Vocal Ability of Preachers during Mass

I watch the daily mass at EWTN, and I am so thankful and grateful that there are so many wonderful priests who are strong in their faith and preaching. I listen to the content of the priest’s homilies, and the homily’s contents are so profound in godliness and Biblical strength. However, with just a few exceptions (Fr. Corapi, Doug Barry, Fr. Pavone), so many of the priests on EWTN daily mass are monotone in their homilies. Their voices sound as if they are asleep. I am shocked that so many of them lack emotion and lightning in their voices when they preach. I feel terrible saying this because they are in the person of Christ, and who am I, a mere speck of dust, to criticize them; but I am just so disappointed that so many Catholic priest have monotone voices when they speak. So many protestant speakers have these booming voices, and I just don’t understand the SOURCE of this phenomenon. Why is it that, in general, catholic priests are so monotone when protestant speakers have thunderous voices? What is the cause of this? Why is this reality?

I beg you all, help me understand this phenomenon.

For different reasons. Take emphasis and workload. A Baptist minister might lead one praise service per week every Sunday. He might spend 5, 10, 15 even 20 hours developing and polishing his sermon because that’s a primary way in which his flock is fed and they expect it.

A average Catholic priest probably celebrates Mas 1-2 times/day during the week and 2-3 times/day on Sundays. He simply does not have the time to devote to a single homily. Even more important, as the celebrant of the Mass his homily is important but it’s the Sacrifice that’s primary.

When all is said and done, better preaching would be high on the list of desires for many Catholic priests…

This is just once aspect in which we Catholics show that when we are weak, He is strong. If the preacher’s sermon was good, it might just make us feel good, but that is really not important. Even a bad sermon can lead us to great good, so don’t worry too much about a poor sermon, Christ is with his Church and He will lead her to Eternal Life.

Some priests just aren’t interesting speakers. Mine isn’t, but a priest is a priest, right?

The heck it’s not. A good homily is extremely important. It’s not the Sacrifice but it’s extremely important.

I heartily agree! As others have mentioned, the eucharistic sacrifice is the apex of our liturgical worship, but that doesn’t mean the liturgy of the word should be diminished. To say that a priest is too busy to prepare a theologically sound homily or too busy to practice his delivery is the same as saying a doctor is too busy to examine x - rays or read a patient’s medical history before surgery. The priest is the only person who is allowed to give a homily at mass. I think the laity have a right to expect him to spend time praying and reflecting on the word of God and to be prepared when he walks onto the altar. He is a professional, and if he can’t do a professional job, he should find something else to do.

I think God might be calling me toward the priesthood, and I am afraid that, when I am a priest, I might not be able to write a thunderous homily . . . sometimes, when I read the Bible at home, there are some passages about which I have nothing to say. I have a constant fear that I might become a terrible and boring priest when it comes to the homilies.

I’m becoming so tired over the years. I’m so tired. I am so tired. I’m so sad.

Yes, you’re right. This is a fear that many have when they enter the seminary. Fortunately, most, if not all, seminaries have programs in homiletics that help seminarians develope the skills necessary to preside at the liturgy. There are numerous commentaries that help a priest understand the readings at the liturgy and offer ideas for homilies. I certainly don’t expect every priest to be Martin Luther King or Fulton Sheen, but I do expect each and every priest who gives a homily to think about it before he enters the church and work to make his homilies understandable and pertinent to his listeners. This is part of his job, and though great homilists have a gift that not everyone is born with, in this day and age there is very little excuse for an off the cuff homily that meanders and has no point at a Sunday liturgy.

You know, homiletics is one thing, but delivery is something else. Seminarians are taught homiletics in the seminary, but - are they taught elocution? A priest may have developed a wonderful homily, but if his delivery is monotonous, well the fruit will be small and without flavor!

People can speak well when they speak from the heart - you hardly ever find a person who feels passionately about a subject speaking either weakly or monotonously about it. However, having developed a homily - whether just with notes, or having written out the whole thing - delivering it without having learned elocution it can fall flat.

This is a very good point. Whether a seminarian is taught elocution and delivery in their homiletics class depends on the seminary, I suppose. My homiletics teacher in the seminary was a Sister who was very much aware of this problem and often mentioned that many folks in the pews, not to mention many sisters in her own community, were elderly and hard of hearing. She was very strict in her critique of our homilies. We were often given Biblical readings for various types of liturgies and given a week to research, write, and then deliver our homilies in front of the class. Our grades depended not only on our professor’s opinion of our homily, but our classmates were also called upon to issue critiques of each homily. I was never ordained and never gave a homily during a liturgy, but the skills I learned in that homiletics class have served me very well as a senior high school teacher. I feel confident that my fellow classmates who went on to be ordained were also well served by Sister Kathleen.

So many protestant speakers have these booming voices, and I just don’t understand the SOURCE of this phenomenon.

Whenever I bring a protestant to Mass, the first thing they complain about is the “sermon”. It’s too “boring”. The speaker “didn’t move [them] with the Holy Spirit”. And last week “It’s too Catholic” (they didn’t like that the pastor went through the meaning of transubstantiation during the Feast of Corpus Christi).

And you can understand why they have this feeling: If you go to a protestant church, their service is very different from Mass. They maybe have some readings or announcements for 15 minutes, followed by 45 minutes of a speech from a preacher about some self-help topic related to religion (e.g. the last time I went to a Methodist service, it was about the role of a healthy sex life in maintaining a happy marriage). I’ve been to probably 100 or so protestant services of various denominations, and they all seem to have that same theme - the preacher takes something out of his or her life and uses it as a point to discuss how to be a good person (using some Bible verses in there but keeping a relativistic view of religion) in today’s society and somehow works God in there.

Based on this, it seems to be that the single most important qualification to be a protestant minister is a person’s public speaking ability. I’ve known churches that interview preachers and hire based on example sermons. There are plenty of churches that have “sprung up” around charismatic speakers.

With that in mind, is it any wonder why protestant ministers tend to be good orators?

Training. More time is spent on homiletics for Protestants. It is a greater priority. The same applies to music. After all, that is all they have: the word of God proclaimed and the praise of God from the people.

Priests are taught philosophy and theology more intensely. We have the reality of Jesus’ physical presence. We also have substantial sacraments that really mean something. We have rites that must be performed to the letter.

I do not propose that priests receive more holiletical training, though. Goodness knows that seminary takes long enough as it is.

I agree with you here- homilies need to have a really strong delivery, or I will forget it even before I receive the Eucharist. It is frustrating to me sometimes, because I am a very conversational person. I don’t like to read long things, but I can listen to someone speak all day if they know what they’re talking about & they know how to deliver their message. I feel your pain, and I wish more priests around here could give homilies that get me excited about my faith, remember throughout the week (and longer), and share with others. Sadly, I usually forget what the homily was about before Mass is over because the delivery is- at best- mediocre. Still, the priesthood encompasses so much more than preaching- it is important to remember that. Unfortunately, that is usually where people are reached first- if they aren’t into their faith, if they are just going about their day, minding their own business, they may not be very active in trying to find their faith- someone has to grab their attention, and the best way to do that is by giving them something they really need to see and hear. That is accomplished by reverent (but not excessively slow), but passionate liturgies- and by reverent, but straightforward, passionate, and frank (but charitable) preaching.

Six months ago a friend of mine was a transitional deacon (now a priest) and as a seminarian (AND deacon!) he came to preach at a Mass at my parish. He is very quiet, physically small and reserved and I had long been concerned about how he would do at the ambo.

In two words he was stunningly good. Talk about the Holy Spirit working through someone! I was serving the Mass and sitting behind him while he preached and I am sure I had a stunned look on my face. He had 600 people listening intently and it was truly a homily and not a sermon – he was soundly focused on the day’s readings. He preached for 12-15 minutes and he was simply outstanding.

During the recession I could hear a woman say “father (sic) that was great but please keep it to 5 minutes or less!” She is not only a kind and bright woman – she was serious :frowning:

I think the seminary has a great deal to do it.

Well, that might just be the way they normally speak. And of course, some priests think that “monotone” is more “respectful”. And some priests are just horrible public speakers, but are great one-on-one.
There’s as many reasons as there are priests.

Remember that the priest is but dust and unto dust he too shall return.

[quote]So many protestant speakers have these booming voices, and I just don’t understand the SOURCE of this phenomenon. Why is it that, in general, catholic priests are so monotone when protestant speakers have thunderous voices? What is the cause of this? Why is this reality?

A large part of it is culture. Protestant culture is highly geared towards the homily as a focual point. So when that’s the be-all-and-end-all of the service then it darn well better be entertaining, enlightening, and engaging.
[/quote]

Audience is also a consideration. The Mass at EWTN is intended for the monastery community, not really for the lay faithful. They televise it so that it may reach the lay faithful, but the Mass is really for the monks.

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