Preachers, get to the point!

That’s the message of a recent seminar on homiletics for priests and deacons.  CNS has details:

For eight days at Loyola University New Orleans, three priests and five deacons absorbed the cool mathematics and internal symmetry of good preaching. Just as Moses descended from Mount Sinai with Ten Commandments chiseled on two stone tablets, the rules laid out by Father Roy Shelly and Deborah Wilhelm of the Diocese of Monterey, Calif., while not etched in permanent marker, are boundaries worthy of respect: six to eight minutes for a Sunday homily, three to five minutes for a weekday sermon. “The idea is not so much ‘brevity’ as it is not taking longer than you need,” said Wilhelm, a doctoral student with a focus on preaching at the Aquinas Institute of Theology. Improving the quality and spiritual depth of preaching has been a passion for Father Shelly, who is director of vocations and oversees homiletics training for the permanent diaconate in his diocese. If priests and deacons do not take seriously their vocational call and the preparation needed to preach the Gospel, Father Shelly said, the resulting communication will be flat and possibly even an obstacle to worship. “The Pew Foundation looked at why young adults are leaving the church, and the first reason the study gave was poor preaching,” Father Shelly said. “In the Diocese of Monterey, we only recently renewed the diaconate. The mandate that came from the presbyteral council was that deacons should be effective preachers — and we should also hold the presbyterate to the same standards. This post-Vatican II generation expects more from us.”

  • deaconnorb

    Re: “Father Shelly said. “In the Diocese of Monterey, we only recently renewed the diaconate. The mandate that came from the presbyteral council was that deacons should be effective preachers — and we should also hold the presbyterate to the same standards. This post-Vatican II generation expects more from us.”

    Deacon Bill, how about you commenting on all of this since you are the “mover-and-shaker” of the deacons in Monterey ?

  • peregrinus

    Great preaching played a significant, though I would not say decisive role for me when I was in college in terms of keeping me in the Church.

  • 1352228858

    Can we please make attending a homiletics ‘refresher’ course mandatory for priests? Please?

  • gerardnadal

    It isn’t the length of the homily. Most priests just don’t have a message.

    I’ve brought Catholics who were clueless and careless about their faith to hear Dr. Scott Hahn of Franciscan University, and watched them sit spellbound hour, after hour throughout the day.

    Most homilies are utterly devoid of passion, of understanding the contextual context of the day’s readings, of pastoral insight or relevance to people’s lives. Deacon Greg’s are a marvelous exception to the rule, and I’ve posted several over at my blog.

    A man with a message can talk for an hour and make it seem as though it was mere minutes. A man without a message can talk for five minutes and make it feel like eternity.

  • melody

    “The Pew Foundation looked at why young adults are leaving the church, and the first reason the study gave was poor preaching,” Seriously? I suppose it’s as good an excuse as any, if you’re looking for one. I enjoy a well-prepared homily as much as anyone, but it’s not why I’m at Mass. It’s good that they are trying to improve the quality and spiritual depth of preaching, for both deacons and priests. And I agree, 7-8 minutes is about right. But different people have different gifts, and brilliant preaching isn’t always one of them. The pastor when I was growing up would preach 30 minutes sometimes and would wander all over the place getting to a point. But he was a good priest, and was always there to help if he could. I’ve known some gifted homilists that sometimes acted like jerks outside of the church walls. If I have to choose, I’ll choose priests (and deacons) who “walk the walk” even if they aren’t brilliant orators. If you try you can always take something good away, even from a less than stellar homily.

  • Bob Minnis

    Regarding this topic of “preaching” I have always been taught that the purpose of the homily was to help prepare the heart for receiving the body & blood of Jesus. But I also think given the present level of faith in our churches, some effort should be given to catechesis. I could never understand, why priests & deacons, who have at their disposal, two thousand years of biblical witness and tradition cannot incoporate this into their homilies. Referencing people like Augustine, Aquinas or even John Paul 2nd could bring a deeper continual unbroken line of theological thought to the folks in the pew. Is the attitude of preachers that which holds the faithful “flock” to be unable to intelligently understand the finer points of Catholic theology?


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