The Homily

In the homily, the preacher unveils the mysteries of the faith and proclaims the guiding principles of the Christian life (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 52).  The homily generally builds on texts from the sacred scriptures and the flow of the liturgical seasons, but it may also draw from other texts of the mass.  It addresses the needs of the listeners (Inter Oecumenici, 54), enabling them to participate in the whole celebration with faith (Fulfilled in Your Hearing, III).

The preacher has a large responsibility.  A good homilist will help people enter the mystery of God, making them more aware of God’s presence in their lives.  Therefore, a dutiful preacher will spend some time in prayer to prepare for this thoroughly spiritual task.

The people who listen to the homily come with their own experience and faith.  They gather for common worship, yet each one hears the word of God in a unique way.  As a body, they represent the church gathered in prayer, open to God’s Word, ready to respond.

This is where the homily is heading.  It will lead people from faith to response.  It will address them as a community of believers and challenge them to action in answer to the proclaimed word.

In sum, a homily is a message based on the scriptures, liturgical texts or the nature of the celebration, addressed to an assembled community of believers.  It invites them into a deeper appreciation of the mystery of God and challenges them to respond to God’s word.

At a wedding, the homily has an added purpose.  The preacher is encouraged to address the principles of the faith pertaining to marriage (Rite of Marriage, 1-5).  The homily covers “the mystery of Christian marriage, the dignity of wedded love, the grace of the sacrament and the responsibilities of married people, keeping in mind the circumstances of this particular marriage” (22).

Obviously, all of that is too much to put into one homily.  Some of these points will be treated in the couple’s preparation for marriage.  The homily will provide an opportunity to focus on some aspect of this marriage in a message that will touch the hearts of the couple and the assembly of their family and friends.

Some of those attending the wedding may have little or no faith.  They may have come more to support the bride and groom than to pray for them.  They, too, will hear the word of God and react to it according to their own experience.  The wedding homily, perhaps more than the Sunday homily, will reveal the mystery of God to some who have not yet perceived it.

The couple

Every couple is unique.  The engaged partners yearning for Christian marriage come with their own stories of faith, both as individuals and as a couple.  Preparation for marriage invites the partners to examine their spiritual journeys. They will search their memories to discern how the hand of God has guided them to this point.

Here are some questions to help the couple talk with the preacher about how God has been active in their lives.  Some ask about their individual lives.  Others ask about their lives as a couple.  The preacher may keep the bride and groom together for these questions, but making sure that each one has a chance to respond fully.

Questions for the bride and groom individually:

What are your principle religious beliefs?  Do you believe in God?  Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God?  Do you believe in eternal life?  What else?

What do you think about the Catholic Church?  Is it a source of pride or embarrassment?  Why?  

What people have influenced your faith and beliefs?

Do you pray on your own?  How and when do you pray?  Do you worship on Sundays with your church?

Did you ever pray that God would help you find a marriage partner?  What kind of person did you pray for?  Do you believe that God brought you together? 

How do your beliefs influence your actions?  Give an example of something you did or avoided because you believed it was right or wrong in the eyes of God.

What experiences in your life have been religious experiences?  Give an example of how God was with you once when you were younger.   Has your relationship with God changed?


Questions for the couple together:

How did you meet?  Has God been a part of your relationship?  In what ways?

What religious activities have you done together as a couple?  Have you prayed together?  Have you learned about faith together?  Have you served others together?  In what ways? 

How did the marriage proposal happen?  Was it in any way a spiritual experience?

Do you believe that God has something in mind for you by giving you this partner for life?

Why would you like a church wedding?  Is a church wedding important to your family and friends?  Is it important to you?  What does a church wedding say about your relationship with God?  What does it say about your relationship to the people who worship there?

What would you like your family and friends to remember about the wedding ceremony?

What message about God would you like them to hear?

What do you hope to experience in the wedding ceremony?

The assembly

The community that assembles to celebrate a wedding is always unique.  These people have come together for this one event.  Normally, very few of them worship together regularly in the church where the wedding takes place.  Many of them will know each other as family and friends.  But some will be strangers to anyone but the bride and groom.

When preparing the wedding homily, it will help to think about who will be there to hear it.

Which family members will come for this wedding?

Who will be in the wedding party?

What other close friends will be on hand?

What other groups will be represented?  Co-workers?  People from church?  People from clubs or organizations the bride or groom belong to?  People who share their goals and interests?

Who will not be able to come?  Why not?  How do the bride and groom feel about that?

When you think about the people coming for this wedding, what do they believe in?  What do they hope for?  What have they experienced about love?


This excerpt from the book Preaching the Wedding Homily: A Guide for Preachers and Couples (San Jose: Resource Publications, 2003) appeared in Ministry and Liturgy 29/9 (November 2002):20-21.

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