Next season’s judges on “American Idol”…?

Okay. Maybe not.

From left to right: Gary Ziuraitis, CSsR, Director of Communications for the Redemptorist General Government; Rocco “Whispers in the Loggia” Palmo; Your Humble Blogger; Dave Dwyer, CSP, Executive Director of “Busted Halo” and co-host of “Conversation with Cardinal Dolan” on Sirius XM Radio.

At the conference I’m attending in Long Branch, New Jersey, we all took part in a panel discussion this afternoon on “Preaching for Today’s Audience.” A word that kept popping up again and again in the conversation with the Redemptorists was “relevant” — and striving to make preaching relevant for our listeners. We all agreed: relevance has less to do with timely topicality (though that can be important) or being hip to popular culture (though that can be useful, too), but simply finding ways to connect the Word to modern life in a meaningful way. In the best case scenario, someone in the pews should come away thinking, “That spoke to me…”  

Rocco suggested that, given today’s shortened attention spans, homilies shouldn’t be longer than five or six minutes. Fr. Dave disagreed, noting that if you have something vital and interesting to say that will bring the scriptures alive for people, it should be long enough to be effective.  (He did admit, though, that for some preachers, ahem, less is more…and a good preacher knows his limitations.)

I feel about homily length the way Abraham Lincoln felt about stature. When someone once asked the 6’4″ President how long a man’s legs should be, he replied, “Long enough to reach the ground.”  A homily should be long enough to make its point.  A preacher should not overstay his welcome in the pulpit, and know when it’s time to head back to his chair.

It’s been a great three days here by the shore. I’ve already suggested that the Redemptorists—an order whose charism is preaching missions— plan a similar event for deacons. I think it would be a great experience.  I have also brought the intentions of all my readers to the daily Eucharist, and have offered my Morning Prayer this week for the repose of my former pastor, Joe Funaro, who gave me so many opportunities to hone my skills in the pulpit. I’ve sensed his companionship with me, and imagine he would have loved it here.

I leave tomorrow. I hope to post more pictures (beyond that stunning sunrise the other day) after I get home.

More soon…

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