Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Tuesday 28 September |
Saint of the Day: St. Wenceslaus

Longer isn’t better: a lesson in good preaching in a 27-word homily

Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 12/20/16

From John Allen:

Flannery O’Connor, probably the greatest Southern Catholic novelist of the 20th century, liked to tell a story about a relative who converted to Catholicism, which was a highly counter-cultural move to make in the “Baptist belt” of the American South in the 1950s. Pressed to explain the choice, the relative allegedly said, “Well, the preaching was so bad I figured there must be something else to keep folks coming back.” That’s a bit of a caricature, but it captures something real about how Catholics and Protestants have been seen, at least at the level of stereotypes, in the United States over the years: Catholics are great at liturgy, at art, at “smells and bells,” but when it comes to preaching, Protestants, especially Evangelicals and Pentecostals, usually run the table. Those perceptions are, of course, over-generalized. Still, there’s at least a grain of truth captured in this stereotype, which is the idea that on the scale of priorities for Catholic clergy over the years, preaching sometimes just hasn’t rated that high. All this comes to mind in light of an experience I had this week in Key West, Florida, while attending a couple of morning daily Masses at the Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea celebrated by Father Arthur Dennison. Several members of the Cruxteam were gathered in Key West for meetings. Although Key West in reality is a culture all to itself, it is technically part of the American South too – indeed, literally as far south in the United States as the public can go, with only roughly 90 miles separating its southern tip from Cuba. Thursday’s Gospel was drawn from Luke 7, in which Jesus speaks of John the Baptist, the key line from which is the following: “Among those born of women, no one is greater than John; yet the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than he.” In all, the Gospel reading that morning ran to 171 words, featuring the typically crisp language for which the public utterances of Christ are justifiably renowned. After the Gospel, Dennison paused to deliver his homily. There were the usual signs of people settling in, getting comfortable, perhaps trying to sneak in a quick check of messages or a peek at the bulletin, that usually precede an experience people expect will stretch on for a least a few minutes. Here’s Dennison’s entire homily, word-for-word, which was immediately burned into my memory…

Read it for yourself. Preachers, take note!

Photo: Pixabay

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
The Sinai Peninsula and the Dead Sea Rift
J-P Mauro
Experts now believe Sodom was destroyed by a meteor
J-P Mauro
Chicago architect models Vatican City from 67,000 LEGO bricks
Fr. Michael Rennier
The purpose of life according to J.R.R. Tolkien
Giovanna Binci
He’s autistic, she has Down syndrome, and they’re wonderfully hap...
crisis man
Marzena Devoud
Advice from 3 monks for overcoming acedia
Bret Thoman, OFS
Exclusive photos: Meet Padre Pio and the place he lived
Christ and the woman taken in adultery
Daniel Esparza
What Jesus wrote
See More