Everyone’s a critic. When it comes to preaching and to homilies, it has got to be tough to get up in front of the community and be inspiring and insightful if you’re under-slept, overworked, rushed or maybe even going through a rough time yourself. But this aspect of a priest or deacon’s life is so very important that it can seriously help or hinder the faith life of those present to hear it.
You can’t say that about committee meetings.
We expect so much of our clergy, whether diocesan or religious. There are a thousand important things to do. I would assert, though, that preaching (which comes with its own requirements such as preparing ahead of time and prayer) probably should go pretty high up on the priorities list.
I have been very fortunate to hear some truly exceptionally wonderful homilies. There are some priests who are extremely gifted (and probably work hard at it too) and who manage to crowd the church with people who just want to hear them expound on the readings of the day. At my parish we had a visiting priest, a Jesuit named Fr. John Murphy, SJ, who used to come out to say Mass sometimes. His preaching was so profound and remarkable that you could hear people in church whisper that what they were hearing was amazing. One relative of mine would bring a tape recorder to the church so she could play the homily back later. (How many people in the pews want to hear the same homily a second time?)
Unfortunately, sometimes – albeit very rarely – homilies are not just bad, but they are destructive. Luckily this is very very seldom the case, but if it happens to you it’s not a small deal. It can be a very big deal and it can risk alienating one from the faith. (more…)