As many know we preach as a Team. This means that whoever is preaching has had the benefit of team preparation. We read the scriptures and commentaries, pray and then discuss the readings trying to draw out a homily that relates to the people and is accurate in its understanding of the texts of scripture. We share stories, and it is often the case that a story narrated by one will be used by another. This, I believe is the secret of any success we have. This also means that whoever is preaching represents the whold team.
There is a requirement in Canon Law that only allows a priest to preach the homily at Mass. This has been considerably criticized as too strict, and doesn’t recognize the preaching talents especially of women who are not able to be ordained and therefore preach the homily.
About thirty years ago, Fr Tom Fitzgerald O.P., an Australian Dominican who taught preaching at the combined university of Religious Orders in Melbourne, Australia – the Yarra Theological Union, decided to write a Masters thesis about this subject. I consider it a masterpiece and it has been subsequently used by several other Professors of Preaching both in Australia and USA.
Basically what Fr Tom Fitzgerald wrote was that in Canon Law, strict laws need to be interpreted strictly. That means the opposite of what it seems to say – you can look for ways in which the law doesn’t apply. He discovered that the Church document, Directory for Masses with Children, demanded that the homily at these Masses should be given by the person best qualified to speak to children. Also, there is no definition in law about Children’s Masses, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they be Masses with only children, or more children than adults, rather a Mass at which children are in attendance can be a children’s Mass. Consequently, at most parish Sunday Masses where children are in attendance, you can have the person most qualified to speak to children give the homily.
We have sometimes been told that Sr Joan cannot preach, or can only speak after Communion – when people are ready to go home, and quite a time distance from the Readings on which the homily is to be based. This is demeaning, and seems a slap in the face of someone uniquely capable of preaching. It also seems a too strict interpretation of the law.
I know that Fr Fitzgerald received a high mark for his research and thesis, maybe it is time to revisit this work, I know that the parishes where Joan preaches will benefit!