Homilies

I’m still in the process of discerning the call to the permanent diaconate as I don’t believe I can even start the application process until the current group enters aspirant phase.

Anyhow, one thing that I have often wondered, and I don’t think it really plays into the discernment for me or not is how long does it take you (priests or deacons) to write out your homily each week? I know they will go over all this in homiletic’s, and I’m sure the answers will really vary, but I was just looking for some ballpark estimate of time that I would need to set aside each week if I did make it that far with this calling.

Thanks all, I’m looking forward to reading some of your comments as they will I’m sure give me much to think about and also pray about.

God bless,

John

You are right: you will get many different answers about timing and preparation. For me, I like to begin by studying/meditating on the Readings for about a week. At that time I notice some things that “hit me” or “jump out” at me. I begin to evaluate those ideas and settle on one main idea. I begin to write and rewrite for the next two weeks. Finally I spend the last week honing the homily … practicing the delivery and “tweaking” the written portion. Thank goodness I only preach once a month (at all our 6 Liturgies). I don’t know how priests do it day after day.

Hope this helps. I know some of my brother deacons are much quicker at preparation, and I also know others take even longer …

A priest should be well read, and after spending almost 10 years in seminary studying, it really helps to save time. Our priests don’t do a sermon every day, but our one priest seems to be gifted at giving off the cuff sermons.

I also know a few Deacons who never give a Homily. My Parish has three Deacons. Only two give Homilies, the older one never does.

I can’t speak for priests or deacons, but back when I was a Protestant preacher, I would spend anywhere from four to 10 hours preparing for a 30-45-minute message. Those messages would not have been written out; they would have been extemporaneous, from an outline.

Ever think about becoming a Deacon?

I generally read the readings on the Monday before I preach. I spend Monday and Tuesday (not all day, but some time in prayer) meditating on them. That is probably about 2 hours on average. Wednesday I spend a couple of hours looking over a few biblical commentaries and doing some internet research, including listening to the USCCB reflection for those readings. By Thursday, I am ready to write a first draft, ususally 3 - 4 pages, double spaced 14 point type. It works out to about 2 to 2 1/2 minutes of homily time per page. That takes about two hours. Friday I put it aside until evening, then I tweek it, and put it into outline form (1 page or less), thats’ about 1 -2 hours. On Saturday, I run through it at least 7 times before the vigil Mass. 7 times takes about a total of 1 to 1 1/4 hours. So . . . .

Total prep time:

2 + 2 + 2 + 1 1/2 + 1 1/4 = roughly 9 hours total, give or take.

Wow… thanks all… that’s some good stuff.

Deacon Jeff, you do that every week? Are you employed at the parish as well, or do you have a secular full time job? That’s a huge time commitment each week. I know God doesn’t ask us to do anything we can’t do, so I am sure I will be okay if I get to this point. I also know that each parish uses the talents we each posses, so if we are better at something else, we may not have to preach each week.

I know at my parish, we have one priest, and one deacon. Most weeks, the deacon will do the preaching. Granted, I will more than likely not be assigned to the current parish that I am at, and at some churches I have seen deacons who only preach once a month (or less) like deacon Mike stated.

John

Yes, I have, but 1) I’m a little long in the tooth, and 2) my wife’s multiple disabilities would prevent her from participating in the training.

Deacon Jeff… just curious. Why do you go from a typed out homily to an outline? Normally, I see people write the other way around. Is this so you can deliver the homily more from your heart and not just read it?

Thanks & God bless,

John

I preach about once per month, usually at about 3 or 4 masses. Indeed I do have a full time profession as a practicing attorney, which requires me to work about 50 to 60 hours per week and 3 kids in college and one in grad school, so no way I could possibly spend that much time every week. The Vatican guidelines say that deacons should only preach “occasionally”. In my diocese the bishop has interpreted occasionally to mean about once per month.

That is exactly why. I never give exactly the same homily the same way twice. A good and spirit filled priest friend of mine often says that you have to leave room for the Holy Spirit.

Thanks Deacon Jeff… I guess I am worried about something that I shouldn’t even be considering at this point. Who knows if I will even make it into the program, but it is a concern.

I think the reason for my concern is the deacon at our Parrish preaches at almost every weekend mass, and our pastor preaches less frequently. This might be due to the deacon being an employee of the local parish though. I forget his official title, but he is an employee of the local church, so that might be why. Prior to him (but with a different pastor too), our deacons would only preach once a month, which I though I could do much better with a full time job. I too have three kids (two which are in college, and one just graduated college) as well as a full time at a local hospital in informatics, plus a wife, two dogs and two cats so we are plenty busy. I know the Holy Spirit will get me though this though if I am called.

When I did my MBA, and when I have to give presentations at work, I never write out what I want to say. I normally use Power points (I know, you can’t do that at church) and I talk from them. Minimal text on the screen is my style as I want to talk with the audience. the problem I have though is I can go longer than I should at times.

Thanks for the information as this has been very informative.

God bless,

John

That’s one of the big reasons I write out my homilies word for word then practice them over at least 7 times. I know that 3 - 4 pages written out in 14 point Arial type is going to come in at about 7 to 10 minutes, with practice.

Deacon Jeff… sorry to be a pest. Which commentaries do you use? the only ones I have seen online seem to be non-Catholic commentaries. I have been looking for some Catholic ones as when I do my readings each day, I like to dig deeper into what the gospel is saying, and this would be a good tool to help me.

God bless,

John

I primarily rely on two: The New Jerome Biblical Commentary and the Navarre Commentary

The New Jerome is a single volume (very large). The Navarre is several volumes but they are available in paperback.

If I can add to this - don’t rely strictly on modern commentaries to prepare homilies. I often hear homilies with “factoids” drawn from the commentaries which actually don’t matter. They’re often dropped by the deacon or the priest in an effort to impress and show some sort of feigned facility with Scripture. I would recommend reading the exegetical works of the Church Fathers. Preaching on St. John’s Gospel? Read Augustine. Read Chrysostom. Feel free to absolutely steal whatever they say. Originality is not a virtue for its own sake. Better to edify the people than look impressive.

Both the New Jerome and the Navarre pull extensively from the Church father.

Navarre was compiled under the instructions of St. Jose Marie Escriva.

I didn’t say they shouldn’t be used. I simply was warning against the modern tendency to use strictly modern commentaries.

I would agree 100% here, use the ECF’s homilies. In the 4 years I have been ordained, one of the most affective homilies I have preached was on Good Friday at the Passion Service. I read St. John Chrysostom’s homily from the Office of the Readings for Good Friday. Powerful message, there were no dry eyes in the church and not a word of “my” homily was actually mine.

The commentaries are necessary too. I mostly use the Saint Joseph bible with the commentary notes. I use the commentaries to be sure I understand the readings in the time settings and the circumstances of the times. But I use that mostly to be sure I reflect the message properly without my interpretation, but the author’s.

Preaching at Mass is a very humbling and daunting task. When you think about what it is that you are participating in it can make your knees buckle. Look at it this way, we are still praying with homilies that were written and delivered within the first 500 years of Christianity. That fact in and of itself should let us know how sacred and critical the moment in time within the Mass is.

The most important part of any homily is the time in prayer with the Holy Spirit, not my nose in the books.

I preached this past weekend. My homily was about 10-12 minutes. I prepared for that message a total of about 8 hours. Most of my prep time comes in little moments, I just take time to re-read the readings and allow them to speak to me during my work day. Those moments are a good and valuable portion of the prep.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.