Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What do you want to hear?

Sounds crazy, right? It's August, yet I'm writing homilies for two months from now!

Not so crazy, actually; I'm looking ahead to a series of homilies the other priests and I will give in the weeks leading up to the first Sunday of Advent, when we begin using the new and improved translation of the Mass.

I wanted to look at the readings assigned for those Sundays, as well as look at the more notable changes in the translation of the Mass, and think about the best way--over five or six weeks--to touch on each of these things. I was looking for possible connections and themes, for ways to organize the material, and--I hope--make it more appealing than a mere laundry list.

I've only begun, so more work is needed to flesh things out.

Here is a question for you--and your answers may help me develop these homilies:

What questions or issues would you want to hear addressed about the improved translation of the Mass? Is there anything else about the Mass you'd like to hear explained?


pbewig said...

You might enjoy this.

Pat said...


I hope you fnd this helpful. My church conducted a formal study 2 years ago to determine what the parishioners wanted to hear in a sermon and compared that to what the priests were actually preaching about. There was a huge gap between what the people wanted andd what was being delivered. We produced a 50 page report for the clergy on the matter, but I can shorthand it here for you:

By FAR the parishioners wanted to hear answers to questions about suffering. For example, "why does God allow little children to suffer hunger?" "Why did God let my neighbor lose his house?" "Why is there such poverty in the 3rd world." The second most requested topic was Purpose in Life, e.g., "why did God create me; what am I expected to do on this earth?" Parishioners also wanted to hear concrete words about the reality of death and dying.

Low on the list of asks were (of course) all the matters that our priests usually include in their homilies: Doctrine, Dogma, and Church administrative matters.

I hope you find this helpful. Our clergy certainly did.


Gail F said...

Pat: Your area must be an interesting one. Around here, I rarely hear anything on doctrine, dogma, or Church administrative matters. It's usually just a little explanation of how the readings apply to one's life (what homilies are supposed to do) but in a very vague and easily accomplished way. But that's better than nothing, I guess.

I'm not one of Fr. Fox's parishioners so I will not give my wish list!

Fr Martin Fox said...


Feel free! I'll sift through all the offerings...


Those are good observations, thank you. Of course, those are about the hardest things to talk about well.

Rich Leonardi said...

FWIW, preachers should be more attuned to what the people need than to what they want.

The questions and complaints I hear about the translation are along the following lines: "I hate changes like this." "Aren't we splitting hairs with some of these 'corrections'?" "This 'new and improved' Mass is so much more formal." "Why isn't my parish doing more to get us ready?"

Anonymous said...

Fr Fox: thanks for your blog - tremendous help in growing the faith - I agree with Rich on what we NEED to hear versus what we want to hear - - your homilies are always "challenging/thinking" versus kumbaya (with lecturing)
- couple things we need to hear (I wish some priests in diocese would stop doing the minumim) we need authentic teaching versus "God is love" and "as long as we go to Mass once in in food kitchen - we feel good - we go to heaven" - there is so much watered down websites, preaching, liturgy - kind of like the Hoosiers movie - lets start with foundation -

until we truly understand the True Sacrfice of the Mass - Real Presence of Christ (versus other presence in Christ) we are justing paining over old wood
sorry for spelling and grammar errors

Anonymous said...

the confusion I've seen most among Catholics I know in real life who are even aware of the new translation is

the origin of the current Mass - many aren't aware that our current mass is a translation from Latin. (They think Vatican 2 abolished all Latin. They also seem to think the Catholic Church is composed of Rome, the US and some missionaries. I've read that the US is about 6% of Catholics world wide, but most people seem to think it's at least 50%).

PS I'm not in your parish either

Anonymous said...

You can begin by ceasing to call it the "improved" translation. That is nothing more than an opinion. And I would venture a guess tht the vast majority of Cahtolics would not consider it an improvement.
But, alas, no one asked us.
And the poor people at ST. boniface and St. Mary have heard or seen scant information. You spend more time on your blog explaining the changes than you do with your own flock. But I guess you find more agreeable folks on your blog than you do in your parishes.

Fr Martin Fox said...


We've run a number of inserts in the weekly bulletin about the new Mass translation. I've written about the new translation many times in my "Food for the Flock" column. Did you see these items?

My blog is read by parishioners; it's a good way for me to communicate with parishioners, and I know many read it. Why don't my blog posts--which go back a year or two on this subject--count as communicating with parishioners?

In any case, what would you like to see further on this subject? Thanks for any concrete suggestions you can offer.

Charles G said...

Charles G said...

Not that you necessarily want anything canned, but this might be interesting for you as a reference:

Fr Martin Fox said...


Interesting, thanks!

Anonymous said...


How much longer do you have in your current parish? I would love to request you for ours.

Tom W.

Anonymous said...

I agree it is important to hear what we need to hear. the problem is that as you go to different parishes, and in fact to different masses within the same parish, that NEED could be different. In fact, that NEED could be different at different times in our life. The important thing I believe for a priest is to pray about what God knows the people need to hear as they prepare their homily and trust in what they hear. I have always believed that a priest who has been called by God has a special connection as it relates to what God wants him to tell his Children. I also suspect that the priest struggles when he gets very far from that connection and total dependence on God.

Father, the fact that you are seeking here might mean you are missing this point, even as it is the most natural thing in the world and quite good to do so from a human perspective. Giving presentations over the years, I always wanted to know my audience and what they wanted to hear that would make them respond to my pitch. The more in tune I was with them, the greater the head shakes there were that I was hitting a home run. With faith, I suspect you will be hitting a home run for God if you see butt squirming and get some complaints about the message being too hard with some even walking away.

What I want to hear is what God wants me to hear at that point in my journey. You have a very few minutes to get His message across. He has given you a strong hint with the readings which is why the Church teaches the sermon should tie into the readings. As you pray and go over those readings, it might be a simple word that strikes what message He wants to send. Also, that sermon that week might actually be aimed not at the entire congregation, but at a single soul in a very important time in their life. When I came back to the faith after being away for years, I tried to look at the readings in advance and imagine what was being said to me and the priest week after week seemed to hit something on my mind often causing me and my wife to look at each other in amazement on its timliness. I later found out that the priest was going through some hard times and his sermons were a way of voicing those doubts.

I also found that over time, as I moved from one priest to another in the journey, each seemed to have a role to play in that journey. One brought me closer to Jesus and allowed me to believe that He just might love me by name and know the number of hairs on my head. Another led me to understand the wonder of ALL Catholic teaching, not just those dishes I wanted along the cafeteria line. Another led me through the lifelong troubles with my father and those left open by his death. Another with bouts of depression and lose of income.

To you I advise trust in God and what He wants you to say for you are not aware of the audience He has in mind that day.


Anonymous said...


As a parishoner, I feel you have covered, in many forms and words, the reasoning behind the changes being made. I am frankly tired of hearing about it. The changes are going to happen, you have explained them in many ways and I think too much laboring over the changes will not enhance them in any way or prepare us any more than you already have. Remind us of the changes that are coming - yes - but do not dwell on them. We will get used to them as we have the current responses and prayers. Sometimes the least said brings about the greatest feeling.

When Vatican II made the changes, I do not remember so much explanation taking place. Granted I was in 8th grade at the time, so my memory may be selective on this point. But what I do remember was the changes taking effect. I remember hearing the words that to that point had been kept private. I remember being elated at the thought that I could "pray" the Mass with the priest and he wasn't doing it for me, but with me. I remember coming out with a feeling of joy and excitement that I was thought worthy enough to use words that were in my everyday vernacular to celebrate something so special as the commemoration and realization of Christ among us, both in His real Body and Blood and in the body of His Church.

I like what Greta said above. You will probably never know how your homily or sermon is received or ignored by a majority of your congregation - and that is OK. I realize you do put a lot of work into your sermons, and I do appreciate the fact that you take it so seriously.

However, lighten up on yourself and you will still do well. You will not please everyone, and I happen to be one of those people who are not pleased. But, I do respect your efforts and try to understand that you are doing what you believe to be right. You cannot please everyone. I am OK with that and the fact that you may be speaking about something that has no interest to me will not stop me from attending Mass.

It has taken me awhile to understand this, but as presider, you do not direct my reasons for attending Mass. Only I can do that, or I should say, only God can do that. He puts me where He wants me and it is up to me to discover those purposes. Some are evident, but most of the time, they are hidden. But what a pleasureful,humbling,journey it is.

What do I want to hear in your sermons? What ever God puts in your heart to tell us. Will I be happy with what I hear? Probably not and that is OK for both of us. Will it stop me from celebrating the Mass? Most definitely NO.

If I have offended you with any of this, I ask your forgiveness as that is not my intent. My only intent is to let you know that you cannot please everyone, and trying to do so will only wear you out. It is OK with me that I happen not to like you, and I believe if you knew me, you would probably feel the same and that is OK too. But I do and will continue to give you the respect you deserve for the role you have taken in your life and God's bigger plan.

Thank you for teaching me tolerance and acceptance.


Fr Martin Fox said...


I certainly appreciate your words and I am not offended.

I can't help noticing the contrast between your observation, that I've talked about the new translation a lot, perhaps too much!...with those of Anonymous who said the parishes have received "scant information."

I think that's funny! It shows how curious things can be, and it shows you're right of course, I certainly can't please everyone. How well I know that!

Please bear with me, because you will be hearing more about it. I think your point of view is valid, and I suspect a lot of folks feel as you do. On the other hand, there are other folks who want further explanation and will benefit.

Actually, I am hopeful that the homilies I'm planning won't just dwell on the new translation (and I do think it's an improvement, and in any case, how will my being negative about it help?), but taking the opportunity to teach about the Mass itself. So I hope that will be a positive for everyone, regardless of how some folks might feel about the new translation.

Again, thanks for your comments. Please know that I don't want to get in the way of your relationship with our Faith and our Lord, and I'm grateful if that hasn't happened.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Tom W.:

My term as pastor in Piqua ends next June, unless the Archbishop asks me to serve another six years, as usually happens, but it's not automatic.

I invite parishioners to let the Archbishop know their preferences. As I have told folks who are critical, if they circulate a petition for me to go, I'll sign it! My point being, as happy as I am to be here, I don't need to be here if I'm not serving the parishes' best interests.

Rich Leonardi said...

You can begin by ceasing to call it the "improved" translation. That is nothing more than an opinion. And I would venture a guess tht the vast majority of Cahtolics would not consider it an improvement.
But, alas, no one asked us.

Here is an excerpt from paragraph 6 of Liturgiam Authenticam, the document from the Holy See which prompted the corrected translation; note the use of the word "improvement":

Nevertheless, it has been noted that translations of liturgical texts in various localities stand in need of improvement through correction or through a new draft.[11] The omissions or errors which affect certain existing vernacular translations – especially in the case of certain languages – have impeded the progress of the inculturation that actually should have taken place.

Moreover, if you're looking for a Christian community that asks you for your opinion, try the phone book. There are roughly 30,000 of them across the U.S.

Anonymous said...

Well, Fr. Fox, your latest apologia is very interesting. I think that whether you realize it, or are willing to admit it, you have condemned yourself with your own words.
The stunt you pulled last Monday was exactly all about you. You thought it up and thought it would be neat -because you like to do it that way. You put on your outdated vestments becuause you like them. You turned your back on your congregation because you thought it would be neat. And you spring it on your people with little notice. From the moment you began Mass the people were distracted, watching you, wondering what you would do next. They probably had a terrible time trying to figure out what you were doing at times and what they should do next. By doing what you did you drew attention to yourself. And your people were pulled away from what they were there for. It was all about you.
You admitted that you didn't know whteher they would like it. But you went ahead anyway.
And in your explanation above about exactly what you did, you sound almost giddy.
You were sorry you missed the smoke. That is about as childish as you can get. And to make matters worse you lamented the fact that you didn't wear your beretta - a hat that hasn't been in use in th US in probably over 40years. And I can't imagine what that thing would have anything to do with improving the Mass or anything else.
Bottom line - you blew it.

And for Mr. Loenardi, regardless of who said it, it is still an opinion. What you quote is a bunch of gobbly gook. What particular person came up with the notion? It only states "it was noted". In my circles is has been noted that the whole process was a waste of precious time resources.



Fr Martin Fox said...


This thread is about what I should include in my homilies on the new translation. Is what you offered really intended as content for future homilies?

Rich Leonardi said...


The document is an authoritative statement from the Holy See, which for Catholics is considerably more than a mere "opinion," much less "gobbly gook" [sic].

Zelda said...


I'm new to your blog and not in your Paris (I currency reside in the UK). My husband and I dicuss this topic all the time and i would love to provide my thoughts. Except for two other priests that we encountered, no one to date has really discussed heave, hell, and purgatory and a reminder of what we need to do to save ourselves, including the importance of confession. The majority of the folks I know, including priests do not believe in "hell" and even label it as a 'mindset" as they do in the New Age beliefs. I also come across folks who don't really believe Jesus is present is present in the Blessed Sacrament. I prefer hearing about reality and the truths/consequences, versus the "padded" notion that as Jesus died for "everyone" and we are all going to heaven. Yes, that's actually another belief amongst fellow catholics and christians alike. Thank you for hearing me out and God bless you.

Anonymous said...

Fr, Martin. Thanks for this post. As a brother priest, it is helpful to me as well. Most of the post-ers have written helpful commentary. Thank you.

However, as a topic for a homily I might suggest civility, gratitude for the Church and respect for the priesthood. Judging from some of your post-ers such as George, it seems to be lacking in some members of the body of Christ.

Unfortunately I have had similar experiences as a pastor.
When asked for helpful feedback, a small but vocal number of parishioners turn that into an excuse for ad hominem
attacks on priests or Church- bashing,

-- Cincinnati priest

Anonymous said...

First, I need to apologize for where my previous post ended up. It was meant to be a response to Fr. Fox's explanation of the Mass he celebrated on the Feast of the Assumption - not here. The message, however, is still valid.

And now, an answer to the anonymous post by the Cincinnati priest. I have very much respect for the priesthood. I admire most of them and encourage them when I can. I have numersous relatives who are priests - holy, devout shephards of their congregtions. I have many good friends in the Archdiocese who are priests. So please do not try to define me. You do not know me. And since I don't know you, I cannot comment other than to assume you are also a holy and devout priest.
If only you knew what went on in the parishes in Piqua you might be saying something different. I know what goes on. And it is very sad.
I was only voicing the opinion of a good number of his parishoners.
I pray for all priests and there is a special intention for Fr. Fox as I pray my daily rosary.
But as Father himself said in his homily (top post on this blog), sometimes you have to step up and follow yur conscience. I would be remiss if I didn't.


Fr Martin Fox said...


You are posting calumnies. Do you know what that is?

You say:

If only you knew what went on in the parishes in Piqua you might be saying something different. I know what goes on. And it is very sad.

Really George? Instead of insinuations, why don't you come out say what's on your mind? Don't you think this is an underhanded tactic?

I was only voicing the opinion of a good number of his parishoners.

Feel free to speak for yourself George. And feel free to make your accusations--rather than vague insinuations.

By the way, my full name is posted here. I'm not afraid to associate my name and reputation with my words and actions.

How about you George? You are more than willing to make vague accusations, while hiding behind anonymity. Isn't that convenient!

How about (a) coming out and saying what you accuse me of and (b) put your name to it.

For that matter, if you believe I've done something wrong in my parishes, why don't you write the Archbishop?

CatholicMom said...

Father Fox, reading through your fascinating posts today as an escape...I have come to the realization that it is impossible to make everyone happy. Your job is very difficult! I can't believe you wore a biretta...I would have LOVED to see this! You are everything we need here, even if not everybody knows it. God bless our priests!