Bishop's take on 'homily abuse' stirs debate
MANILA, Philippines – More than 38,000 readers shared and dozens of them commented on Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas' criticism of "homily abuse," as posted on Rappler.
Many readers praised Villegas for hitting "long, winding, repetitious, boring, unorganized, unprepared, mumbled homilies," in a message to the priests of the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan on Holy Thursday, April 2. (READ: Bishop to priests: 'Stop the homily abuse')
A number of them, on the other hand, urged Catholics to be more understanding of less eloquent priests.
What these comments have in common is this: Catholics want their priests to deliver better homilies.
Pope Francis himself, after all, considers the homily "the touchstone for judging a pastor’s closeness and ability to communicate to his people."
In his most important document so far, the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), Francis wrote: "We know that the faithful attach great importance to it, and that both they and their ordained ministers suffer because of homilies: the laity from having to listen to them and the clergy from having to preach them! It is sad that this is the case."
"The homily can actually be an intense and happy experience of the Spirit, a consoling encounter with God’s word, a constant source of renewal and growth," the Pope said.
Francis gave pointers such as the following: "The homily cannot be a form of entertainment like those presented by the media, yet it does need to give life and meaning to the celebration. It is a distinctive genre, since it is preaching situated within the framework of a liturgical celebration; hence it should be brief and avoid taking on the semblance of a speech or a lecture."
Echoing Francis, Villegas wrote, "Homily abuse can harm souls."
'Stop the lecture'
Villegas' speech on Holy Thursday prompted Rappler readers to share their views about homily abuse.
Reader Zoilo Andin said homily abuse "may cause those attending Mass to sin, out of irritation and frustration."
Ferdie Cruz said "5 minutes will do" for a homily.
"Concentrate on one or two specific ideas the faithful can bring home with them for further reflection. And please stop those long announcements toward the end of the Mass. We become hostages of these priests who do not want to give the final blessing until all those announcements are read," Cruz said.
Pocholo Maliksi said priests "are supposed to be preachers, not teachers." He said, "Stop the lecture. Start to inspire."
Twitter user @urkrib, however, said while homily abuse "surely needs to be addressed," this problem "should be addressed among them in private."
Peter Prieto, on the other hand, said he was always taught to "look beyond the priest."
"They are ordained ministers of God, so there will always be wisdom to pick up however shallow, repetitive, and unprepared the homily is. The Holy Spirit has anointed priests to speak God's truth. A simple word, a simple phrase, is all that the people need to hear from a priest, and it may speak volumes of God's grace," Prieto said.
Bernard Buela said he agrees with Villegas, but said people should remember "that priests are ordained for the ministry of administering the sacraments, and not really to become public speakers."
"At the end of the day, I listen to God speaking to me through the homilist, not only from his eloquence, but also from his flaws and other limitations. At times, or more often (?), I think God challenges us to listen to Him regardless of the liturgical atmosphere and conditions. God is ever-present in good times and in bad," Buela said.
What about you? What do you think about homily abuse? Share your thoughts in the comments section below! – Rappler.com