"STOP Abusive Homilies!"
"Stop abusive homilies that abuse the kindness of people who are forced to listen to long winding, repetitious, unorganized, unprepared, and mumbled homilies."
Those were powerful words of advice given by Archbishop Soc Villegas in the Chrism Mass he celebrated last Holy Thursday.
While I have attended masses wherein homilies were delivered powerfully and effectively, admittedly, there are some homilies that could have been communicated better.
I do understand that preparing and practicing homilies takes a lot of time and effort.
I should know. It takes me time to prepare a good speech. The irony of it is, the shorter the time allotted to deliver a speech or a talk, the harder it is! Why? One has to keep reorganizing the speech, and deleting irrelevant ideas in order to make the message clear and concise.
Thus, some priests with a lot of administrative, counseling, pastoral and ministry works are challenged to come out with purposefully prepared and effectively delivered messages to their parishioners during daily and weekly masses.
However, delivering powerful and effective homilies is a major responsibility of every priest that should be given time and effort. For some, additional coaching may be necessary and helpful.
A few days before this message of Archbishop Soc was delivered, posted online, and taken up in national newspapers, Angie and I were invited by Father Reuben Mandin of the Camillian Order of priests to give a seminar/workshop on April 11 to his novices on how to prepare and deliver more effective homilies.
We were humbled and burdened with a great responsibility. Feeling inadequate, we contacted two of our fellow Toastmasters, Lin Lapitan and Beth Chan, to be part of the team of speakers/sharers. Without hesitation, they agreed. We were all so excited and eager to be part of this humbling assignment.
When my daughter, who attends most of my talks, heard about this engagement, she repeatedly cautioned me not to be "preachy". It was good to be reminded that I did not have the "K" to "preach" to priests!
Some of the ideas the team shared to the novices on "homily preparation and delivery" for effective public speaking were:
One must be spiritually prepared to preach.
Asking the Holy Spirit to speak thru you is important and helpful.
Matthew 10:20 says, “for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of the Father speaking through you.”
Some priests say, “I will rely on the Holy Spirit, make it (homily) on the spot, and let the Spirit guide me”. Pope Francis, in his apostolic exhortation, (Evangelii Gaudium), says that priests who do not prepare are not spiritual; they are acting irresponsibly.
2 Timothy 4:2 says, “Preach the word. Be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction.”
As they say, “practice makes perfect.” Whether the homily is read, guided only by an outline, or delivered without notes, it makes a big positive difference if the homily has been practiced out loud.
I shared what Fr. T'chang taught me about homilies.
1. be BRIEF AND CONCISE
During our practice sessions with the novices, we confirmed that homilies delivered within 4 to 7 minutes were effective and within the attention span of most people. Although Sunday and other Holiday homilies may understandably be a little longer.
2. have a MESSAGE
The homily should have a strong message; and limiting the message to three main points does help retention.
3. have a CALL TO ACTION
Inviting the listener to take action on the message is most important.
As is written in James 2:20 “Faith without action is dead.”
Some TIPS shared on preparation and delivery of homilies were:
1. Know the AUDIENCE
2. Share the MESSAGE
3. ORGANIZE AND CRAFT the homily
4. Use BIBLE QUOTES, STORIES and EXPERIENCES
5. Use VOCAL VARIETY
6. Maintain EYE CONTACT
7. Speak from the HEART
8. Use appropriate GESTURES AND BODY LANGUAGE
9. Avoid distracting MANNERISMS, REPEATED WORDS, AND FILLERS
10. Draw attention to GOD’S WORDS, not the speaker.
And the core element in improving preparation and delivery of Homilies is acting on the FEEDBACK given by “evaluators”. Evaluation should be used positively to inspire and motivate the priest to hone his talents and skills for the greater Glory of God!
My Dearest Reverend Fathers,
It is our sincere hope and prayer that the words of Archbishop Soc will be heeded seriously.
We are your “captive” audience every time we attend Holy Mass. Engage us! Make the message memorable! Call us to act!
We pray that the pulpit will be used even more effectively to communicate God’s message to all of us.
As you pray for us, we also pray for all of you!