Priest Celebrant | Pirihi Tumuaki

"Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God's mysteries."
(1 Corinthians 4:1)

The Art of Presiding

The Ministry

When the church gathers to pray, Christ is present in many modes: in word and sacrament, in priest and people. The whole body of Christ is united in offering worship in spirit and in truth.

"The liturgy, then, is rightly seen as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. In it complete and definitive public worship is performed by the mystical body of Jesus Christ, that is by the Head and his members".

Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (1963), 7

 The role of the priest is to lead the community in prayer to the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit. He enables the full, conscious and active participation of all in the community.

"Pastors must therefore realise that when the liturgy is celebrated something more is required than the mere observance of the laws governing valid and lawful celebration; it is also their duty to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects."

Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (1963), 11

"Hence in arranging the celebration of the Mass, the priest should be attentive rather to the common spiritual good of the People of God rather than to his own inclinations."

General Instruction of the Roman Missal 352

The priest presides effectively according to his capacity to be present fully in his humanity. He does not deny the gifts God has blessed him with nor does he draw attention to them, but he lets his gifts bear the grace of God for all.

"Therefore, when he celebrates the Eucharist, he must serve God and the people with dignity and humility, and by his bearing and the way he says the divine words he must convey to the faithful the living presence of Christ."

General Instruction of the Roman Missal 93

Presiding faithfully over the church's prayer is a service to both God and the community. It is a ministry of hospitality in the spirit of the Gospel. Presiding well is an art that combines the personal qualities of the priest with the practical skills that he should strive to acquire.

Preaching the Homily

"They said to each other, 'Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening scripture to us?'"

(Luke 24:32)

The purpose of the homily

Firstly, the homily aims to shed light on people's lives through the prism of the paschal mystery.

"Every homily, because it is an intrinsic part of the Sunday Eucharist, must therefore be about the dying and rising of Jesus Christ and his sacrificial passage through suffering to new and eternal life for us. By means of that pattern, the people of God can understand their own lives properly and be able to see their own experience in the light of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus.
Preaching the Mystery of Faith (2012), 2

Secondly, the homily is the bridge between word and sacrament; it aims to move the assembly to praise and thanks.

"The purpose of the homily at Mass is that the spoken word of God and the liturgy of the Eucharist may together become a proclamation of God's wonderful works in the history of salvation, the mystery of Christ."
Lectionary for Mass: Introduction (1998), 24

"As part of the entire liturgical act, the homily is meant to set hearts on fire with praise and thanksgiving... every homily preached during the liturgy should make some connection between the Scriptures just heard and the Eucharist to be celebrated."
Preaching the Mystery of Faith (2012), 17,18

Finally, the homily looks beyond the celebration, ultimately aiming to inspire a sense of mission.

"The homily, which participates in the power of Christ's word, ought to inspire a sense of mission for those who hear it, making them doers and proclaimers of that same word in the world. A homily that does not lead to mission is, therefore, incomplete."
Preaching the Mystery of Faith (2012), 18

The role of the homilist

The role of the homilist is to form a connection between the Word of God and people's lives. He is, therefore, a seeker and bearer of meaning. He offers the assembly a space in which they can find the living truth of the Gospel for themselves.

"The goal of the homily is to lead the hearer to the deep inner connection between God's Word and the actual circumstances of one's everyday life... The homily in its most effective form enables the hearer to understand the meaning of the Scriptures in a new way and, in turn, helps the message of the Scriptures, proclaimed in the context of the liturgy, to illumine the experience of the hearer... Homilies are inspirational when they touch the deepest levels of the human heart and address the real questions of human experience... The true pastor and good shepherd knows his people's sorrows, their anxieties, their weaknesses, their capacity for love, their abiding joys, and their deepest longings.
Preaching the Mystery of Faith (2012), 28,29,15,34

Preparing the homily

You may find these tips helpful for preparing a homily:

  • Begin a week in advance. Read the texts, check them with the Bible and the liturgical calendar, reflect on them and pray with them.
  • Consult biblical commentaries and homiletic resources.
  • Bring the texts into conversation with current affairs and the issues that affect the local congregations; reflect on the readings in this light and discuss them with parishioners.
  • Draw on the arts - novels, plays, poetry, painting, film, music - for words and images that will capture the assembly's imagination.
  • Choose language that is concrete and graphic rather than general and abstract.
  • Prepare whatever is needed - whether a full text, notes, or a list of key points - that will ensure the homily is well delivered.
  • Seek objective feedback from members of the parish to help evaluate the homily.