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PREPARED IN PRAYER, DELIVERED IN SPIRIT



During his weekly general audience at St. Peter's Square in Vatican City on 12 June 2024, Pope Francis emphasised the importance of keeping homilies short to prevent members of the congregation from falling asleep. He suggested that priests limit their homilies to a maximum of eight minutes. His message stressed the significance of keeping homilies concise to ensure that the congregation remain attentive and fully engaged in the Eucharistic celebration.

 

In January 2023, the Holy Father also highlighted that priests should limit their homilies to under 10 minutes. If they are lengthy, they are “a disaster,” and congregations may lose interest. He suggested that priests keep their homilies concise and within eight to ten minutes or less. He also said priests should include “an image, a thought and a feeling” in their homilies, which would help the congregation take something meaningful with them.

The Pope pointed out the significance of clear and understandable communication in his statements, stating that “sometimes priests talk a lot, and you don’t understand what they are saying.” This highlights the importance of improving communication to ensure clarity and understanding. In the Eucharistic celebration, the pastoral approach to the liturgy is to “lead the people to Christ, and Christ to the people.” The Pope said, “If we neglect this, we will have beautiful rituals, but without vigour, without flavour, without sense,” as they fail to truly connect with the hearts and lives of the people of God.


In our recent Archdiocesan Clergy Recollection on 18-19 June 2024, the second spiritual session focused on the Holy Father’s remarks concerning the time limit for homilies. Several priests expressed their perspectives, concerns and recommendations, sparking a lively discussion with constructive suggestions and valuable insights. Many raised significant reservations about delivering homilies within an 8-minute timeframe, particularly during multilingual Masses and major feast-day celebrations. Adhering to strict time constraints can potentially detract from the true essence of the liturgical celebration, causing the spiritual significance of the event to be overlooked. Priests need to understand that homilies are “sacramental” and should be “prepared in prayer” and delivered with “an apostolic spirit.”

 

Each priest must not only fulfil the duty of delivering a homily during the Eucharistic celebration, but also play a pivotal role in guiding the community to deeply engage with the beauty of the liturgy, and foster spiritual unity within it. Congregations usually view homilies as a chance for spiritual guidance, reflection on religious teachings, and Sacred Scripture – a connection to their faith and life journey. Parishioners appreciate thought-provoking and personal homilies delivered with genuine sincerity and humility. A well-composed and delivered homily could significantly impact an individual’s understanding of religious teachings.

 

As priests, we must understand that delivering significant and relevant homilies that resonate with the congregation’s lives or current concerns, is paramount. We must present our messages with enthusiasm to captivate the listeners’ attention. Ultimately, to effectively engage with parishioners, our homilies should be meticulously prepared, relevant, delivered with passion, and respectful of the congregation’s time and attention.

“The Gospel must be preached to all peoples.” (MK 13:10)


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