How long should
ABRAHAM V. LLERA
November 16, 2016
“Eight minutes, with 15
minutes as maximum,” according to Abp. Malcom Ranjith who used to be
the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW) of the
Vatican. “Eight minutes, the average time a listener can remain
listening,” agrees Abp. Nikola Eterovik, former Secretary General for
the Synod of Bishops of the Roman Curia.
“Eight minutes,” agrees Fr.
Andre Headon, vice rector of the Venerable English College in Rome
which prepares men to become priests. “There’s a saying among clergy,”
adds Fr Headon, “’If you haven’t struck oil in seven minutes, stop
“It should be brief,”
cautions #138 of Evangelii Gaudium, and should not be “a form of
entertainment,” [emphasis mine] as many priests, it seems, take it to
be. If the homily goes too long, e.g., 45 minutes, it disturbs two
characteristic elements of the liturgical celebration: its balance and
rhythm,” reminds Evangelii Gaudium. This means that “the words of the
preacher must be measured, so that the Lord, more than his minister,
will be the center of attention.”
Unfortunately, some priests
seem to think otherwise. Look at them sing. Or crack jokes. Or talk
about last night’s episode of a teleserye. Did they really intend the
singing to help the faithful understand the need for sorrow for sin in
these days leading to Advent? Or is it simply to call attention to
their singing prowess?
Was the joke intended to
make a wealthy business owner listener impatient to get home so that
he can give the instructions that will give SSS and Philhealth
coverage to his employees, long denied of this basic employees right?
Or did Father oblige with a joke because that is what most Catholics,
sad to say, come to church for: to be entertained?
And the teleserye. Did
Father mention that in order to stir the congregation into such a
fervor they would henceforth look at their wealth not as theirs, but
as a good common to all, ready to be given to everyone in need? Or did
Father do that for the “Okay si Father” comments that invariably come
Homilies must be
scrupulously prepared for one week in advance, and, as Pope Francis
has said, must be limited to the Scripture readings of the day,
avoiding sociologism, politics, or vainglory, the last one apparent
the moment the priest starts talking about himself.
Especially to be avoided is
useless chatter. To include in the homily the diocesan priests’
retreat in Betania, Tagaytay, and how they would be going there on
different flights to make sure there’ll be priests left in case of a
mishap is dangerously approaching “useless chatter,” especially on a
Sunday when St. Luke talks about persecution, and about the need to
even speak all the more about Christ.
Homilies are difficult to
prepare, because it takes a lot of effort to keep homilies short. But
it doesn’t require a 45-minute homily to whip the congregation to
fervor and to specific and firm resolutions where they can apply the
message of the day’s readings in their lives.
In fact, precisely the
opposite is bound to happen. Often along the way, the homily hits
paydirt, and a firm resolution forms up in the heart of the listener.
But instead of wrapping up, Father rambles on for another 10 minutes,
so you listen, and finds out that Father is talking about Bato de la
Rosa now and Pacquiao’s all-expenses-paid-US-trip gift to him. Then
Father suddenly ends his homily which leaves you wondering what it was
Father was driving at. Worse, in the process, you have forgotten your
Finally, it'd help if the
preacher checks his facts first. It wasn't Nero who destroyed the
Temple of Jerusalem, and watched it burn from a distance. The
Babylonians did the first time, and Titus (not the bishop of Crete)
under orders from his emperor father Vespasian did the second time,
but it was not Nero.
Something bereft of love
cannot be pleasing to God. Long homilies, to the extent that they’re
often but not always the product of ill preparation, simply have no
place in such a celebration as the Holy Mass.
Long homilies must end.