Universalis

Sermons in Mass

Every aspect of the mass is important. Thus no part can be removed nor is any part lesser in importance, theorectically.

If one actually take note, every part of the mass is ritualised with fixed prayers to say. Except the sermon, where there is some opportunities for individual creativity and interaction by the priest to give their 15 mins of preaching and sharing of their spiritual knowledge.

However, what I find very frustrating is that lack of good sermons. Perhaps it's the quality of oratory skills or perhaps the sermon lacks content. Whichever the reason, usually I find it boring and meaningless.

I speak for myself, but how often do we find priests struggle to find anecdotes or some far-fetched internet stories to fit into the theme of the week? Or how some priests read off word-for-word from their scripts. Or worse, some old-timers think they can just rattle off without preparing.

In this modern society, with information overload and for some intellectuals who have some bible knowledge, I believe such sketchy and surface interpretations of the readings are unacceptable and insulting to the congregation.

Faith-teacher, please speak with conviction and with depth of thought and substance, for the people are looking forward to good sermons to kick-start their week and to be motivated about life. They want to hear God speak to them through the readings and they need you to explain to them how the scripture can inspire them.

Indeed Saint Paul said that when we are young, we need baby food. But I suspect that the majority of the congregation had come of (spiritual) age and is ready for more substantial spiritual knowledge and inspiration. I would even go as far as to say the people would love to know how to interpret the bible from the priest's point of view so that in the future, they themselves can read the Sunday or Daily Missal and let the scriptures inspire them without the spoon-feeding by the priests.

Don't get me wrong, I am not looking for any pomp or fireworks, nor am I looking forward to any Anthony Robbins or Adam Khoos to give us those motivation talks. What I am looking for is something simple and relevant. I can look into my life and ponder on how God have been relevant and present in my life if and only if I know how to interprete those Testaments of my forefathers. And I would only know how to interprete them if and only if I am guided by these teachers who stands at the rostrum.

Thus, standing at the rostrum and giving a half-hearted sermon is certainly serving injustice to the thousands who faithfully attend mass.

10 comments:

Br Lawrence, O.P. said...

I think you will find the blogging of Fr Philip N. Powell, O.P. quite invigorating! He recently did a series on homilies and good preaching.

Here's the address, and then read on from there. It's brilliant stuff. And I'm not saying that because we're in the same Family!

http://hancaquam.blogspot.com/2006/01/praedicare-to-preach.html

ChrisYeo said...

Thanks for the link! This makes good reading too.

How to Preach a Lousy Sermon: http://www.kencollins.com/how-12.htm

Daniel said...

That Ken Collins site is good, Chris! Found myself reading many of the articles.

Nick, have to say that preaching a good homily is at the top of the concerns of many of the priests in our diocese. Not all, I am sure, but many of them are genuinely concerning about giving Catholics what they come to receive - something to take home and apply to their lives the rest of the week.

Nick Teo said...

Thanks Brother... such a difference! :)

Daniel, I am sure they are... but more often than not, they are focusing on too many things to be good in that one thing they are called to do. To be a priest and not an administrator.

Daniel said...

Here's an interesting question that was brought up by a priest: should a candidate for the priesthood be ordained if he is not a good preacher?

Nick Teo said...

daniel, i think you're missing the point here. I'm not saying that you cannot be a priest if you are not a good preacher.

what i am asking is, as a priest, are they doing the things that they are called to do? and one of them is to be a preacher, an added bonus if they can preach well.

if they can't preach well or effectively, then it would be lesser of a hassle and bore if they don't even preach. just as well to speak to a wall.

of cos i may be harsh in that statement, for i'm sure there would be at least 1 who would be touched. but then the question arise, is 1 enough? is the capability of a priest restricted to touching only 1 single parishioner per mass?

i hope not.

and i believe, no matter how lacking in oratory skills (assuming all spiritual knowledge equal amongst priests) a well thought out homily will always be effective.

thus what i am wondering is, are the homilies well thought out? or is complacency at work occasionally?

Daniel said...

I know what you mean, Nick, but the topic is on Sermons At Mass, right?

I don't think that a well-thought out homily would always be effective. Sometimes you can't even make out the words the priest is saying, and I'm sure you have encountered priests like that. :)

I think the trouble comes about when the priest doesn't know that he isn't preaching well, because his parishioners do not feedback to him, for one reason or another.

I have seen some priests who receive constructive feedback from their parishioners steadily improve on their homilies over the years. Though they're no Redemptorist, still their homilies have some substance.

The ability to preach is indeed an added bonus for a priest, but if he lacks that ability to preach well, then the best thing we can do is to feedback to him and to pray for him that he may be humble enough to accept our criticism.

Br Lawrence, O.P. said...

I think all this interest in preaching and a desire for good homilies is very healthy and encouraging.

However, I am a little uncomfortable with a quasi-Pelagian undercurrent... We ought to note that when a priest preaches, the one who touches our hearts and opens it to receive the Word is the Holy Spirit. This same Spirit inspires the homilist, provided he has prepared himself in prayer and study to receive the Word and to break it for others.

As such, no amount of knowledge and sophistry is sufficient if the entire process from delivery to reception were not graced by the Holy Spirit. As such, I think preaching has to be grounded in prayer.

As a Dominican motto (from St Thomas Aquinas) says: "Contemplate and hand on to others the fruits of contemplation" But this presupposes that we have contemplated, which is a prayerful reading of and listening to the Word, that is, Jesus Christ.

And let us remember that we have to tune in to and even when it is hard, ask the Spirit to show us what He wants his priest to teach us.

The point on 'feedback' is also vital. It can be difficult but we should try to charitably inform our priests on what we found helpful or not in a homily!

I also want to note that the Ken Collins site is non-Catholic so it should be read as an ecumenical exchange but with awareness that the style of exegesis and theology may be incompatible with the Catholic Truth.

And finally... ummm... I notice that you mention the Redemptorists as an example of fine preaching. I forgive you seeing as Singapore does not have a strong presence of the Order of Preachers!! :)

ChrisYeo said...

It's great to see that the Dominicans are building a community here in Singapore. I am convinced their work will bear much fruit in the near future. There is hope yet for the archdiocese in the future!

I definitely second the point about connecting and sharing with priests. Problem however is that some are not open to listening to younger voices. They are too ingrained with a certain mindset, or perhaps insecure about change. If you try with them and fail, don't despair, but connect with other priests instead.

There are certainly many reasons why the preaching here in Singapore is so poor... it could just be that with a certain generation of archdiocesian priests, the culture and mindset were simply not conducive to producing priests with the kind of preaching capacity that we have come to expect today.

In the midst of this assertion, let us not forget that many archdiocesian priests are wonderful preachers, though not necessarily brilliant speakers. If we are concerned about the state of preaching in our masses, the question for us now is this: What am I going to do about it?

Daniel said...

Br. Lawrence speaks of an interesting point.

We ask: Do our priests pray before celebrating Mass? Do they prepare themselves to deliver the Word of God?

He returns the question: Do parishioners pray before celebrating Mass? Do they prepare themselves to receive the Word of God?

He also points out that it is important to remember that it is the same Holy Spirit that both inspires the priest to deliver his homily, and inspires the parishioner to receive the message.

Thanks Br. Lawrence. And yes, we do not yet have a strong Dominican presence in Singapore. Hope there will be soon.