Q. I feel very disappointed and perplexed at the decision of our diocese to omit the homily, without any reference to the Sunday readings for the day, in order to use the time instead to campaign for our annual diocesan appeal. It happened last year and again this year. Shouldn’t better judgment be used? What, after all, are our priorities? (Richmond, Va.)
A. Had it happened just as you say, I think I would agree with you. The homily is an integral part of the liturgy. It is, in the words of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, “necessary for the nurturing of the Christian life.” The general instruction goes on to say in No. 66 that “on Sundays and holy days of obligation there is to be a homily at every Mass that is celebrated with the people attending and it may not be omitted without a grave reason.”
I suspected, though, that there was more to the story and so I took the liberty of checking with the Richmond Diocese. In fact, there was never any diocesan directive that the homily be eliminated on the appeal Sunday; on the contrary, parishes were sent a short video describing how the appeal proceeds are put to use and were encouraged to play that video following a homily based on the day’s Scriptural readings.
Other suggested options included showing the video in church before Mass began or having the video run in the gathering area as people were arriving at Mass. Typically, such appeal videos illustrate a few of the diocesan programs supported by the collection: food pantries and soup kitchens, training of catechists, pre-Cana presentations, etc.
Since such ministries flow out of the Gospel imperative, it is usually not difficult to relate the appeal to the scriptural passages for the day.
Q. I am not a Catholic, but my husband, who passed away recently, was a devout Catholic. Since his death, I have received a number of Mass cards from friends and relatives. Some of them are specific about when the Mass will be offered and where, and I need some guidance about the “etiquette” of Mass cards. Am I expected to be present at those Masses (I am homebound) or to participate in the Mass itself in some manner? (Stratford, N.J.)
A. The practice of praying for the deceased has a long history. It predates the coming of Christ, as is evident in the Old Testament in the Book of Maccabees. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we learn in No. 1032 that “from the beginning the church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.”
Mass intentions and schedules are commonly listed in parish bulletins, not only so that those who wish can attend, but so that all parishioners can remember in their prayers those who have died.
On the day of the Mass itself, the priest-celebrant often announces the names of those for whom the Mass had been requested — either at the beginning of Mass or in the commemoration in the eucharistic prayer — so that the congregation may be mindful of those persons as they pray.
Sometimes, when a person has been well-known in a parish or community, there might be dozens of Masses requested for his or her intention. There is no expectation that the bereaved family attend each of these Masses.
A person sending a Mass card knows that might be virtually impossible (as it is in your own case). So there is no obligation for you to do anything more, once you have thanked the donors for their sympathy.
If you would like to, and if it would not be burdensome, you might line up the requested Masses in chronological order and remember to pray particularly for your husband on the days of those Masses.
Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at email@example.com and 40 Hopewell St., Albany, N.Y. 12208.
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