Sunday, January 14, 2007

Length of Sermons

Okay guys, I'm looking for a bit of help and your opinion. How long should a sermon go for at your average Sunday morning Mass? Should it be short, sharp, shiny and to the point (5mins) at one extreme, or should it ramble on and repeat itself to hammer in the point (15-20mins)? I'm looking for a opinions here and reasons.

18 comments:

LYL said...

Well, I'll say this. One parish priest I had was one of the best homilists ever. He consistently gave a homily of about 10 minutes each Sunday and it was always spot on - and challenging.

If a homily is good, I'm more than happy to listen for 20 mins.

Anonymous said...

I think, on average, you dont need to speak for longer than 10 minutes to get your point accross - especially if you've actually prepared. I also dont think that people are able to concentrate for much longer than that unless unless they are actively taking notes.

By they way, I have a particularly pedantic friend who would tell you that sermons are what protestants have - catholics have homilies. He ALWAYS grills me when I say sermon!

Bec

Anonymous said...

Bec, my PP says that he gives sermons... homilies are what wishy washy liberal types give.

The length of the sermon depends on the skill and preparation of the priest. I've listened to sermons that were only a few minutes long, but they felt like an eternity. I've also listened to longer ones, and they've flown by (and left me wanting more)

15 minutes is probably the longest I'd want to cope with!

Anonymous said...

I'd say you should "say as little as necessary and nothing more". In general, 10 minutes seems to be the guideline around here, and it seems about the extent of peoples' attention span. I've been told by two different priests and the deacon at my parish that they are taught to target 10 minutes as the "ideal" length.

The problem with extended homilies is this: we have one priest who occasionally runs for up to 20 minutes in his homily and then rushes through the rest of the Mass to make up the time so that there isn't a huge traffic jam in the parking lot between Masses. While not the most spiritual of concerns, it is a real one and unfortunately means that we tend to lose the mystery of the Mass in the hurried gestures and prayers.

Of course, I don't think I need to go into the problems with "too-short" homilies as they're fairly self-evident. But better too short than not at all, eh?

Cypressus III said...

I personally had (for reasons too big to re-tell here)the head of the Vatican Congregation for the Discipline of the Sacraments, Cardinal Arinze, tell me that 10 minutes is the optimal time for a Sunday sermon. He said he is constantly trying to stop his fellow African clergymen going for 40mins to an hour!

aaron said...

10 mins seems the length and was alss my guess. Especially when there is really only 1h15mins for Mass on a Sunday because of a mass following you.

If you want longer... go to talks... or better still get your PP to arrange something!

Something further? Should the sermon/homily ALWAYS be on the readings of the Mass?

Anonymous said...

I've never actually timed his homilies,but it seems like our PP gives the 10 minute variety as well. He often "jokes" that he's giving the shorter version-which is supposed to make everyone happy.I would rather he go on a bit longer.

Anonymous said...

As far as African priests are concerned, 40 mins to an hour if you are lucky! I was told by a Nigerian friend of mine that up to 2 hours is not unheard of. Also the whole thing is likely to start 2 hours late or whenever the priest shows up! Essentially you end up spending most of the day at church.

Bec

Anonymous said...

Accompanied by well prepared notes and a stopwatch, 10-12 minutes.
If the preacher is a dud then brevity Fogarty, brevity!

Anonymous said...

If the priest is going to get up and preach heresy and schism, as too many are wont to do, then I'd say keep it down to about 2 nanoseconds.

Shan said...

Between 5-10 minutes, but no longer than 10. Only the most gifted orators and the most generous audience can still follow any talk that exceeds 10 minutes - and most homilies are not given by those so blessed.

I really dislike hearing homilies that are memoirs or socio-political commentaries. I'd rather no homily than some waffle about the need for us to be kind to each other, or a half-remembered joke.

INDOLENT SERVER said...

More call for 10mins... maybe we can campaign for a papal edict on it.

Like your comments Shan. I actually have to try very hard to concentarte during a sermon (when there is a priest worth listening too) because of being brought up with such shockers. The sermon has always beena time to "tune-out" for me...

Anonymous said...

I'm a 5-7 minutes priest myself - people seem to respond best to sermons that are sharp and concise (and full of substance - there's no time for long-winded stories), but it's partly a question of style.

I think also, in this age of mass ignorance, there is a place for thematic homilies - I wish somebody could devise a system linking the three year cycle to the Catechism!

Anonymous said...

10 minutes. After that, people start to sleep.

5 minutes but relevant please (so many daily mass homilies seem to be irrelevant to the Gospel) for daily Mass.

Shan said...

One of the things I love about weekday Masses is that the homilies tend to be better, precisely because of the time constraint. Where I go the homilies generally link the Gospel to some charism of the saint whose feast it is, or a small lesson in how the Church Fathers viewed that Gospel passage. More often than not, those homilies stay with me for the rest of the day.

On the weekend its a different - but still pleasant - story. While the homilies are longer, and less catechetical, they do tend to be more hopeful - and I appreciate that. My attention span is rather short, so I try and echo the homily as I hear it (i.e. repeat it verbatim mentally). This helps me pay attention.

Anonymous said...

"The sermon has always been a time to tune out for me." Hrrumph.

Well is it any wonder priests couldn't be bothered preparing their homilies?

Indolent's dad said...

Mmmm! That's usually when the indolent one is 'out-the-back' stoking the censer or trying to burn the Church down.

Is ten minutes enough to set the sacristy ablaze?

Anonymous said...

Depends - some subjects just can't be done in 20 minutes. And only a catholic could talk abt 15 mins as "hammering away"! As to peoples' attention spans, Google Mars Hill Church, and check out their pastor's sermons. An hour of teaching: relevant, engaging, challenging, and people download them to watch again and again and again! Why not take notes? Isn't the purpose to help us grow in faith? It'd be helpful if occasionally priests would just jettison the pericopes, and preach a sermon series on a topic, or one particular book.