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If we may make a suggestion, it's time for our Church fathers to take a serious look at the way the Liturgy, particularly the homily, is currently presented and might be improved in order to enhance sanctity and attract more congregants. We appreciate the argument that a good Catholic should attend Mass and sit through a sermon no matter how it is presented, plus whatever songs are sung, and we are daily communicants. We also appreciate the fact that most priests like to give homilies, and when one considers their sacrifice of celibacy, not to mention long work hours, sitting through what they have to say each day is the least we can do. Also: if some are less than inspiring, many homilies are the opposite (and carry an anointing). We have many very talented priests. Probably it depends on how much prayer goes into it. If something is being said in a way or at a length we don't prefer, we can offer it up. It can be a time of personal prayer (such as the Rosary).

But it might be a good idea for our Church to ask the Holy Spirit if a revision of how homilies are presented might reveal some avenues toward recovering the attendance of those who have trouble wading and waiting through repetitive, less-than-engaging, and overly-wrought sermons, which occur on a fairly regular basis (to our detriment). We have no trouble praying, in silence, when matters go on, but the question is whether we might be a bit more sensitive to those who are not quite so prone to filling those moments with their own prayer. We constantly hear complaints, especially from the young, that homilies are too long and tedious. Many adults to whom we speak wonder why Masses have to go on as long as they often do (due not only to long stretches of sermonizing, but also music), and indeed there are times when such complaints resonate, especially when sermon and song interrupt the flow and sanctity of the Liturgy. Anything that lessens holiness is a problem. It's not really the length: Saint Padre Pio virtually never gave homilies, yet his Masses went on for close to an hour and a half, the pews packed because of the ambience of devotion (and the mystical, as opposed to the theological, which currently dominates). We must be careful that neither homilies nor music become a performance. Holy, devout songs add to the Mass (yes, we prefer the pre-Vatican II ones), while long stretches of modernistic music that are favored by many cantors do not. Meanwhile, a two-minute homily is often better remembered than one that lasts for twenty minutes. It is an issue that needs study, since we must be cautious not to impinge on what is sacrosanct -- to repeat, the flow of the Holy Mass. Homilies and music (especially after reception of Communion, a time that should be silent) stand as greater concerns than some of the political and cultural matters that consume so very much blog space. The Consecration should be more of a focus than (and not impinged upon by) anything else.

We must never compromise. But also: we must be careful not to dissuade people from attending Mass. Empty pews are not a good fruit. Songs done well and without histrionics or painful decibels are a high form of prayer. But might at least one Mass a week be offered that has minimal music? And might we also look into things such as a bit more restraint on the Sign of Peace (which so often overlaps with the Agnus Dei)?

This is not to justify those who don't possess the fortitude to withstand. But simply (and hopefully, respectfully) asked: does music so often have to be multi-versed, and can homilies not sometimes, or even often, especially on weekdays, be truncated? Or at least can there be instruction on how to punch them up and make them more pertinent to the congregants? A last question: isn't it time to bring back the prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel at the end of Mass? It always inspires sanctity, which is what  Mass -- the highest form of prayer -- is all about.

[resources: Celebrate Mass with the Heart and Michael Brown retreat: Orlando]

[see also: Vatican comments on Sign of Peace]

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