Should Women Preach or not During Holy Mass?

(By Jaime Sevilla, MAPM, M.Th)

This has been a topic of debate and often controversial inside and outside of the Catholic Church. A few weeks ago, the well-known Jesuit priest José Martin brought this issue to mind and a few weeks later, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Germany also argued that the mentality of many conservatives should be overcome that only priests should preach during Holy Mass. It is no secret to anyone that women have always been marginalized in many departments of the Hierarchy and structures of the Catholic Church, and this is due to the Patriarchate imposed from the edict of Milan issued by Emperor Constantine in February 313 A.D .; in which he made the Christian religion official as the religion of the Empire.

Fortunately and thanks to the constant struggle in recent decades, women have increasingly opened an important space within the Church, but we still have a long way to go.Returning to the subject, is there anything that prevents women from preaching inside the Holy Mass? I dare to say no, but we must clarify the difference between a homily and preaching.

The homily is the one taught by a consecrated person in the Priestly Ministry and which must always be oriented to the explanation of the sacred readings read within the Eucharistic celebration. In this sense, I think that we must respect that order that we have been developing for centuries within our Church, and this is not about a macho attitude, but about the structure of the Priestly Order. Preaching: is the message that is given to a specific audience to address a particular issue that affects that community.

This message can be based on some reading of the Bible or another type of resource. This preaching can be taught by a woman, a layperson or someone consecrated to the Priestly Ministry. Now, that it is done within the celebration of the Holy Mass, I think it is something that should be seriously debated, being sure that this preaching does not become a replacement for the homily; since, if that was the objective, then we would be modifying a part of the Priestly Ministry; this would affect the assembly.

I am aware that there are women much better prepared than many priests, with extraordinary gifts, etc .; but to replace the character responsible for the homily, we should first modify the Priestly Order and allow women to have access to this Ministry, something that I see very complicated at the moment. Then, that women preach inside the Holy Mass, I see it feasible, but not to replace the homily. That women help the priest to prepare the homily, that would be something wonderful and enriching to the liturgy we celebrate; and I would applaud him in every way since that would give a different approach, a feminine and more enriching touch to the homily.

So at what time of Holy Mass can the woman preach? I think it can be after the homily, or after communion or where the celebrant deems it convenient. It would be very interesting to see the impact that this would bring to our liturgical celebrations, how parishioners receive this new element within the liturgy and evaluate the role that women or the laity would play in the liturgical celebration; I think it would be something very good and enriching.

We pray to the One and Triune God to enlighten the minds of those responsible for these decisions, so that the Holy Spirit will motivate them to think about the common good and not elitist, patriarchal or power interests; remember that we all come from a woman and we are what that woman sowed in our being during childhood and adolescence years; let’s not close our minds and hearts; Let us all integrate into our liturgical celebrations. May our most holy Mother, who educated the eternal priest and high priest always assist us. AMEN.

The Virtue of Prudence

Saint Augustine of Hippo