth listening to. Considering that a lot of people's entire weekly formation is one Mass on Sunday, that's the priest's one chance to reach them/us. Go for it, I say.

Brian John Schuettler

When is the last time a priest celebrated a "Hebrew" Mass? I'll bet that is why we don't say Halleluia.

Old Zhou

Personally, I don't believe that as words move between languages and undergo minor phonetic changes, that it is "laziness" on the part of the speakers of the recipient language.

Is it laziness on the part of English speakers that they do not enunciate each vowel of the Latin "-tion" ending of many nouns, reducing it from "tsi-on" to "shun"? Would you require people to say "frac-tsi-on" instead of "frack-shun"?

Or is it laziness on the part of English speakers that they can't pronoune a proper German gutteral fricative "-ch" and pronounce the composer's name like "Bock" rather than the rich, throaty, rasping "Bachchch" or authentic German pronunciation?

No, it is no laziness. Words move between languages, and when they do, the sounds change a bit. Sometimes more than a bit.

I won't think you're lazy if you say "ketchup" instead of the proper original Chinese words.

Jared Weber

There was one particular priest who always annoyed me with his incessant insistence that we SHOUT (not just say) "Alleluja!" after he'd say "Christ is risen" at random points in his homily. He'd repeat himself several times until he got the decibel level he wanted.

It was almost as bad as the music director's insistent, "Good morning! Ahem ... GOOD MORNING!!!" Like we're all a bunch of pre-schoolers.

So annoying.


Ten years ago, I invited my Protestant Dad to my daughters first commmunion. The Priest then was discussing child discipline.

My dad yelled "A-men".

Everyone momentarily turned around to look at him....then business as usual.


Micheal already mentioned it, but at my college we had a visiting priest from Africa (he was getting a phd in building construction so he could teach the priests back home how to build gorgeous cathedrals) who mentioned the culture difference about homilies and masses in Africa (or Ghana, iirc). If he didn't preach at least 45 minutes of a *really* good homily, people would be upset, and ditto if the liturgy was less than 2 hours long. He said the first time he went back home after spending a few years in Europe and America and getting used to shorter homilies, his first homily and mass back home was 'short' (15-20 minutes of preaching, way more than he'd done while out of country, and an hour long liturgy, ditto there he thought he'd made it longer) and everyone was mad or confused or worried about him, and commented on it. Not just to him, but they visited or called his mother, too, to let her know that he wasn't preaching long enough and was rushing through the mass in an seemly way, so she lectured him on a proper respect for the mass. And they expect plenty of thought and preparation for the homily, too. Here, he doesn't need to prepare that much, and can just read through the readings and prior notes for sermons, but back home he has to do more research and preparation each time, as if he doesn't give them a good, thick, detailed homily, they'll tell him where he went wrong or what he left out, and he would rather not disappoint them. They expect a lot from their priests, and apparently get a lot. The priests I've heard preach who were from Africa have all been stunning, with a rich understanding and wide knowledge of scripture. I could listen to them preach for an hour and think that hardly ten minutes went by. But I'm used to the accents by now - some of the folks in my parish who couldn't understand the African accents due to lack of microphone power/sitting too far back/hardness of hearing were downright bored after less than five minutes.

The other interesting thing about the priest at my college is that he would chant briefly after the consecration - something along the lines of 'Jesus, we adore you. Lay our hearts before you. Oh, how we love you.' while holding up Jesus's body and blood. That's something I never heard of before, but he said they did back home - he expected everyone to join in, and and we caught on. I rather liked it, after I got over my surprise. I liked having longer to adore Jesus after each of the bread and wine were transformed, and I never object to singing an 'I adore you' to Jesus. I hope that isn't an abuse, though unusual.


Sadly that things were common in the Philippines. Sometimes I also see somepriests walking as they deliver the Homily. At least thankfully, There's no priest celebrating Mass with cookies and grape juice or a nun delivering a homily...yet. (There is Liturgical Dancing, Extreme numbers of Extraordinary Ministers, Priests wearing Stoles over Chasubles.At least songs in Mass used there aren't made by Haugen and Haas.


Sadly that things were common in the Philippines. Sometimes I also see somepriests walking as they deliver the Homily. At least thankfully, There's no priest celebrating Mass with cookies and grape juice or a nun delivering a homily...yet. (There is Liturgical Dancing, Extreme numbers of Extraordinary Ministers, Priests wearing Stoles over Chasubles.At least songs in Mass used there aren't made by Haugen and Haas.


Sorry again for the double-post.


I find the truncation of the Liturgy of the Word to be . . .disturbing. . .


Going the opposite direction of most of the previous posts, from Catholic to Protestant, I would definately say that I find nothing wrong with a little bit of animation in the homilies. Some of the most memorable homilies from my Catholic past were the ones where the priest actually came into the "auidence" and asked us questions. Sadly, he only did that at the children's Masses I was attending and not the adult ones; so Sundays were disappointing to me.

Neither my wife nor I appreciate preachers/priests/pastors who YELL the word of God at the top of their lungs. As my wife says: "I'm not stupid. You don't have to yell at me for me to get the point."

But what's wrong with saying "Praise the Lord!" in a homily? Isn't that what we came to Church to do in the first place????


Cardinal Arinze needs some sort of enforcement mechanism for all his letters and documents.


I'm with you, Old Zhou.

As a Brazilian and anyone else who speaks a Romance language will tell you, the aspirated H sound as pronounced by English speakers is unnatural and inelegant. As Romance languages have so many points in common, suggesting that Latin was spoken similarly, it's no wonder that the H was dropped from Alleluia in the Latin Church.

As English speakers are late in the game, they should accept it with humility. ;-)

PS: and why double the L in Alleluia when neither Hebrew nor Greek resorted to such Anglicanisms?


Ah, yes! A really good homily instead of a show. In one of my former parishes, the priest stood still and got the point across in about 10 minutes; his series on the Ten Commandments had so many people cringing in the pews, that he was told to stop. Another parish with which I am familiar has a pastor who prances all over the church with his "rock star" microphone and many people are now attending Mass in other parishes, even though one of the permanent deacons speaks about every three weeks and is an excellent homilist--standing still.
The length of a homily, within reason, is not as important as content.

Some Day

Mr. Jimmy,
I agree with every thing you said until you said lazy Latins. I hope you mean as to the real Latins, the ones from Europe. But anyhow, Germanic languages also move around the words.
Priest comes from (if I am not mistaken) the word preost which comes from the word presbyter.
That is a lot of changing. But anyhow, please don't get too angry with me, but I just felt that it might have been a shot at Latin Americans.
I am probably wrong, put I don't want people thinking that was what you meant. Some Americans forget that they were imigrants too, and like to rag on anyone who isn't a "native"


Some Day, I'm pretty sure Jimmy was referring to the speakers of the Latin language (i.e. Romans and Roman citizens), not Latin Americans.

J.R. Stoodley

Some Day, as Kasia said, I'm sure he meant the Latin speaking parts of the Roman Empire not Latin America. Or perhaps he meant specifically the Italic tribe where the primitive Latin language originated.

And I disagree that Latin speakers where lazy in terms of their language. They developed perhaps the most refined, elegant, systematic language in the world or at least the West.

They were on the other hand lazy in other ways, like unwilling to fight their own wars so they hired my Germanic ancestors to fight for them. No wonder they got the crap beat out of them when some of us decided we liked their land better than the cold North. :-p

Some Day

Stupid Romans. Stupid pagans.

J.R. Stoodley

At this time the Romans were Catholic and the Germanic tribes were either Arian or Pagan. Clovis, king of the Franks, conquered Gaul and instatantly converted with much of his tribe to Catholicism, making France the "eldest daughter of the Church." Eventually all the Germanic tribes whether invaders or not would convert to Catholicism, except maybe I think the Arian Vandals in North Africa who may have gone directly from Arianism to Islam.

While the initial Germanic invasions were pretty much unjustified, I think the merging of Germanic and Roman cultures was a very positive historical developement, creating something greater than the either: Medieval Western Civilization, which in turn would give rise to modern Western Civilization.

To get a little more on topic, many aspects of pre-Christian Roman, Germanic, and in at least some places Celtic practices were adopted by the Church. Probebly then we can not deny the same kind of acculturation to other cultures, though we must always be careful.

Remember also that pagan religions and cultures were provided by the providence of God with those aspects that would make the transition to Christianity easier. For instance baptism-like things and ritual meals of bread and wine in some pagan Roman religion and arguably in the case of baptism Celtic religion, the idea of the priest-king and a coming apocalypse in Germanic religion, the idea of sacrifice in almost all religions, etc.

One could argue on the one hand that these European pagan elements were specifically meant by God to enrich Christianity from its primitive beginings and now that that the early formative period is over such acculturation is only dangerous. Or you could argue that if it was fine for Europe, the acculturation making Christianity a distinctly European religion, then we have to allow the same thing in places like Africa and make Christianity there distinctly African.

J.R. Stoodley

To clarify, I was not saying that the things listed (baptism, ritual meal of bread and wine, the priest-king, the apocalypse, sacrifice (and there are many others) were pagan influences on Christianity. They were things that God gave or allowed to the pagans to prepare them for Christianity. The things that were adopted into Christianity or retained by the converted people were many of the externals, such as the names of some holidays (like Easter almost certainly) and cultural practices surrounding holidays (most all the familiar Christmas and Easter stuff) and apparently things like Holy Water. Also the art and archetecture of both the Romans and the Germanics gave birth to later Western art and archetecture including in the Church, and I would hold that the great barbarian spirit of the Germanic people, retained and refined by the Medieval West, is what gave rise to Gothic architecture.


You know, if I lived out in the country, walked all the way to church, and was going to have to walk all the way back, I'd probably be a lot more amenable to a really long homily. If only to rest my legs a bit.

Also, some of the Fathers' homilies are pretty chunky, and must have taken a while to spit out even if they were really fast talkers. So....

Amy Marie

Interesting tidbit about the (H)alleluia. BTW, my pastor "walks around" during his homilies. Most of the associate pastors we've had (usually newly ordained) have not though. Our current associate stays put at the pulpit.


A pedantic note, but unless I'm mistaken, in contemporary Greek, while rough and smooth breathing marks are retained in writing, there is no longer any actual aspiration in either case. Contemporary Greeks pronounce the word ah-lee-loo-yah. ("lee" because the letter eta is now pronounced "ee", not "ay").


I for one, coming from a tame Methodist background and now a Catholic, can not possibly imagine how people shouting random stuff in the middle of mass could not be disruptive.

Random, yes. But having heard some such sermons, I know that the pattern (in the US) is that the preacher would make an important point and then a significiant pause, and the congregation would respond.

OTOH, I have noted that it lends itself to more emotional and less instructive sermons. It can be good to hearten the congragation, but something you have to put their minds to work, too.

Francis DS

I suspect if one did a diligent trace of the source of Alleluia (as opposed to Halleluia), we would find the clues lead to the French Catholics.


"There was one particular priest who always annoyed me with his incessant insistence that we SHOUT (not just say) "Alleluja!" after he'd say "Christ is risen" at random points in his homily. He'd repeat himself several times until he got the decibel level he wanted.

It was almost as bad as the music director's insistent, "Good morning! Ahem ... GOOD MORNING!!!" Like we're all a bunch of pre-schoolers.

So annoying."

That is the first I've heard of this in a Roman Catholic mass. I was at an Orthodox crowning and heard that shout-back when the priest called out "He is Risen!" I thought it was just an eastern thing. Interesting.
Also, on the length of the mass, my own priest warned me before I went that the ceremony was likely to be very long.
After the crowning, at the reception, I spoke to the Orthodox priest and commented that it was not as long as I had been warned. He chuckled and told me that the Divine Liturgy on a Sunday morning often ran to two and half hours. I told him that in our parish if the mass went over an hour there would likely be a mutiny.

J.R. Stoodley

My priest did a similar thing last Easter. He is risen" "Alleluia" "Come on say it like you mean it-HE IS RISEN" "ALLELUIA" "Much better."

He also walks around the front of the Church alot during his unsubstanital "Don't we all do this and wouldn't it be nice if we all got along" homilies. However, it is a generally very liberal college campus ministry and most everyone adores him and compliments his exciting homilies. Meanwhile most of them don't know a sacrament from a sacrilege. I agree content is more important than length (not that these are at all long either).

But then again we fallen humans like to gripe. It really could be much worse, and the priest is a great guy in many ways.


A couple more pedantic notes--I'm not exactly sure why Augustine up above sez, "Why double the L in Alleluia when neither Hebrew nor Greek resorted to such Anglicanisms?" The "L" letter of Hebrew, known as "lamed," is indeed doubled in the word. Look, for instance, if you have a Bible in Hebrew, at the very last verse of the Psalms (150:6).

As for pronouncing the beginning letter, the letter "hei," I guess there's a tendency in certain languages to drop "H" sounds. The "hache" of Spanish is always silent. The Cockneys are known for ubiquitously dropping their letter "H." Some of our words, like "hour" and "honor" keep the "H" silent. (Anyone know if this is due these being introduced from Romance languages?) Curiously, the same tendency to keep the "hei" silent is also evident in the speech of modern-day Israelis, to the extent that "Alleluia" is pretty much the way the word would be pronounced by a speaker of Modern Hebrew.

If any of you can read Hebrew, you can listen for yourselves to this Psalm on mp3 (and even if you don't, I think you will enjoy the song).
It sounds to me as if almost every "hei" is dropped.


Amen, brother! Forty-five minute homilies at my Catholic church in South Florida are the norm. At the Spanish mass, they can get over an hour. Sometimes the priest will play a video or have some kind of presentation.

Sure beats the site of a priest reading from a book or pamphlet word for word!


Oh no! Is that a sign that Rome (and its vile tool, Latin) has now corrupted the languages of the World? Is this a sign of a One World Government? -tongue in cheek-

>>15 minutes of pablum is worse than 45 minutes of a really good homily.

Oh yea??!?! Well, my priest can beat up your priest.


I don't think Jimmy is seriously calling anyone lazy, just pointing out in a sarcastic way that it seems that on a quick survey of the texts, Koine Greek and ancient Hebrew had the 'H', whereas it disappeared in Latin. Why certain phonetic changes occur is anyone's guess; linguists just observe that they do. Just looking at Greek, the pronunciation of many letters and diphthongs changed from Homeric to Attic to Koine to Modern, not taking into account the different dialects in Greece and throughout the Mediterranean. Also, in classical times, Greek words did not have stress-accents like English, but had pitch accents, which indicated rising and/or lowering the pitch of the syllable a musical fifth. This had disappeared by the time the New Testament was written. It doesn't really mean that anyone was lazy - just that it happened.


"It's just the lazy Latins who lost track of the H sound at some point, giving us the monstrous 'Alleluia.' I cringe every time I hear that."

How childish! It's analogous to saying that a person cringes every time he hears someone say, "Jesus," because it sounds different from the original (or the intermediate) form from which it comes into English: Hebrew "Yeshua" or Greek "Iesous." After all, what right did those overzealous (as opposed to "lazy") Greeks have to replace the final "ah" sound with the "s" sound?

Well, I guess that I've got to expect goofy comments, from time to time, from a guy that likes square-dancing and science fiction.


My still-Protestant pastor father refers to walking around during the homily as "prancing."

Ryan C

I'm a bit confused. The most orthodox and moving homilies I've heard have been when the priest left the pulpit and walked back and forth in front of us. And the one time a priest asked questions he was asking some really enlightening and provacative ones - such as why some in the church felt the need to leave mass before receiving the priest's blessing. Are these things really abuses?

Priests are not allowed off of the Sanctuary during Mass. (The raised part that used to have a railing in front of it is the Sanctuary - the place where the people sit is called the Nave. A Church has two parts: a Sanctuary and a Nave.) Ideally, he should stay in the ambo (the speaker's podium). Instructions on how to conduct oneself at Mass in an orderly manner are found in the document Redemptionis Sacramentum, which you can download from www.vatican.va

Some time ago, I attended a talk that was given by Father Jackson of the FSSP (he is or was at that time the rector of their formation house) - he mentioned certain Protestant errors that were creeping into the Catholic faith, and at each point he would punctuate it by saying "Hallelujah?" distinctly pronouncing both the "h" and the "j" in a very sarcastic tone - we would respond in the same manner, "Hallelujah!" I thought it was hilarious, but I thought of it when I read this, because I didn't expect a Catholic to be wanting that stuff at Mass - the Mass ought to be dignified and orderly. If you want to go to a rock concert, hey guess what, there are Catholic rock concerts that you can go to, and you can shout "Amen" and "Alleluia" or even "Hallelu-jah" as much as you want when you are at these concerts.

Just because it's fun to do something (dancing, shouting, whatever) doesn't mean that we have to do it at Mass. The Church is open from 7:00 am until 10:00 at night; there is plenty of time to do non-Mass type of things outside of the hour or half hour when Mass is taking place on a week-day. (Also, these kinds things should take place in the Parish Hall rather than in the Church; that's why we have Parish Halls.)

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