Archbishop stresses importance of preaching in Chrism Mass homily

In an era he characterized as increasingly secular, Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley took the opportunity of the annual Chrism Mass April 6 to implore priests to place more importance on preaching from the pulpit. The archbishop said that it is the “primary duty” of priests and bishops to be arduous preachers of the Gospel, following the example of St. Paul who said, “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel.” (see full text of the homily here)

Over 300 priests from the Archdiocese of Boston participated in the annual Chrism Mass in which the sacramental oils used during baptisms, confirmations, ordinations and anointing of the sick are consecrated. Priests in attendance also renewed their vow of service to God in the priesthood.

Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Methodios of Boston attended the Mass and sat opposite the archbishop. Though the Orthodox liturgical year is based on the Julian calendar, Holy Week for Catholics and for the Greek Orthodox Church coincided this year. Invited by the archbishop to address the assembly, Metropolitan Methodios compli-mented the archbishop saying that the Archdiocese of Boston needed “a man of prayer and a man of love.” He expressed his hope that one day the Greek Orthodox Church and the archdiocese will work together “to speak the word of truth in the community, which we live, a community of pain, a community filled with sorrow.”

In his lengthy homily, the archbishop echoed these sentiments. He said that the climate of today’s society makes “good preaching both crucial and challenging.” Those faithful to the teachings of the Church live in a “hostile, alien environment,” constantly tempted to “conform to a dominant cultural influence that is incongruent with our faith and our destiny,” he said.

In order “to resist the temptation to conform to the culture of death, to consumerism, hedonism, individualism,” people must hear the Word of God preached strongly, clearly and urgently, Archbishop O’Malley stated. Priests must enlighten the faithful and non-believers alike to God’s will in regards to “public issues, social causes and the policies that effect the common good,” he said.

More heed will be paid to the Gospel by the people if priests, first and foremost, witness to the importance of the Word of God in their own lives. He urged priests to set aside a substantial amount of time to prepare for their homilies. He also encouraged them to seek the input and opinion of parish councils regarding what topics of preaching they would benefit from.

Pressed for time and constantly bombarded by sensationalized media stories, tendencies to disregard the importance of marriage and the family and increased emphasis on entertainment, many people today are “religious illiterates,” said the archbishop. Despite this, they are “hungry for God, for spirituality and for answers about suffering, death and love,” he continued.

Archbishop O’Malley’s message to prioritize preaching was received warmly by many priests and religious in attendance.

Father Stephen S. Donohoe, parochial vicar at St. Patrick Parish in Natick, saw the archbishop’s homily as an “encouraging” help to priests on the importance of proclaiming God’s word. Father Donohoe spends about an hour in prayer before giving a homily. He said he asks God, “What do you want me to share with your people?”

He agrees that society today is “very high speed” and people are accustomed to being constantly entertained, making preaching challenging. However, there are many “believers” who come to Mass because they have a relationship with God, Father Donohoe continued. He feels that people are longing for the good news of the Gospel — “I’m betting my life on it,” he said.