How long should homilies be?

We talked about this a little at the Redemptorists’ conference in New Jersey this week.

Fr. Edward McNamara has more, from ZENIT: 

Unfortunately there is relatively little with respect to official norms regarding length of homilies. This is partly inevitable because expectations vary from one culture to another and even from one social milieu to another. There are some cultures which expect long discourses during Mass and others which fidget after six minutes.

No. 24 of the Introduction to the Lectionary has the following to say about the homily:

“The homily, by which, through the course of the liturgical year, the mysteries of faith and norms of Christian life are set forth from the sacred text, as part of the Liturgy of the Word has been recommended often and especially since the liturgical constitution of the Second Vatican Council, and indeed is prescribed in some cases. The homily in the celebration of Mass is customarily to be given by the one who presides by virtue of the fact that it shows how the word of God which has been proclaimed becomes together with the eucharistic liturgy ‘a kind of proclamation of the wonders of God in salvation history or the mystery of Christ.’ And also the Paschal Mystery of Christ, which is announced by the readings and homily, is exercised through the sacrifice of the Mass. Christ, moreover, in the preaching of his Church, is always present and at work.

“The homily, therefore, whether it explains the word of sacred Scripture that has been proclaimed or another liturgical text, ought to lead the community of the faithful to celebrate the Eucharist actively, so that ‘they may hold in their manner of life what they have grasped by faith.’ By this living explanation of the Word of God, which is read, the celebrations of the Church, which are carried out, can also acquire a greater efficacy if the homily is truly the fruit of meditation, aptly prepared, neither excessively drawn out nor too brief, and if it is attentive to the needs of all those present, even children and the uninstructed.”

…The Church does recommend brevity, above all because the homily should be in proportion to the entire celebration. It makes little sense to go on for 20 or more minutes and then rush through the Eucharistic Prayer.

Once more cultural factors have to be taken into account, and it is nigh impossible to give strict rules. One could say that on a Sunday six minutes would be a minimum, but the maximum is much harder to determine. I believe that the criterion of proportion with the rest of the celebration is a good guide, along with the faithful’s expectation within the context of a concrete pastoral situation.

Read more, including Pope Benedict’s thoughts, here. 


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