Vatican City, 10 February 2015 (VIS) – The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments today published the Homiletic Directory, which opens with the decree of Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, prefect of the dicastery on the date on which it was signed, 29 June 2014, Solemnity of the apostles Peter and Paul. The text also bears the signature of Archbishop Arthur Roche, secretary of the same Congregation.

“It is very poignant that Pope Francis wished to devote considerable attention to the theme of the homily in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium”, writes the Cardinal. “Both positive and negative aspects of the state of preaching had already been expressed by Bishops gathered in Synod, and guidance for homilists was offered in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortations Verbum Domini and Sacramentum caritatis of Pope Benedict XVI.

From this perspective, and bearing in mind the provisions of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, as well as subsequent Magisterial teaching, and in light of the ‘Introduction of the Lectionary for Mass and the General Instruction of the Roman Missal’, this two-part ‘Homiletic Directory’ has been prepared.

“In the first part, entitled ‘The homily and its liturgical setting’, the nature, function, and specific context of the homily are described. Other aspects that define it are also addressed, namely, the appropriate ordained minister who delivers it, its reference to the Word of God, the proximate and remote preparation for its composition, and its recipients.

“In the second part, ‘Ars praedicandi’, essential questions of method and content that the homilist must know and take into account in the preparation and delivery of the homily are illustrated. In a way that is meant to be indicative and not exhaustive, interpretive keys are proposed for the cycle of Sundays and Feasts, beginning at the heart of the liturgical year (the Sacred Triduum and Easter Time, Lent, Advent, Christmas Time, and Ordinary Time), and also for the Masses of weekdays, weddings, and funerals. In these examples, the criteria outlined in the first part of the Directory are put into practice: typology between the Old and New Testaments, the importance of the Gospel reading, the ordering of the readings, and the nexus between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, between the Biblical message and the liturgical texts, between celebration and life, and between listening to God and the particular assembly.

“Two appendices follow the main text. In the first, with the intention of showing the link between the homily and the doctrine of the Catholic Church, references are given to the Catechism according to various doctrinal themes in the readings for each of the Sundays and Feasts of the three year cycle. In the second appendix, references to various Magisterial teachings on the homily are provided.

“This text was presented to each of the Fathers of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and was reviewed and approved at the Ordinary Sessions of 7 February and 20 May 2014. It was then presented to Pope Francis, who approved the publication of the Homiletic Directory. This Congregation is pleased, therefore, to make it available, desiring that ‘the homily can actually be an intense and happy experience of the Spirit, a consoling encounter with God’s word, a constant source of renewal and growth’ (Evangelii gaudium, 135). Each homilist, making his own the sentiments of the Apostle Paul, is to renew the understanding that ‘as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please men, but to please God who tests our hearts’ (1 Thess 2:4).

“Translations into the principal languages have been undertaken by this Dicastery, while translations into other languages remain the responsibility of the concerned Conferences of Bishops. All things to the contrary notwithstanding.

“From the offices of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 29 June 2014, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles”.

Cardinal Robert Sarah presents the Homiletic Directory

Vatican City, 10 February 2015 (VIS) – In a press conference held in the Holy See Press Office this morning, Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, presented the “Homiletic Directory” drawn up by the same dicastery during the mandate of his predecessor, Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera. The cardinal was accompanied by Archbishop Arthur Roche and Fr. Corrado Maggione, S.M.M., respectively secretary and under secretary of the Congregation.

“Often, for many faithful, it is precisely the homily, considered as good or bad, interesting or boring, that is the yardstick by which the entire celebration is judged”, explained Cardinal Sarah. “Certainly, the Mass is not the homily, but it represents a moment relevant for the purpose of participation in the holy Mysteries, that is, listening to the Word of God and the communion of the Body and Blood of the Lord”.

“The Directory was not born without a reason. The aim is to respond to the need to improve the service of ordained ministers in liturgical preaching”, he continued, noting that during the 2005 Synod of Bishops ordained ministers were asked to prepare their homilies carefully, and basing them on adequate knowledge of the Sacred Scripture. “This is the first fact to bear in mind”, he underlined: “that the homily is directly linked to the Sacred Scriptures, especially the Gospel, and is enlightened by them”. During the same Synod, it was also requested that in the homily “the great themes of the faith and the life of the Church should resound throughout the year”, in order to “help demonstrate the nexus connecting the message of the biblical readings with the doctrine of the faith as expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church”. He added, “on the basis of these expectations, Benedict XVI in the exhortation Sacramentum caritatis … encouraged reflection on the matter”.

The bishops returned to this issue in the Synod on the Word of God, and Benedict XVI in the exhortation Verbum domini, while reiterating that preaching appropriately with reference to the Lectionary was “truly an art that must be cultivated”, also indicated that it would be opportune to compile a directory on the homily, so that preachers might find help in preparing for the exercise of their ministry”.

“The way was thus prepared and the Congregation initiated the project. A further impetus to bring it to a conclusion was provided by the emphasis placed on the homily by Pope Francis, who reserves 25 points to this theme in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium: 10 to the homily and 15 to its preparation”.

“The homily is a liturgical service reserved to the ordained minister, who is called upon by vocation to serve the Word of God according to the faith of the Church and not in a personalised fashion. It is not a mere discourse like any other, but rather a speech inspired by the Word of God that resounds in an assembly of believers, in the context of liturgical action, with a view to learning to put into practice the Gospel of Jesus Christ”.

Among the criteria mentioned in the Directory, the Cardinal mentioned, “first, the homily is inspired by the Scriptures inserted by the Church in the Lectionary, or rather the Book that contains, for all the days of the year, the biblical readings for the Mass; second, the homily is inspired by the celebration of which these readings form a part, or rather, by the prayers and the rites that constitute this liturgy, whose main protagonist is God, for Christ His Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit”.

“Obviously”, he concluded, “the homily makes demands of he who pronounces it. Therefore, the preparation of the homilist is of the first importance: this requires study and prayer, experience of God and knowledge of the community he addresses, love for the holy Mysteries and love for the living Body of Christ that is the Church”.