Lay Preaching at Mass 


On January 15, 2002 the complementary norms for the US on Preaching by Lay persons, previously approved by the USCCB and recognized by Rome, went into effect. They state, in their entirety,

Preaching the Word of God is among the principal duties of those who have received the sacrament of orders (cc. 762-764). The lay faithful can be called to cooperate in the exercise of the Ministry of the Word (c. 759). In accord with canon 766 the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops hereby decrees that the lay faithful may be permitted to exercise this ministry in churches and oratories, with due regard for the following provisions:

If necessity requires it in certain circumstances or it seems useful in particular cases, the diocesan bishop can admit lay faithful to preach, to offer spiritual conferences or give instructions in churches, oratories or other sacred places within his diocese, when he judges it to be to the spiritual advantage of the faithful.

In order to assist the diocesan bishop in making an appropriate pastoral decision (Interdicasterial Instruction, Ecclesiae deMysterio, Article 2 §3), the following circumstances and cases are illustrative: the absence or shortage of clergy, particular language requirements, or the demonstrated expertise or experience of the lay faithful concerned.

The lay faithful who are to be admitted to preach in a church or oratory must be orthodox in faith and well-qualified both by the witness of their lives as Christians and by a preparation for preaching appropriate to the circumstances.

The diocesan bishop will determine the appropriate situations in accord with canon 772§ 1. In providing for preaching by the lay faithful the diocesan bishop may never dispense from the norm which reserves the homily to the sacred ministers (cc 767§1; cfr. Pontifical Acta Apostolic Sedis (AAA) 79 [1987], 1249). Preaching by the lay faithful may not take place within the Celebration of the Eucharist at the moment reserved for the homily.

As to when this lay preaching should be done, the above norm says NOT at the time of the homily. The appropriate time is that provided in the General Instruction for remarks, announcements etc... (and this would also apply to a eulogy at a funeral). After the Prayer after Communion (GIRM 89) comes the concluding rite in the following order:

90 The following are proper to the concluding rite:

a) Brief announcements as needed;

b) The greeting and blessing of the priest, which on certain days is given an amplified expression and, on occasions, is delivered with a prayer over the people or is said with another more solemn formula;

c) The dismissal of the people on the part of the deacon or the priest;

d) The kissing of the altar by priest and deacon, followed with a profound bow to the altar by the priest, the deacon and other ministers.

Answered by Colin B. Donovan, STL

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