LET IT aLL sTART hERE
For Catholics who care...
“Today, I invite you to turn your hearts to a very rampant
and widespread abuse among priests – homily abuse. Yes,
abuse of the kindness of the people who are forced to listen
to long, winding, repetitious, boring, unorganized, unprepared,
mumbled homilies. In jest, but certainly with some truth,
the people say our homilies are one of the obligatory scourges
that they must go through every Sunday.”
This is a direct quote from the homily of Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop
Socrates Villegas given April 2nd 2015.
In the end the message from the Archbishop is clear: “Stop the homily abuse!”
Faithful Catholics know what makes a bad homily. We have sat through enough of them in our lifetimes. Often we are asked or rather, urged, to be more understanding of less eloquent priests. Now, I can’t be sure why our clergy doesn’t understand, as Archbishop Villegas reminds us that: “Homily abuse can harm souls.” What I can say is this: Good homilists are made, not born.
Pope Francis, himself, considers the homily "the touchstone for judging a pastor’s closeness and ability to communicate to his people."
We, in my small, rural parish are fortunate in that we have excellent homilist in our pastor.
The question that begs to be asked is: What makes him different?
After all, the same Gospel is available to every priest, in every corner of the world-- each Sunday. The same “Cliff Notes” for priests to draw upon are available to anyone who needs back-up. So, how was the homilist in our pastor made?
With the Pope’s words in mind, I set out to discover what enables a priest to write a “homily that can actually be an intense and happy experience of the Spirit, a consoling encounter with God’s word, a constant source of renewal and growth," as the Pope put it. Here is what I discovered:
Prayer: A good homilist spends a great deal of time in prayer. He prays unceasingly. He prays when he can’t sleep, he prays when he is driving to appointments, he prays late at night in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
Study: A good homilist spends a lot of his free time devouring Catholic periodicals, newspapers and magazines. He makes himself familiar with an inexhaustible catalogue of Catholic writings (available in print and on line) that includes everything from the Vatican Library (which is in the process of digitizing its collection of manuscripts) to the current books published by professors of biblical theology and renowned Catholic lecturers.
Reflection: A good homilist observes his people. He listens carefully allowing them an opportunity to be themselves. He is not quick to respond, carelessly, when involved in an encounter, but instead holds back, allowing himself time to ponder the variables and subtle nuances of each person who engages him. Later, he works in collaboration with The Word...and with the Holy Spirit by his side, he recalls what his people have taught him as he prepares and delivers his homily.
In, the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis wrote: "We know that the faithful attach great importance to it, and that both they and their ordained ministers suffer because of homilies: the laity from having to listen to them and the clergy from having to preach them! It is sad that this is the case."
If you are cursed with a clergyman who is guilty of homily pollution, do your parish and yourself a favor and send him this. You will be glad you did!