The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

A 20-minute sermon?

Evidently, that’s not uncommon in some parts of the world.

And an archdiocese in India is trying to put a stop to it:

The Catholic church in a recent circular has instructed the clergy to keep their sermons short.

The archdiocese of Mumbai, Bishop Bosco Penha, stated that priests who preach for more than 20 minutes during mass should be “strongly discouraged”.

“The homily is an important part of the liturgy and is always given by an ordained minister.

It should be well-prepared and to the point,” said the missive that contained a host of other instructions for priests on how to enrich the service to draw more Catholics back to the church.


The memo was printed in the recent edition of the Catholic newsletter, The Examiner.

“People would complain matter, which is read out, is forgotten,” said newsletter editor and diocese spokesperson Fr Anthony Charanghat.

The instructions also discourage the use of PowerPoint presentations and skits to liven up the homily.

“The homily is meant to be a one-on-one between the priest and his parish. A PowerPoint presentation can supplement the sermon, but not replace it.

The Pope has strongly encouraged us to use technology to reach out to the masses, but it cannot be the end of all our interaction with the faithful,” said Charanghat.

There’s more at the link.

Comments read comments(13)
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Deacon Bill Necessary

posted December 8, 2009 at 8:36 am

My personal motto for preaching is “say it in seven.” I try never to preach past 7 minutes. Since we live in the culture of the 30 second sound byte, people’s attention spans are short. I have found that if you preach more than 10 minutes, people’s minds drift off.

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Mike L

posted December 8, 2009 at 9:55 am

In our parish if the priest kept his sermons to 20 minutes I would be thrilled. If they were interesting 30 minute sermons I would be thrilled. If he didn’t just read them I would be thrilled.
Oh well, every couple of weeks we drive 50 miles to a Byzantine rite church (Catholic) for a bit of extra ritual and the sermons there run for thirty minutes, but the priest keeps me enthralled, so it isn’t just the time. And no, this priest sermons could not be compressed into just seven minutes. But then he seems pretty special in many other ways.

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posted December 8, 2009 at 12:14 pm

A Benedictine priest taught me that 20 minutes is for the devil, 15 minutes is for yourself, and 10 minutes is for the people.

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Your Name

posted December 8, 2009 at 1:44 pm

Having long messages for it’s own sake is silly, but there should not be undue pressure to truncate messages. Some people only attend Mass once a week. For many, this is their only chance to get Bible Based Teaching for the week. The primary emphasis should be on encouraging quality preaching. Length of preaching should be a secondary concern. I do understand that the Liturgy of the Word duration has to leave time for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Balance should be encouraged.

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Dana MacKenzie

posted December 8, 2009 at 3:19 pm

We have two Indian priests in our parish, and they are holy men, and good confessors, but I WINCE when I see that I’m one of their masses, because the sermons are so unnecessarily long.

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posted December 8, 2009 at 5:36 pm

I’m a life-long listener of homilies ranging from fantastic to excruciating, and I also competed in extemp long ago (when dinosaurs walked the earth) back in high school. My experience is that in a 5-7 minute extemp speech you can say basically one thing, as long as it’s not too complicated. A homily longer than about 15 minutes is almost always wandering, unfocused, and hits too many topics without dealing with any of them well. (i.e. most of the time a long homily is really 5-10 short homilies meandering along, and, ironically, the problem is that not one of them is long enough.)
As for the complaint about reading homilies — I much rather have a good homily read to me than suffer through a lousy one! A friend was complaining once about a homily that he heard that was heretical. I allowed as how I’m always thrilled by a homily coherent enough to tell whether or not it’s heretical.
“The older I get, the more I admire and crave competence, just simple competence, in any field from adultery to zoology.” – H.L. Mencken

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posted December 8, 2009 at 6:16 pm

While I think 15 minutes is long enough for any sermon, a long sermon should at least have something to say. And longish sermons are often those that have the least to say in the first place. I try to pay attention (not always successfully) and get what I can out of sermons and do not generally rate them when I hear them; most of the time I wouldnt complain.But recently I heard one that was so long and vacuous, and seemingly unprepared, that I had to step in and give it an F! What little there was to get could have been covered in 15 seconds. The worst part is that this priest’s sermons are typically long, thoughtless, and meandering. I guess he does not even know it, and no one is probably going to tell him. This type of thing is not as unusual among Catholic priests as I think it should be.

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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted December 8, 2009 at 6:30 pm

I once heard a priest give a 20-minute homily.
After that long, long, long reading of the Passion.
The homily added nothing to what had come just before it.
Dcn. G.

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Fr. Matt Eyerman

posted December 8, 2009 at 7:04 pm

The central issue is quality preaching. A three minute homily can be as boring as a thirty minute homily. In the church I serve, a three minute homily means the preacher is not working too hard. I would be dodging tomatoes.

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posted December 8, 2009 at 7:54 pm

Power point is discouraged?? No matter how good, bad or indifferent the homilist, I will now thank God that I have never been subjected to a homily with Power Point.

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Msgr Pope

posted December 8, 2009 at 9:10 pm

Hmm… I preach thirty minutes at the main Mass. It’s kind of the norm in the African American Church. It amounts to more of an extended teaching. I really wonder if we spend enough time with God’s word in our Churches. Folks here in DC who leave the Church for the mega churches all say the same thing: they like the preaching in the Megachurches better. They say they are taught the Bible and like it. Most sermons in Protestant Churches go about 30 minutes. It seems to be the norm with them and they usually get higher marks for preaching than we Catholic clergy do. I guess communal context and the skills of the preacher are all important in deciding length. But I don’t think there should be one rule. If I preached 7 minutes people would think I had been taken ill and that the deacon should add so thoughts to fill out the time.

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Jim McCabe

posted December 9, 2009 at 8:07 am

Powerpoint?!! You have got to be kidding me! What do they think this is, a business meeting?? Any priest/deacon who uses a powerpoint for the sermon has absolutely lost it. No wonder Catholics choose to stay home rather than attend Mass. We get all this stuff during our ordinary lives; give us something transcendent!

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posted December 9, 2009 at 10:25 am

Powerpoint?! (Sound of head hitting wall mutiple times.)

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