I think I can offer you a promising solution to a serious problem we face.
The problem is the Catholic laity’s lack of faith formation.
This decades-old deficit has become grave today. The laity’s poor formation stands in the way of their ability to remain faithful in a hostile culture. It certainly prohibits their re-evangelization of it.
I think the solution is a doctrinal and practical formation.
While there are many ways this formation ought to be given, I am convinced that the homily is the best opportunity pastors have to help the laity deepen their knowledge and practice of the Faith. The reason is that Sunday Mass is the one time each week when all the faithful who practice their faith are present.
During the 2013 Year of Faith, I began to offer a free, internet-based service to priests and deacons to make their homilies more doctrinally rich and practically applicable to the lives of lay people. This website is called Doctrinal Homily Outlines. Each week provided an abundance of points based on the Lectionary readings under the headings of central idea, doctrine, and practical application. Since then, I have continued this apostolate each year, working through the cycle of readings. When the Homiletic Directory was published in 2015, I began to incorporate the themes the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments suggested.
According to the model I have developed, I believe each homily should:
- Articulate a central salvific theme contained in the Lectionary readings for the day.
- Identify, define, explain, and illustrate a doctrine from the Deposit of Faith or Catholic morals that the readings suggest.
- Offer some practical ways the laity can apply this knowledge to their lives in order to actually live the Faith.
While priests are used to preparing homilies that grow from the Lectionary readings, this website helps them to see the catechetical connections between the Lectionary and the doctrine of the Church. Many lay people are also looking for practical suggestions on how to live their faith in the midst of daily life.
I currently have over a thousand subscribers all over the world. A surprising development is how many lay persons have found these reflections valuable for their own spiritual lives, using them as aids to their personal life of prayer.
I think the three-year cycle of Lectionary readings provides sufficient opportunities to cover all the fundamental aspects of faith, morals, virtues, and practice. The doctrines presented draw extensively from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This is a significant way that pastors can provide the formation that the laity desperately need.
A bit about my background.
In addition to decades personal formation in the Catholic faith, about fifteen years ago, I had an unparalleled professional opportunity to systematically review the content of the Catholic Faith. This happened through my writing all the curriculum materials for the high school Didache Series: the teacher editions of the four books of the Complete series, the teacher editions of the ten books of the Semester Series, the eight books of the Parish Series, and twelve collections of Didache Teacher Resources. In addition, in 2018 I completed a M.A. in Sacred Theology (Summa Cum Laude) from Holy Apostles College and Seminary with an emphasis on Sacred Scripture. My thesis was on friendship in St. John’s Gospel.
I recognize how busy pastoral life can be and these outlines will give timely suggestions which will make the task of preparing rich and meaningful homilies easier. These outlines show helpful and unique ways of linking the Lectionary readings and the Catechism of the Catholic Church to real life applications.