Homilies need Listeners Too!
From Margaret Mollett, Piketberg, Western Cape – Michael Shackleton’s point in Do poor homilies lose parishioners? (April 16), that Catholics lack attention span beyond 10 minutes because the preacher’s message is nowadays measured against the countless short messages in the social media resonates with Forbes and Mahan’s observation (2005):
When preaching workshops for ministers include advice that sermons should be shortened to accommodate the television-influenced attention span of seven to eight minutes between commercials, popular culture apparently affects the shape of institutional religion.
There is no quick-fix for better preaching, either by cutting time or one-sheet guidelines. A process of renewal starts with a mutual passion for understanding and applying the Word of God. as put forth in Scripture.
Preachers cannot give what they haven’t got, that being a deep conviction of the necessity for such a homily, and the congregation cannot listen if they are not interested in hearing what the preacher has to say, but rather thinking of what shopping to do at the mall on the way home.
So effort is required, as a desire, one that is a fruit of evangelisation and faith education. Preachers know what is required of them and congregants should be embracing a reading and listening culture.
It is not that Catholics don’t read or can’t listen. They read, watch, and hear as much as anyone else. But when it comes to religious writing unless light-hearted or frivolous everything is above and beyond them, only to be measured out a thimbleful at a time.
Listening to a homily after the reading of the gospel can be taxing if it is not easy to follow and cannot be heard.
Preaching from an outline rather than a script may allow for more eye contact but can easily lead to digression, repetition and padding. The homily/sermon either by script or outline needs clear diction, audibility and sharp focus if it is to be taken home by the hearer.
Will the day come when besides the Sunday homily there will be weekday paraliturgical preaching lasting for 30 minutes or longer? What’s more, DVDs of the homilies/sermons will be available at the repository.