When Christians get together there’s really nothing we love to do more than to complain! In my experience, what we especially like to do is to have a good whine about the problems we have with our parish. In response to this, I would like to write a series of short posts about some common complaints I’ve heard. Today I’ll begin with one of the most common criticisms…
“Our priest’s homilies are boring…”
As I say, this is a very common complaint. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve heard people say something like this. Unfortunately, it’s often a reason given as to why someone left to join a Protestant congregation.
So what can be done? Here are my top five suggestions:
1. It’s not about entertainment. I know this is tough to hear, but the purpose of the homily is not to entertain, but to explain the Scriptures and to exhort you to holiness. One would hope that the priest would do this in an engaging manner, but this may not always be the case. If your priest is opening up the Scriptures and encouraging sanctity then you have a lot for which to be thankful.
2. Pray for your priest. If you want a better preacher, pray for the one you’ve got! When I returned full-time to the Catholic Church I was really disappointed with a lot of homilies I heard. In response to this, I got into the habit of praying for my priest during the week, as well as saying a short prayer for him just before the homily:
“Lord Jesus, please fill this man with Your Spirit. Increase in him the gift of speaking. May he speak Your Word with truth, love and boldness. Amen”
If the prayer of the righteous is powerful (James 5:16)….then hit your knees!
3. Listen. Out of love for Christ and respect for the priestly office, don’t switch off, but listen attentively. In addition to praying for the priest before the homily, how about praying for yourself too?
“Come Holy Spirit. Open my heart and mind to hear the words which are about to be spoken through Your minister. Help me to be receptive to what it is you want me to hear today.”
Matthew Kelly has this suggestion: just look for the one thing. As the priest is speaking, listen out for something which you can take to heart and apply to your life in the coming week. I can guarantee you that pretty much every homily will have something in it that you can take on board and which will help you live a more authentic Christian life.
4. Supplement your diet. If you want to get more out of the homily, put more into it! Spend some time with the Scriptures prior to Mass so that you become more familiar with them. You could read a commentary on the Readings to help you understand them more fully.
Since I started trying to get physically fit again, I’ve been taking food supplements. This means that, even if some of my meals are a bit substandard, I still get a good dose of vitamins every day. You can do the same thing with your Sunday homily. In the Catholic world there are some truly phenomenal teachers and preachers. So, in addition to hearing your priest preach each week, listen to some other homilies online. Here are a few suggestions
5. Encourage your priest! Your priest is only human, so do what you can to encourage him!
And all men are ready to pass judgement on the priest as if he was not a being clothed with flesh, or one who inherited a human nature – St. John Chrysostom
Sometimes even shepherds need some affirmation! So, if one week your pastor says something in his sermon which you find helpful, tell him! Thank him and encourage him! Is his ordination anniversary coming up? Maybe consider purchasing him a gift such as the Catena Aurea or the Ignatius Study Bible.
It’s over to you. Any other suggestions?
Next week I’ll look at the complaint: ”There isn’t any community at my parish”.