Home 2010 Features PRIESTS SEMINAR 3 Inspiring homilies - Jan 24
PRIESTS SEMINAR 3 Inspiring homilies - Jan 24 PDF Print E-mail
2010 - Features
Monday, 25 January 2010 10:00
By Fr Dwight Black, OP

The third in the series of seminars for priests in this Year of the Priest took place at the Curepe Pastoral Centre on November 16, 2009. Fr Joe Harris, Vicar for Priests presented a paper entitled “Homilies: How can we be more effective and inspiring”.

He began by defining the meaning of the word homily. “Homily” he showed is a Greek word which means a “familiar conversation”. This familiar conversation is not a theological discourse but must be based on solid theology and “exegesis” (Greek – an interpretation, explanation.), about the readings of the day and their application to daily living.

Although homilies are conversations in the true sense of the word, they are not conversations that are dialogue of a backward and forward nature. This “conversation” should be simple so that even a child would understand. If a child could understand a homily anyone can understand it. Homilies should also be presented in an attitude of cordiality where there is no blaming, no threatening, and no moralising. Fr Joe pointed out that, “Parishioners who hear a homily must leave uplifted, with a clear but profound message which will help them to live the gospel message during the week ahead of them. The homily must also tell your listeners, however, that you believe what you are saying. The best way of doing that is to preach to yourself.”

Serious consideration must be give to the fact that we are no longer in and oral culture; we live in a predominantly visual culture and, where young people are concerned, with the use technology. Blogs, Facebook, text messages, etc are ways and means in which the gospel message can be communicated.

Due to the apparent influence of Pentecostalism on our society, today many people understand grace as mediated through the word and not through sign and symbol as in the main-line churches. This is reflected in seminary formation where Protestant seminaries would have more preaching courses than in Catholic seminaries. Hence, many of our Catholics after Mass often take time out to listen to the tele-evangelists. This theology is imbibed with a theology which is false. This is why it is important to give our people something that is solid.

Tips for good preaching

As homilists our duty is to preach and to teach. This means that careful considerations must be paid to these essentials. The homilist must practice what he preaches. Fr Joe indicated that the homilist must “not give people cause to purse their lips and shake their heads during your sermons, since they have heard you before preaching one thing and then seen you doing the exact opposite” (St Charles Borromeo at his last Synod).

The following are guideline for being a good preacher:

  1. Homilist is an ambassador for Christ.
    1. Must know the person sending the message [need for prayer and contemplation].
    2. Must know the message [study].
    3. Must know the language of the people to whom the message is being sent [culture].
  2. Purpose of the message:
    1. To bring persons to be emotionally involved with God.
    2. To help persons recognise that their own lives have elements of the sacred and that their own lives can be sacred.
    3. To bring persons to thanksgiving and to conversion.
    4. To bring about in the people a sense of participation in the communion of saints, i.e. those who presently live and those who have lived the tradition of Jesus Christ.
    5. To make God’s dream of harmony real [harmony with God; with oneself; with others and with nature].
  3. Structure of the homily:
    1. A story – preferably personal, i.e. your own experience even if couched as story of another.
    2. Relate the story to the Gospel.
    3. Call the congregation to recognise the story in their own lives.
    4. Thanksgiving for those who have lived the sacred elements of the story in their own lives and have become models for us [the saints].
    5. Call the listeners to a review of their lives in light of the Gospel.
    6. Prayer of petitioner asking for grace to live the message of the Gospel.
  4. Preparation:
    1. Remote – Prayer and study.
    2. Proximate

i. Read the passage [from the Monday] and note the relationship between the three readings.

ii. A phrase will grip your imagination.

iii. Review the commentaries to discover the meaning of the passage.

iv. Decide on the story [Use your imagination]

v. Research and use the lives of saints [living and dead] to show that the message can be lived.

vi. Write the homily. When it is on paper, you have something to go back to as you refine your thoughts.

  1. Delivery:
    1. Deliver the homily without the written copy.
    2. Do not be static behind the podium.
    3. Your delivery must tell others that you are convinced of what you are saying.
    4. Never use the second person as if putting yourself above the others.
    5. Destroy the written copy.
    6. Last bit of advice: If you do not strike oil in three minutes STOP!!

Fr Joe ended his presentation by recommending to his brother priests that priests of a vicariate or sections of a vicariate should come together once a month so as to prepare, at least in schematic form, the homilies for the month.

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