Pope Francis to Priests: Shorter Homilies Please!

Pope Francis (C) ordinates Mons. Angelo De Donatis (back) to auxiliary Bishop of Rome, on November 9, 2015 at St John Lateran basilica in Rome. AFP PHOTO / ALBERTO PIZZOLI (Photo credit should read
Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images

While celebrating the ordination of a new bishop, Pope Francis encouraged priests to use simple words in their preaching and to shorten their sermons at Sunday Mass.

“Preach the Word in season and out of season,” Francis said, but use “simple words that everyone can understand” and avoid “long sermons.”

The Pope urged priests to think back on their childhood and how thankful people were when the parish priest would preach short homilies. “Remember your dad,” Francis said, “and how happy he was when he found a parish near your town where the priest would celebrate Mass without a homily!”

“Sermons should just be the communication of God’s grace,” he continued, “and should be simple so that everyone understands and everyone leaves with the desire to be a better person.”

Monday’s words carry on a theme that has appeared more than once in Francis’ preaching, perhaps harkening back to his own dislike for long sermons as a child.

Last April, the Pope ordained a group of 19 priests, and exhorted them to serve the flock rather than manage it, and to feed the people of God with heartfelt homilies rather than boring sermons.

“Let this be the nourishment of the People of God,” Francis said during the ceremony in Saint Peter’s Basilica, “that your sermons are not boring, that your homilies reach people’s hearts because they come from your heart, because what you say to them is what you carry in your heart.”

The Pope also urged the new priests to practice what they preach, so that their good example will bear witness to the truth of their words. A good example builds people up, Francis said, “but words without actions are empty words, they are ideas that never make it to the heart and they can even do harm rather than good!”

In his daily Masses at the chapel of the Saint Martha residence where he lives in the Vatican, Pope Francis tends to preach short homilies himself, never going beyond the ten-minute mark and usually considerably shorter.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome