19 January 2010

Sermonising in The Times

Ruth Gledhill's report in today's Times "To some, sermonising is a sin, but Christians still value the preacher" had me in stitches with the line describing the best and worst of preaching:

The best are inspirational invocations on how to live a better life in the grace of God; the worst, soporific ramblings that remind the congregation merely of how uncomfortable the pews are.

Of course, one wonders where on the line one falls. Perhaps I'm guilty of soporific invocations.

Also, I ask my Catholic readers: do you agree with the findings of the report? Do you prefer your homilies to be less than ten minutes; educational rather than challenging and scripturally based? Do give your priest regular feedback on his homilies. We do appreciate constructive criticism. It is not, however, helpful to simply say "lovely sermon Father" and then not be able to offer specifics. Once I made the fatal mistake of asking someone who'd said "lovely sermon Father" by asking what specifically was lovely. Their embarrassed look rather suggested that perhaps the newsletter had been more helpful to them that particular week! I've seen him since, reading the newsletter whilst I preach.

100 lines, Father, on "I must be a little less soporific" by the morning please.


  1. It's funny, I often make a point of complimenting the priest on his sermon, but usually I find he shuffles awkwardly and tries to change the subject. Too humble perhaps!!

    As for my own preferences: the best sermons are usually quite simple. Short, one main idea or theme, and plenty of repetition to drive home the point!

    As you'd expect, the Dominicans are the best, because they so often produce an utterly unexpected idea which holds your attention. I rather dislike hearing sermons that sound like an academic paper. I always feel, we do not come to church to learn facts or get intellectual nourishment per se: what is best is if the preacher can illuminate the scriptures in a way for you that generates renewal of some kind.

    Really a good sermon (in my opinion) should help us to receive the word of God, which is so much more powerful than the most intellectual of talks. I have been blessed to hear some wonderful preachers who have done just that, allowed the voice of God to ring out with ever greater clarity.

  2. I won't name the priest, but he has a huge presence, literally! He was preaching and to be honest, I was concentrating on my then, two toddlers at the time. Suddenly he bellowed "OY!" really loudly, to the whole congregation, and then said; "Just wanted to get your attention!"

    We all listened very carefully after that.

  3. What you DON'T want, Father, is to be like the eminent Caroline Divine who, looking round the Church at the end of his sermon, had to say 'Rouse yourself, my Lord Lauderdale ! You snore so loud, you will awake the King !'

    What you MIGHT want is the occasional look at Torch - the English Dominican preaching site at english.op.org !

    What you probably DO want is the new edition of the Catena Aurea, which I believe is now available !

  4. Thanks for your encouraging and thought provoking comments. Seems like the Dominican's are well supported in their approach to homilies, and very justifiably too.



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