Advice to homilists: Please get to the point in six or eight minutes
Published: August 15, 2011
NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- For eight days at Loyola University New Orleans, three priests and five deacons absorbed the cool mathematics and internal symmetry of good preaching. Just as Moses descended from Mount Sinai with Ten Commandments chiseled on two stone tablets, the rules laid out by Father Roy Shelly and Deborah Wilhelm of the Diocese of Monterey, Calif., while not etched in permanent marker, are boundaries worthy of respect: six to eight minutes for a Sunday homily, three to five minutes for a weekday sermon. "The idea is not so much 'brevity' as it is not taking longer than you need," said Wilhelm, a doctoral student with a focus on preaching at the Aquinas Institute of Theology. Improving the quality and spiritual depth of preaching has been a passion for Father Shelly, who is director of vocations and oversees homiletics training for the permanent diaconate in his diocese. If priests and deacons do not take seriously their vocational call and the preparation needed to preach the Gospel, Father Shelly said, the resulting communication will be flat and possibly even an obstacle to worship. "The Pew Foundation looked at why young adults are leaving the church, and the first reason the study gave was poor preaching," Father Shelly said. "In the Diocese of Monterey, we only recently renewed the diaconate. The mandate that came from the presbyteral council was that deacons should be effective preachers -- and we should also hold the presbyterate to the same standards. This post-Vatican II generation expects more from us."
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