Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Obligatory Reading for All Catholic Clergy: How to Improve Your Preaching

Dear Readers, I beg of you to make this go viral on all social media.

My two beefs about homilies are as follows:

1) Anecdotes seem to be the only strong weapon in the priestly toolbox.

And they get boring real fast if that's the only thing the homily has going for it.

Even when they're good.

So please... enough with the anecdotes. You don't have to tell a cute story or a joke in every single sermon. Please. Save our sanity.

2) Self-help pop psychology.

If your homilies are filled with ideas that could be gleaned from the self-help section of a bookstore, you are irrelevant as a preacher.

Why should any Catholic bother to get up on a Sunday morning to listen to messages he could just as easily get from daytime television?

But you might be thinking to yourself: okay, but self-helps books have a lot of useful tips on having the right attitude.

And it's true, sometimes they are useful.

But here's where faith should transform the message.

Instead of trying to get the faithful to achieve a certain psychological attitude, give them the theological justification for it.

Take the attitude of forgiveness.

Many pop psychology types emphasize that forgiveness is liberating.

But personal liberation of forgiveness is not the primary reason for forgiveness.

Forgiveness is the exercise of God's justice in mercy.

We forgive because God forgives, and we strive to be like God, etc.

And of course this can be developed further.

I sense that some priests are scared to turn off their audience if they get too deep.

No no no.

This is exactly what the people come for.

And of course there are many irregular Catholics in the pews, who are just getting back into Mass attendance.

But I think the key is to offer something for everyone.

And you can still appeal to the beginners in your audience by talking about Scripture, the Fathers and the Magisterium.

Isn't this what the faith is all about? Why hide it?