Homily length, revisited


I still had some recent CAF discussions on how long homilies should or should not be when I ran across some homilies of Gregory Thaumaturgos in Vol. 6 of the Ante-Nicene Fathers. So I put one of them on “read-out-loud” (normal speed) on my Kindle and timed it. It came in right at 12 minutes.


Twelve minutes sometime feel like twelve hours. There you sit, it is morning and you had to watch that movie last evening, a long way to the Church, you are a bit hungry, maybe longing for a cigarette, or a HUGE cup of coffee…and the priest talk and talk and talk…your eyelids start to feel reeaaal heavy, and the priest just keep on talking and talking…you yawn…feeling sooo sleepy…and the priest keep on…


It honestly depends on how good of a speaker you’re listening to. Someone who’s really good can talk for an hour and people wouldn’t mind. Someone who’s not so good, you can take in 5 minute doses and then after that you feel like you’re fighting to pay attention. Priests should be aware if speaking is a strength or weakness and plan their homilies accordingly. Some priests are aware of this and will routinely give shorter, but more succinct homilies. Sometimes less is more.


I often go to Tanzania.

There, homilies are expected to go for an hour plus. An hour and a half if it’s the bishop.

Most of the people had to walk substantial distances just to get to Mass. So they want their ‘money’s worth’. And for the priests, this is when they get to offer any real catechesis. The priest cannot get to every village and offer regular classes, so they do their catechesis as part of the homily at Mass each Sunday.

Going to church really is an all day affair, or at least the most of the day.

An hour to walk there, two hours of Mass, and then two plus hours of socializing outside of church.

And then the hour walk home.


I would guess that for most people their preference on the length of a homily is directly proportional to their faith in God and zeal for Jesus.

As far as I’m concerned as long as the Priest is making sense and is a relatively good speaker, he can give as long of a homily as he wishes. That being said it is my understanding that the average attention span is somewhere between 15 - 20 minutes while listening to someone speaking on a topic.

Try going to a Protestant church and listen to a 45 min - 1 hr sermon! :slight_smile:


Here is a song by Brad Paisley that addresses this question:

Long Sermon - YouTube
► 3:19► 3:19
Dec 26, 2008 - Uploaded by MusicUniverse561
Brad Paisley - Long Sermon



There have been times when I was a Protestant that I sat through a 90-minute sermon and wanted still more.


We have two priests at our parish.

When either one of them speaks, I am always amazed that the Homily is already over. They are both great Homilists. So if they wanted to lengthen their homilies, it wouldn’t bother me one bit. There homilies have a beginning, a middle and an end. There is a straight path we follow, as they speak.

But we also have a priest that visits every summer. He is a wonderful man. Really on fire for the faith.

His homilies are terribly disconnected. They are about twice as long as our resident priest’s and he hits 3 - 4 different topics. Generally, by the end of the homily, I am wondering what he said. :shrug:

So, yes, it really matters who is doing the talking.


I guess 12 minutes listening to Gregory would have been considered rather short :smiley:


Wow, it was a long night last night.

Their and There. They’re not the same. :blush:


Pope Francis says the homily should be short because long homilies tend to overshadow the other more important parts of the Mass. I think it should depend. Some communities, especially where the faith is relatively new, want long homilies which serve as a sort of catechism class. I think that’s appropriate. Most American parishioners want 30 second homilies.

I don’t mind long sermons as long as they’re good. What I don’t like are “sermons” about parish or diocecean activities. This New Years, I heard a sermon that recapped the parish’s past year. And I don’t like announcements which border on being second sermons. This past Sunday, I heard an announcement during which the priest reflected on the beauty of the Mass for a good 5 minutes before getting to the actual announcements.


We have at our parish the former Bishop of the Diocese who does Masses on occasion. His homilies generally consist of one or two sentences. But he packs so much into those sentences that it is amazing!:wink:


My mother and I would watch Rev Billy Graham all the time. I could listen to Rev James Boice on the radio forever. I guess it depends on what the homily is all about.


I now prefer short homilies (8-12 minutes depending on topic and speaking ability) because I have 3 very young children with me at Mass, and I already get almost nothing out of a homily. Our current pastor gives longer homilies, and by the time Mass is over (an hour and 15 minutes) the 18month old is done and screaming and crying, and my eldest is having a panic attack about Mass ending, the middle one is getting into something naughty and we have made sometimes as many as 2 trips to the bathroom. It is easier for the kids to sit nicely and the eldest (4 years old) to pay attention to the Eucharistic prayer, if the homily hasn’t gone on and on. Everyone has a limit. :shrug:


and this I agree with. While I get that many priests want to give longer homilies because people do have a need to be taught and made to understand, I sometimes feel like some priests go on for too long and the rest/most important part of the Mass gets sped through.

Unfortunately, most parishes have to squeeze in 5 or more Masses on a Sunday and you get stuck with the one hour timing of Mass being an absolute rule rather than an approximation, which is sad.


Could you give us an example of one of his one/two-sentence homilies?

closed #17

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