Friday, April 29, 2011

A Traditionalist on the Beatification of John Paul II

As I mentioned in my previous column, I have taken what amounts to a 5 year break from the Catholic commentariat. Even when I am back in the swing of things with my writing, it tends to be on stuff I’ve wanted to write about since my conversion 11 years ago, less about the matters of the day.

I return to those “matters of the day” with what is happening this weekend. On what is known as “Divine Mercy Sunday” the one who instituted that celebration will be beatified. He will become Blessed John Paul II. Amongst my traditionalist friends, this is not a day for celebration, but of concern if not mourning. While it seems so long ago, traditionalists have never been too fond of John Paul II’s pontificate.

It is not my intention to re-litigate this history. Suffice it to say, there are ample reasons you do not hear “John Paul the Great” spoken by traditionalists. Yet with that being said, I look forward to speaking of him as Blessed, and counting on his intercession.

Even as a traditionalist, I am part of the “JPII generation” though I refuse to call it that. Amongst my fellow youths, we celebrate the faith no more or less than the youths of any age. (Being realistic, very few of us Catholics in our twenties celebrate our faith, I mean actually live it.) What is different is that nowadays those faithful Catholics youths are no longer silent. We recognize that if we want the Church to maintain her Catholic identity, it is pointless to pray for deliverance and then just do nothing. Following the maxim of St. Ignatius of Loyola, we “pray as if it depends entirely on God, and then work as if it depends entirely on us.” Is it a stretch to say that the Pope of “World Youth Day” might have had something to do with this?

No doubt many instances at World Youth Days were filled with nonsense, and resembled a rock concert more than a Catholic event. Yet think of those ten or twenty people out of thousands who used that time to make pilgrimages and adoration, using that week as a time of deep prayer and reflection, and who actually listened to what the Pope said, that their time for activism in the Church was now. Just as they are the minority amongst young Catholics at large, so they were then. Yet John Paul II appealed to them more than anyone else.

If you would say before his election as Pontiff that younger Catholics would lead the charge in the culture of life, you would be laughed at. Thanks to the devastated vineyard following the Council, the “youth” were more apt to join communes and sing kumbaya than protest an abortion mill or organize thousands of 40 Days for Life events across the country. Yet the same Pope who wanted people serious about their faith inside the Church demanded they spread it outside the Church as well. Ever the good Thomist, the Pontiff refused to believe the Gospel and the world were truly separate, never to meet. Rather, the Gospel had to form the world, starting with the hearts of the individual.

His papacy was also a papacy of great ironies. The Charismatic movement before John Paul II wanted to liberate the Church “in the spirit” from the chains of rosaries, novenas and adoration. Whatever your beefs with them in the celebration of Mass, go see a charismatic community, and see a community vibrant in its Marian devotion and Eucharistic adoration. Yet the biggest irony was his suffering.

John Paul II was a man who stood down one of the most vile and evil regimes in history, and smiled at the gunmen who tried to assassinate him. Yet the world watched this larger than life figure literally whither away in the last few years of his life. One of the great orators of Popes ended his last public appearance softly pounding his fist against the podium as he was losing his power of speech. Slowly but surely he was losing every one of his gifts. Yet he used them as opportunities of grace. He showed the world the redemptive dignity of suffering.

This was not to say the man was perfect. No pope ever was. (Though now is not the time to go endlessly over those shortcomings.) The first and greatest pope was also home to some of the first and greatest screwups as Pope. Had the Father allowed Peter’s weakness to win out, we would be worshipping at separate altars from our Semitic brethren. Even some of the holiest of men have made not so great popes. Yet it is the holiness that matters. Nobody doubts his personal holiness, or his impact on the world at large.

Yet it cannot be denied that scores of Catholics awoke during his papacy from their slumber. The Church had not been overcome by the gates of hell, but a majority of its members were sleeping. Majorities still are, and probably always will. Yet there are a few who responded to his wakeup call. That is what he will be remembered for more than anything, he who reminded Catholics everywhere they were meant to be both Catholic and relevant.

With that I can confidently implore ora pro nobis.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Meaning of Easter

To the secular world, our celebration of Easter Sunday is an odd event. In their eyes, we celebrate a corpse rising from the dead, and they really can’t figure out why.

St. Paul understood this well. He described the Resurrection of Jesus Christ as a “stumbling block” to the Jews, and “folly” to the Greeks. Yet he also understood that this was the most important moment in human history. Yet why is this so? Why was the Resurrection such a “game-changer?” It is one thing to say “Jesus has conquered sin and death.” Yet what does that really mean for our lives?

While Christ’s rising from the dead provides life, it also provides death to certain things. First amongst those is fear. Fear, combined with pride, is what led to our downfall in Eden. The eating of the Tree proved all too clearly we were not gods. Our death is an all too frequent reminder of that fact as well. If we are mere creatures of flesh and bone, there exists certain finality to it all.

The world operated according to a far different standard during this time. Rome was the pre-eminent power of the time of the Bible. Behind the propaganda of stability and “peace”, a far different reality existed. The conquered had the view of a British warlord:

To theft, slaughter, and rape they deceitfully name Empire; and even where they make a desert, they call it peace.
If nothing else, the Romans were brilliant at wanton slaughter of those who resisted them. For the pagan culture, there was a relative finality on this earth after death. Notions of an afterlife were relatively vague, and certainly not something that one strives for in preference for life. The Romans exploited this to the maximum. Faced with certain death or Roman service, many chose Roman service. Yet for all their success, there was a tiny sect with whom this arrangement had little to no success: an obscure loose collection of the mainly poor known as “Christians.”

To the Christians, it was not enough to say they were not afraid of death, as death was a fact for practitioners of an illegal religion in the Roman Empire. When Caesar threatened with death, the response of the Christian was the response of Tertullian (though perhaps without the bombastic nature):

But go zealously on, good presidents, you will stand higher with the people if you sacrifice the Christians at their wish, kill us, torture us, condemn us, grind us to dust; your injustice is the proof that we are innocent. Therefore God suffers that we thus suffer… Nor does your cruelty, however exquisite, avail you; it is rather a temptation to us. The blood of Christians is seed...  We are mown down by you, the more in number we grow;

Ignatius of Antioch (late first early second century), after begging Roman Christians not to use their influence to save his life, described his martyrdom as follows:

Allow me to become food for the wild beasts, through whose instrumentality it will be granted me to attain to God. I am the wheat of God, and let me be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ. Rather entice the wild beasts, that they may become my tomb, and may leave nothing of my body; so that when I have fallen asleep [in death], I may be no trouble to any one. Then shall I truly be a disciple of Christ…. But when I suffer, I shall be the freed-man of Jesus, and shall rise again emancipated in Him…
Let fire and the cross; let the crowds of wild beasts; let tearings, breakings, and dislocations of bones; let cutting off of members; let shatterings of the whole body; and let all the dreadful torments of the devil come upon me: only let me attain to Jesus Christ.
The earliest Christians saw their deaths as a test of their ultimate fidelity. If they were faithful unto the end, death would not be the last word. It was not the last word for Christ, and He promised the same for us if we endured to the end. It is for this reason we speak of Rome as an era of the past, yet near two millennia later, we speak of Christianity as that which ultimately conquered Rome. Just as the people of the age cried “His blood be upon us and our children”, they did not realize what they were doing. The blood indeed was upon their descendants, bringing them to everlasting life.

While this changed the world as a whole, far more profound was the change upon the individual. If death truly held no power over Christ, death holds no true power over his disciples. If something as powerful as death was powerless against him, what are we to say of the smaller things? Have people not transformed every aspect of their lives over this fact? Temptations, addictions, none of these can hold sway over the individual if they remember Christ conquered these things. We need only follow the command He gave after rising to his friends: Follow me.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Standing up for the RIGHTS of Catholics

In addition to it being the holy Triduum this weekend, I am coming across another “anniversary”, something I’m not normally used to. This Saturday marks 6 months I’ve been in a relationship. Every now and then people ask what has changed with me in the relationship. If one looks at the amount of posting I’ve done, that’s an obvious change. I’ve got less time to read the blogs and the web to pick up stories. I think that’s a good thing. People nerd-rage far too much on these issues.

Yet blame a boring day at work for this coming post. With nothing to do and a column already written on the Offertory, I decided to check out the blogs. Apparently over the past week there’s been some controversy surrounding lay Catholic commentator Michael Voris. While I normally avoid the nerd-rage of those like Mark Shea and others, I think it is instructive. If anyone wants a glimpse as to why the Church has been through so much trouble recently, this tempest is a perfect example.

Apparently a bunch of liberal earth-hippies wrote a letter to Catholic Bishops. The memo suggest using the homilies during our Holiest days of Christianity (From the evening of Holy Thursday through Easter Sunday) to talk about Earth Day. As opposed to, you know, speaking about the Sacrifice of Christ, our salvation, and our ultimate Heavenly home because of the Resurrection.

In a video that went viral amongst the Catholic world, Michael Voris suggested that if your parish priest so much as talks about Earth Day during the homilies, Catholics should leave that parish and attend elsewhere. For the life of me, I can’t figure out what’s wrong with that statement. Many Catholics have been confined to a prison of stupid homilies by liberal prelates over the years. I went to a Stations of the Cross on Good Friday once. The priest turned those meditations on the Passion of Our Lord into a call for social action against the “rich” and how the real lesson of Christ’s sacrifice is how we are to fight against “economic inequality.” I used every bit of my strength to not shout “you can’t be flippin serious!” I simply walked out.

The “conservative” intelligentsia of American Catholics have predictably gone into full nerd-rage mode. Mark Shea accuses Michael Voris of trying to act like a Bishop. Elizabeth Scalia comments “the Church is not a democracy” and states that Michael Voris is a “wolf in sheeps clothing.” She compares him to Fr. Michael Pfleger, that wildly dumb and heretical priest out in Chicago.

When I read this stuff, I am reminded of why I am a traditionalist, and why I can’t take these people seriously. To put it bluntly: Michael Voris is simply saying what everyone actually believes deep down. Give the man a medal.

As far as “The Church is not a democracy” this is true but irrelevant. Apparently in the face of such flagrant liturgical abuses, the Catholic in the pew should just keep his mouth shut. Canon law says differently. The Congregation of Divine Worship says Catholics have a “right” to a liturgy free of such nonsense. Finally, last time I checked, I am a Catholic. If St. Jahosphat burns down tomorrow, I don’t lose my faith. I can simply go to another Catholic parish. Likewise, when every parish around me was rife with liturgical abuses, I was free to attend the Extraordinary Form at St. Jahosphat, which was free from such abuses.

There seems to be an idea that Catholics are required to “obey” something here. Where has the Church commanded that we must sit through liturgical abuses? Where has the Church said that we are not free to choose which parish (of those in communion with the local Bishop) we attend? On the contrary, the CDW has said that a liturgy free of abuses is owed to the lay Catholic by their rights as being a Catholic:

For arbitrary actions are not conducive to true renewal, but are detrimental to the right of Christ’s faithful to a liturgical celebration that is an expression of the Church’s life in accordance with her tradition and discipline. In the end, they introduce elements of distortion and disharmony into the very celebration of the Eucharist, which is oriented in its own lofty way and by its very nature to signifying and wondrously bringing about the communion of divine life and the unity of the People of God. The result is uncertainty in matters of doctrine, perplexity and scandal on the part of the People of God, and, almost as a necessary consequence, vigorous opposition, all of which greatly confuse and sadden many of Christ’s faithful in this age of ours when Christian life is often particularly difficult on account of the inroads of “secularization” as well.

On the contrary, it is the right of all of Christ’s faithful that the Liturgy, and in particular the celebration of Holy Mass, should truly be as the Church wishes, according to her stipulations as prescribed in the liturgical books and in the other laws and norms. (Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum)
That is what we are supposed to be obedient to. If priests are depriving the rights of faithful Catholics, they should be called out. Yet in addition to that, if there is a parish down the road that goes out of their way to make sure your rights as a Catholic are accommodated, one is free to attend that parish.

Far from being disobedient, we are doing precisely what the Pope wanted. When he released Summorum Pontificum, he envisioned the Extraordinary Form enriching the liturgical life of the entire Church, instead of just being a concession to a few cranky traditionalists. Part of this enrichment is one sees how a liturgy is supposed to be carried out. If Catholics are given every opportunity to choose between a liturgy that is done by the books and with reverence, and a liturgy which has neither, most faithful Catholics will want the former. They may not want the Extraordinary Form, but they will rightly ponder why their current parish doesn’t follow such reverence. So they start looking for a parish that does, and go there. If the other parish wants to stay open, eventually they will have to start improving their liturgy. The liberal parishes are growing older and smaller, whereas the parishes which have a more traditional bent are growing younger and larger. As to the rest, the law of nature takes its course.

Which makes me wonder: why on earth are these people so upset? Why are they comparing someone who wants politics driven out of the Mass with someone for whom the Mass should be linked to a political campaign? Why are they so upset at those who want reverence in the liturgy, and absolutely silent on those who deprive Catholics of their rights? Let us remind our critics that the Church indeed is not a democracy. Their opinions on what Catholics should suffer through are absolutely irrelevant. The Church has spoken, and that should be enough for them.

The Extraordinary Form: The Offertory

Following the Creed, we enter into what could be viewed the second “part” of the Mass. In classical terms, this section of the Mass is known as the Offertory. If you want to find an area where people criticized the Extraordinary Form, it was this part of the Mass. If you wanted to find an area that was also overlooked in the hearts of many, it was the Offertory.

More often than not, the Offertory was viewed as “fill in” time between the proclamation of the Gospel and the Eucharist. That the majority of the prayers were carried out by the priest in an inaudible tone did not help, so the critics said. In the modern liturgies of today, there really is no Offertory. A few prayers are said while the collection plate is passed around, and faster than one can blink, you are into the Canon.

Yet if one wants to understand what is really going on in the Extraordinary Form, you really need to understand the Offertory. The prayers contained here are almost unparalleled within the liturgy as far as doctrinal content and symbolism. Far from a “filler”, the Offertory should be that final moment where we prepare ourselves to participate in an action so august it truly is timeless.

With that said, let us define our terms. Some people mistakenly say that “Offertory” means “offering”, as in the impression is given that the sacrifice of the Mass is offered during these prayers, instead of the canon. Like so many problems, it is a misunderstanding of language. The word comes from the Latin offertorium, which could be understood as a place where the gifts to be sacrificed were brought. More importantly, it is the time where the offering is prepared

This makes sense. Before anything is offered in Sacrifice, it is prepared for Sacrifice. Before His arrest, Christ was anointed with oil by the woman, an act He praised, and said all would remember her for. Likewise when we give someone a gift, we never just give them the gift. We wrap it, we adorn it. When we give clothes, we make sure those clothes aren’t wrinkled and clean. While an imperfect analogy, it still holds I believe. During the offertory, we take something of common use, and prepare it for sacred purposes.

In the terms of a sacrifice, the offering is first presented to God before it is offered. The bread and wine are dedicated to God’s service. The priest prays that this offering may atone for his “countless sins and offenses”, that this also be done for every Christian present, and indeed the entire faithful “living and dead.” The ultimate ends of this offering will be that a “means of salvation” is afforded to humanity.

Here the true mystery of Christ’s atonement is outlined. While it is certainly true that Christ died for each and every human being throughout the ages, not every human being receives the fruit of Christ’s sacrifice. This prayer gives the understanding that the application of Christ’s sacrifice is limited, even if it is offered for all. If one wants salvation, one must accept Christ’s sacrifice. One must implore that the mercy we receive because of Christ’s sacrifice be applied to them. Here the priest asks that precisely this happen. The priest (and by representation all the faithful) make this request.

Even if we do not verbally speak these words, we must associate ourselves with them. One of the ways this is done is indeed through our monetary offerings during this time. In addition to our prayers, we offer the fruits of our own labor. We do not do this under the illusion that our offering of a few dollars is somehow equivalent to Christ’s sacrifice. We don’t even do it expecting a reward. Like Christ’s sacrifice, it is ultimately a sacrifice of love. Christ did not sacrifice Himself because He was compelled to by any outside force. He offered Himself because He loved us. We sinful humans can never hope to match that level of offering. Yet we can offer what little we have at this point. That physical offering of the fruits of our labors represents our own selfless giving to the Church. Most importantly, it is our own little way of uniting ourselves to Christ’s sacrifice. Whether we are rich or poor, that is our ultimate intention here.

Far from wasting time, this introductory prayer in the Offertory sets the essential stage for what is about to transpire.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Extraordinary Form: The Creed

It is said that Christianity becomes different from other religions in that we are a religion of a "person", not a creed.  That being said, creeds are still incredibly important.  We get "creed" from the Latin credo, which stands for "I believe."  For this part in the series I would like to do two things.  I would like to discuss the significance behind "I believe", and also deal with some of the problems facing a proper understanding of the Nicene Creed today.

If there is one thing that defines modern man and the world, it is their indifference.  Pope Benedict XVI speaks of this as the "dictatorship of relativism" where the only truth is that there is no truth.  The corollary is that those who believe in absolute truth must be treated as the outcast.  If truth even exists, it is the product of the rationalization of the individual.  It never comes from an external force (i.e. an objective truth.)

The Nicene Creed is a rejection of that understanding.  If one wishes to presume themselves a follower of God, they must hold to these truths.  All other truths of the faith flow from these central truths (even if they are not explicitly spelled out.)  The Creed is ultimately a statement in monotheism (credo in unum Deum).  In addition, it is a statement of belief in the Holy Trinity (in the three "sections" of the Creed the 3 persons of the Trinity are explained), and in Christ's role as the Savior of mankind.

These words should never be a rote repetition.  Every time we speak those words, we are submitting ourselves to God.  We submit ourselves to His truth, made possible by the gift of Faith, itself made possible by the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.  We cannot have this faith however without the Holy Spirit, who enlightens the minds of the faithful.  Our very recitation of the Creed is only possible through the constant action of the Holy Trinity.

Today, at least in English speaking countries, this experience has been hampered by the translations of the liturgy.  Words were translated in ways that were not necessarily false, but did not fully express the significance contained within the Latin, and in the Churches belief of these doctrines.  Thankfully, new translations are set to take place with the start of the next liturgical year. (The First Sunday of Advent)  Since the Creed is identical in both forms of the Roman liturgy, I hope the following will be of instruction to all Catholics.

In today's Creed in the vernacular, it begins with the statement "We Believe" as opposed to the Latin translation of "I believe."  The translations no doubt wanted to stress the importance of the community.  It is certainly true that as Catholics, we do believe certain things.

Yet the existence of these truths was independent of the group.  Some try to say that the faith of the Church comes about as a result of the belief of the community.  If the "community" (typically a bunch of dissenting liberal hippies) does not believe something, it is not the faith of the Church.  The Catholic answers this charge with "Credo", I believe.  While the community is important, God's calling is at first to the individual.  He did not call the Chaldean's as a person to be the father of many, but He called Abraham.  While God did indeed call entire nations (and all of humanity) to a certain vocation, the Bible was equally clear that one was not righteous or wicked on the account of others.  One was righteous or wicked on the account of the individual.  In the fullness of revelation, one is righteous or wicked to the extent he personally denies himself and follows Christ in all things.

There is also a general structure of the Mass being followed.  Up until the Creed, the action is very community centered.  The people pray as a community, they hear the Scriptures as a community, etc.  The Creed is a distinct shift.  We are transitioning from the Liturgy of the Word to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, culminating in our ultimate participation in Holy Communion.  This is a distinctly personal event.  While the Eucharist provides grace to the Church as a whole, the most importance grace is the chance for union with Christ Jesus through the Church.

The next part of the Creed tells us God the Father is the creator of all things visibilium et omnium et invisibilium.  The English lackadaisically translates this as "of all things seen and unseen."  A story best explains the difference.  It may be apocryphal, if so, it should be true.  Cardinal Francis Arinze was discussing with a Bishop about this very clause, and the Bishop wondered what the big deal was.  During this bewilderment, Cardinal Arinze got up and ducked behind a chair.  He replied "I am unseen, but I am not invisible." 

When we express these words, we express faith in the truth that there is more than just this physical world. While our bodies may tell us much, they cannot tell us everything.  More importantly, that which they do tell us leads to something that cannot be seen by sight, or even fully comprehended by human reason.  That is why we say visible first.  We move from the visible to the invisible.  Both are good, but the latter is clearly superior.  The liturgy itself uses visible actions to reveal the invisible realities they signify, mainly God's union with us.  The cross did the same.  The visible realities of Christ's suffering revealed (though only in a partial sense to dulled human reason) the length of obedience to the Father.  That perfect and unyielding obedience is why salvation is available to us.  While seen and unseen can signify this, it is done so in a far less powerful way.

That powerful way is again encountered when we come to the focal point of the Creed.  In the English, we bow and state "by the power of the Holy spirit, he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man."  The Latin uses a phrase of far greater precision:  Et Incarnatus est, de Spiritu Sancto, ex Maria Virgine, et homo factus est.  "By the power of the Holy Spirit he was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man.  The mystery of the Incarnation is expressed in all it's splendor.  While Christ certainly had a "birth" in the "natural" order (He did not just appear in this world out of nothing!), it was entirely different from the birth you and I experienced from our mothers.

"Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire, but a body thou hast fitted me" says the Messiah in the words of the Psalmist.  One could say that in Christ becoming man, He assumed the role, that body, which had been prepared for Him by the Father not only from the beginning of time, but beyond the existence of time as we know it.  As a result, every moment in history before led up to the Incarnation, where Christ, whom Heaven and Earth could not contain, enthroned Himself within the tiny womb of what, to the world, was an irrelevant peasant teenage girl.  (In the culture of that time, the three adjectives would only reinforce the seeming irrelevance!)  All time since that moment is due to that moment.

Again, one could get this from the word "born", but not as easily.  As one can see, these words are not chosen because of they sound more formal and liturgical, but because the express intimately what exactly is the truth.  When professing something as central to human existence as the Trinity and the Incarnation, precision is not just important, it is paramount.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Extraordinary Form: God Speaking to You

A consistent theme throughout this series is about how, in our participation of the Mass, we are choosing Christ over the world.  This is reinforced when we come to the conclusion of what has been called "The Liturgy of the Word" by many.  (This classification having been so popular the Ordinary Form now explicitly calls the first half of the Mass this.)

I also think it is one that tends to be frequently overlooked.  For the average Catholic at Mass (whatever his persuasion), the proclamation of the Scriptures are just another part of Mass before Father's homily, which they hope will be something other than awful.  There is the classic stereotype that when it comes to the Scriptures, Catholics really don't pay that much attention.  While false, all stereotypes have a hint of truth to it.

We must remember, the Scriptures are not simply some human book.  Rather, as Leo XIII pointed out, they are inspired by the Holy Spirit, having God as their author.  All forms of worship have a section to where words of wisdom are recalled upon and reflected.  Christianity (and Judaism) is unique in that this section is the very words of God himself. 

First we have a reading known as the Epistle.  The Epistle is frequently a selection from the New Testament (outside of the Gospels) but can refer to anything outside of the Gospels.  They are almost always connected to the other prayers of the day, looking to give us some practical insight how to practice what we have heard so far.  (For this and the Gospel, it is typically custom for them to be read in Latin and in English in the Extraordinary Form.)  Between the Epistle and the Gospel, the following prayer is said by the priest in preparation:

Cleanse my heart and my lips, O Almighty God, Who cleansed the lips of the Prophet Isaiah with a burning coal. In Your gracious mercy deign so to purify me that I may worthily proclaim Your holy Gospel. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

If you take one thing from this prayer, take this:  What is about to happen is not a mere human action.  Unworthy as we may be, we can speak the words of an Apostle without the need for purification.  With the Gospel, we are about to speak the very words of Jesus Christ.  Not only must the priest be purified, but we must elevate our minds and prepare for such an event.

We are reminded of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, who had to have a burning coal placed on his lips before announcing God's words and judgement to the Kingdom of Judah.  The burning coal is ultimately God's grace cleansing us.  At this point, the priest stops speaking with the authority of himself, and begins speaking with the authority of God.

Our Lord confirms this in His discourse with the Pharisees when the following is said:

And concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken by God... (Matt 22:31)
One cannot take the words about to be spoken as simply the words of your parish priest.  If one wishes to learn how to follow the Cross (our purpose so far here at Mass), only God's actual words will suffice.
There are times when there needs to be additional information that will lead to our understanding of the Scripture.  It is for this reason the Homily exists.  While not technically a part of the Mass, it is something which is so commonplace it might as well be for our purposes.  Sometimes the homilies are, to be honest, atrocious.  This need not be.
All too often, the homily ceases to be effective when the priest makes the homily about himself, rather than Christ's words.  They will frequently make the homilies about their own pet projects they feel the congregation needs to hear about.  As great as this or that devotional practice/private revelation/take your pick may be, it isn't Holy Scripture.  On the other side of the spectrum, priests will frequently inject their own political causes into the homily.  I once heard a Good Friday homily about how the passion of Christ was meant to be interpreted as a call to overcome class inequalities.  Even if one were to agree with the priest's pet theory, it holds little application for everyday life.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is primarily about how the truth can not only be known (through Him, who is truth), but that it sets us free from sin.  Our Lord did not come to give talks on systematic theology or geopolitical theory.  He came to proclaim how man in his everyday life can be made right with God, and how to get to Heaven.  Anything that focuses on something other than those words for the day belongs outside of the Mass.  Parish bulletins are made for a reason.  Perhaps if this was included instead of just your run of the mill announcements of raffle ticket sales, people might actually read them.