Lay Preaching in the Catholic Church

For 12 March 2024, Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent, based on Ezekiel 47:1–6

(Photo: Interior Of Nuestra Señora de La Immaculada Conception de Tome, by Gregory Heille OP)

Ezekiel 47:1–6

The angel brought me, Ezekiel,
back to the entrance of the temple of the LORD,
and I saw water flowing out
from beneath the threshold of the temple toward the east,
for the façade of the temple was toward the east;
the water flowed down from the right side of the temple,
south of the altar.
He led me outside by the north gate,
and around to the outer gate facing the east,
where I saw water trickling from the right side.
Then when he had walked off to the east
with a measuring cord in his hand,
he measured off a thousand cubits
and had me wade through the water,
which was ankle-deep.
He measured off another thousand
and once more had me wade through the water,
which was now knee-deep.
Again he measured off a thousand and had me wade;
the water was up to my waist.
Once more he measured off a thousand,
but there was now a river through which I could not wade;
for the water had risen so high it had become a river
that could not be crossed except by swimming.
He asked me, “Have you seen this . . . ?”
This morning at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, thirty lay and ordained theologians and preachers are gathered from across the United States and abroad for a three-day symposium on Lay Eucharistic Preaching in the Catholic Church. Our question is this: “Can a theological case be made for the Church to charge or commission a more extensive and diverse pool of qualified lay preachers and evangelists to preach the Word of God at the Eucharist?” Through a synodal process of listening and dialogue, we hope to articulate a theological and pastoral state of this question for submission to the October 2024 meeting of the Synod on Synodality in Rome.
This past Ash Wednesday and the First Sunday of Lent, I had the privilege of preaching at Immaculate Conception Church in Tomé, New Mexico. This church, built in 1754 on a deep foundation of solid rock, has been flooded to a depth of six feet on more than one occasion by the nearby Rio Grande. And yet, in good measure to successive generations of its parishioners, this adobe church has stood firm and will not be moved.
Our scripture reading from Ezekiel speaks today of deep water flooding out from within the temple on every side. My friends, the water of Holy Baptism flowed ankle-deep in the Catholic Church when the bishops at the Second Vatican Council said that we are one baptismal people, the People of God. In the listening, dialogue, and discernment of the Sydod on Synodality, built firmly on the foundations of Vatican II, the water of our Baptism now flows knee-deep. Dare we pray that the Holy Spirit will now lead us waist-deep into our Church’s baptismal vocation as missionary disciples and evangelists on behalf of God’s mission in the Church?
Please pray for us in St. Louis these three days that our symposium on lay preaching in the Catholic Church may contribute a timely voice to our baptismal project of being a Vatican II synodal church.

Scripture passage from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright 1989, 1993, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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About Gregory Heille, O.P.

Gregory Heille, O.P., serves as Professor of Preaching and Evangelization and director of the Doctor of Ministry in Preaching at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, Missouri. He is a friar of the Province of St. Albert the Great USA and has a particular interest in racial equity education.