The Homily: I know that feeling

columban-About-that-sermon

You will have to agree that the above picture is an interesting choice to illustrate an article on Catholic priests and preaching. I must say I know that feeling. Listening to your average priest preaching his average sermon is doubley difficult when one is oneself a retired preacher. Professional criticism is always lurking in the wings. But what really irks me is not a question of homiletical skill, but the fact that whenever the 15 minutes taken up by the homily does not result in a better understanding of the text or a clearer proclamation of the gospel, I can only regard it as a wasted opportunity for evangelisation and catechisation.

The writer of the article, Columban Fr Paddy Clarke, suggests that we learn to pray for our preachers. He suggests that

whenever you attend Mass, say a short prayer for the priest as he begins to preach; if it does not change him, I believe it will help you.

Well, it would be a bonus if it changed the sermon too, but we get his point.

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9 responses to “The Homily: I know that feeling

  1. You gotta stop snapping pics of my parishioners when I’m bombing…

  2. Really, Pastor? I never recall seeing that expression from my vantage point in the pulpit… 😉

  3. But that’s because you Australians (going by Norman Nagel) preach with your eyes shut… 😉

  4. Matthias

    Hey PW we don’t preach with our eyes shut,that is the prerogative of the congregation. As my Mum use to say about some people who went to church-she was a staunch Anglican- “the young go to eye the clothes and the old go to close the eyes”.

  5. From boring preaching and this-worldly homilies, Good Lord, deliver us!

    A Dominican – their Order, BTW, contains some excellent and some truly terrible preachers – once told me of how, over in the United States, one of his brethren was really struggling to give his sermon, whereupon a large black lady in the front pew threw out her hands and boldly, loudly prayed the Lord for him! I wish I could remember her exact words as told me: they were priceless.

    I must say, one of the best preachers I know is Fr Michael Rowe, the Latin Mass chaplain in Perth, W.A.; he has the talent of not preaching a predictable sermon – for instance, one Sunday he gave a sermon based on the rite for the consecration of cemeteries, and bade us attend to what the prayers tell us, for they are about death, judgement and salvation, realities we must all face all too soon. That was a good sermon: indeed, his sermons are all focussed on the Eschaton – strive now to save your soul!

    Surely concern for salvation, as won for us by Christ, is really the essence of Christianity – yet so few preach about the Last Things, preferring a regrettably bourgeois, safe, this-worldly focus on being nice.

    • Yes, lets name the good preachers. After having written the above post, I was pleasantly surprised by a really excellent homily from Fr Frank Gerry SVD in my parish this morning. Fr Frank lives in the parish, and helps out the PP fairly regularly on Sundays. He is a thought provoking preacher in general, but he really excelled himself this morning, preaching about the sacrament of marriage.

      He compared marriage to the Eucharist, saying that in a marriage, spouses are effectively saying to eachother “Here is my body, given for you. Here is my blood, shed for you.” “Marriage is not for the fainthearted”, he said.

      Normally, Fr Frank’s sermons are like a spiritual direction session – very insightful spiritually, but not specifically catechetical. He preaches smoothly, but slowly, and usually from in front of the altar rather than the lectern. Today, he began by saying that he felt conscious of the catechetical opportunity offered by today’s readings and wanted to teach about the Sacrament of marriage. He also clearly had prepared a written sermon (although he didn’t “read” it), and delivered it from the lectern.

      All in all, it was very clear that he put a great deal of thought and planning into the homily. It was deeply appreciated.

  6. matthias

    My brother trained as a Church of Christ minister although he is no longer a Christian-but has a soft spot for the Cistercians. He was taught at Theological College that the golden rule of preaching was that if you “did not strike oil within 20 minutes ,to stop boring”. sermons(homilies) in the Church of Christ can go for half to 45 minutes ,but then they usually occur after Communion (Lord’s Table) and thus right before the end of the sermon.

  7. matthias

    That should be ‘right before the endof the Service”

  8. TC

    Nice comments to make about Priests in the year of the priest. If we actually had people in the pews who made a solid effort to particiapte in the liturgy, maybe the priests wouldn’t be so depressed and boring. The Priest can’t do it all for the people, at some point they have to be willing to listen and come to Church for the right reasons. The people in the pews are the ones who are spirtually lazy . “Whenever the 15 minutes taken up by the homily does not result in a better understanding of the text or a clearer proclamation of the gospel. ,maybe if you came prepared to listen to the Word of God instead of critizing it, you might get more out the Mass. try coming to Mass prepared and looking at the readings before you get there.