When Complaining Exceeds Good Post Mass Discussions

I just finished skimming the thread: How long should mass last?

However, I want to pose a different question: *What should a church do when the length of mass has become such an issue that the beauty of the liturgy has gotten lost? *

Our parish's mass has lost effectiveness of being glorious.

After mass or during the week, it seems that everyone at my parish is complaining about the length of mass. So much so that it has completely replaced the past discussions about the readings and the message of the homily. Recently, we had a mass last 1 hour and 45 minutes. Typically, our masses last 1 hr and 15 minutes. There are so many factors at play, but I'll try to list a few...
[LIST]
*]Homilies that are never under 15 minutes and typically 20-25 minutes.
*]Priest doesn't adjust homily length when he knows that there are special announcements and presentations at the end of mass.
*]People refer to the greeting as the "mini-homily."
*]The priest reads announcements for about 10 minutes - even the typical stuff.
*]Before anyone points a finger a music, the choir stops the songs the moment the action is done (gathering ends upon priest reaching the sanctuary, offertory ends when the priest cleanses his hands, etc.)
*]After the intercessions of the people, the priest adds about 5 minutes of his prayers, sometimes they are duplicates of the prayers of the people.
[/LIST]

Anyway, the homilies are just out of hand. It would be one thing if the priest was energetic and engaging; however, his sing-song, accent-thick, overly reverent style makes them seems twice as long as they really are. What is really frustrating is that often the first 7-10 minutes of the homily is excellent, but then the priest goes on and on to the point that the good at the beginning is outweighed by the redundancy, or subsequent themes and points. Often, we get about two to three homilies at one time. Ultimately, they are all lost.

I want to approach the priest, but his opinions and past conversations suggest that it will be very challenging to have an open conversation and to get him to be open to critical observations and suggestions for improvement. He has a habit of trumping any comment with phrases like, "I just know that [whatever he wants] is God's will." He doesn't actually say it but his persistence suggests that he thinks that he is the only one who can interpret God's will. He also, has shown discrimination towards women and arrogance laity. I don't want to go into the many examples, but lets just say that several people have talked about legal action, but chose to just go to another parish. By the way, there are more than 10 parishes within a 10-mile radius of our church. Our church is hurting both emotionally and financially. People are leaving. It is a concern. We have to take some practicality that we are competing with those other parishes for parishioners.

So, my other question...
*If you were wanting to build a persuasive argument that mass and homilies need to be crisper, how would you pitch it and how would you substantiate in research or quotable quotes, etc.? *

I've been struggling with this for a long time. I want him to be the most effective priest he can be for our parish. I see such simple actions changes that he could make to end the general mass criticisms. However, I want to present them in a way that he will hear them and honestly consider them. He loves to quote rubrics and GIRM to substantiate his preference. I am just wondering what can be offered to build a good pitch that he will take listen to.

In my mind, the simplest point that I can make is this: do you want to be effective? do you want people to listen to you? Then you need to consider making a very key change: ** Say more by saying less.**

He talks so much that the value of what he has to tell us is lost in the volume of words. People report that they "zone out" after about 8-12 minutes of his homilies. I've actually wanted to discuss some salient points that our priest made with friends, but they struggle to even recall the theme of the homily!

Sorry for my rambling. I guess I need to just get this out.

Seriously, though, I really do want suggestions and help in what to say to help him hear the suggestion.

TX Convert

I've found these... any Catholic resources? Scripture?

"Do not say a little in many words but a great deal in a few."
- Pythagoras

"The wise ones fashioned speech with their thought, sifting it as grain is sifted through a sieve."
- Buddha

"The superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions."
- Confucius

"Keep silence for the most part, and speak only when you must, and then briefly."
- Epictetus

"But still his tongue ran on, the less of weight it bore, with greater ease."
- Samuel Butler

"A good sermon should be like a woman's skirt: short enough to arouse interest but long enough to cover the essentials."
- Ronald Knox

"The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending, then having the two as close together as possible."
- George Burns

"The less you talk, the more you're listened to."
- Henry Ford
- Abigail Van Buren
- Stephen R. Covey

"Speak properly, and in as few words as you can, but always plainly; for the end of speech is not ostentation, but to be understood."
- William Penn

Is the priest you're talking about the pastor? If not, I'd suggest speaking with the pastor.

I'm a little surprised that people aren't voting with their feet and simply going to Mass at some other parish. In my area, at least, I think that's what would happen. I think some people would make complaints directly to the priest about the length of his homilies and others would decide to check out the next parish down the road.

Your Masses must be pretty far apart if an almost-two-hour Mass doesn't cause problems with the schedule. The Masses at my parish are an hour-and-a-half apart so clearly there would be a problem for us. Our Masses usually run a little over an hour. When there are baptisms or something similar that lengthens them you definitely notice the people crowded outside waiting to come in...not to mention the situation in the parking lot.

Is your relationship with the priest one where you could talk with him about this in a casual sort of way?

[quote="TxConvert3201, post:2, topic:177197"]
I've found these... any Catholic resources? Scripture?

"Do not say a little in many words but a great deal in a few."
- Pythagoras

"The wise ones fashioned speech with their thought, sifting it as grain is sifted through a sieve."
- Buddha

"The superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions."
- Confucius

"Keep silence for the most part, and speak only when you must, and then briefly."
- Epictetus

"But still his tongue ran on, the less of weight it bore, with greater ease."
- Samuel Butler

"A good sermon should be like a woman's skirt: short enough to arouse interest but long enough to cover the essentials."
- Ronald Knox

"The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending, then having the two as close together as possible."
- George Burns

"The less you talk, the more you're listened to."
- Henry Ford
- Abigail Van Buren
- Stephen R. Covey

"Speak properly, and in as few words as you can, but always plainly; for the end of speech is not ostentation, but to be understood."
- William Penn

[/quote]

The college I attended had many seminarians in its classes. They used to tell us about their Professor of Sacred Eloquence whose sage advice to them was: *If you haven't struck oil after 5 minutes, stop boring! *

You know I only moved out west a year ago. Before that, I lived in S. TX. We attended a church that had a similar problem, at least from my point of view. The homilies were way too long and the Priest, I think, lost the message by being redundant and trying to bring in too many topics. I have done a alot of public speaking. I even taught a short class in public speaking many years ago. Brevity is a hallmark of good public speaking. Now, there are some subjects that require more rather than less, but it's rare. It sounds like an issue of working on his speaking skills rather than leaving the Church.

[quote="SuscipeMeDomine, post:3, topic:177197"]
Is the priest you're talking about the pastor? If not, I'd suggest speaking with the pastor.

I'm a little surprised that people aren't voting with their feet and simply going to Mass at some other parish.

Your Masses must be pretty far apart if an almost-two-hour Mass doesn't cause problems with the schedule.

Is your relationship with the priest one where you could talk with him about this in a casual sort of way?

[/quote]

Yes, he is the pastor.

We've lost over 500 families since this priest started, but our town is growing at a 20% rate. We have at least 20 new families a month, but not all stay after they hear a few homilies. FWIW, the music ministry at the parish is one of the best in the diocese. That's part of what keeps some people from leaving.

There is 1 vigil mass, a early morning mass, the religious ed., then the late mass. Thus the only mass with a constraint is the early morning mass. It has the smallest attendance. Even so, it can end at 1 hr and 30 minutes and only slightly delay RE, and there is 30 minutes between RE and the late mass.

My relationship is pretty OK with the priest. We've talked in the past on various topics, but I know this one is problematic. I'm just wanting to gather lots of info, so that I can choose the best words to present a concise, effective suggestion.

FYI, here are a few more quotes:
It has been said that every speaker has his moment, and some listeners wish it was just that - a moment. So, remember that the capacity of the mind to absorb is limited by what the seat can endure. - unknown

If you haven't struck oil in five minutes, stop boring.
- George Jesse

Few [additional] sinners are saved after the first 20 minutes of a sermon.
- Mark Twain

adapted:
Pastor Smith had made a long and rambling homily. After mass, a woman stopped by to shake his hand. "How did you like my sermon?" he asked. She answered, "I liked it fine. But it seems to me you missed several excellent opportunities." Fr. Smith was puzzled. "Several excellent opportunities to do what?" "To quit," she replied.

Eloquence is saying the proper thing and stopping.
- Francois de la Rochefoucauld

I am really struggling to find something with a citation from a Saint, Pope, or Bishop on this topic. I'm sure something quotable has been said... Any help is appreciated.

[quote="Yellow_Belle, post:4, topic:177197"]
The college I attended had many seminarians in its classes. They used to tell us about their Professor of Sacred Eloquence whose sage advice to them was: *If you haven't struck oil after 5 minutes, stop boring! *

[/quote]

If you know.. Which Seminary? Which professor? Name?

Gosh, I don’t know what to say. If it really does seem that the pastor isn’t listening to advice on this, then I think one of the more effective ways is for the families who have left the parish to actually put in writing (nicely) to the pastor and perhaps cc the diocese their reason for leaving. If they leave and give no indication of why, then he nor the diocese will ever really know what the reason is and will not be able to find an appropriate solution.

I was friendly with a priest from India, who was the most holy and spiritual man, as well as just a beautiful and gentle person. My husband and I also got a lot of out of his homilies. His homilies were a tad long, but worth listening to. Anyway, once, there was a guest missionary priest also from India whose homily lasted between 20-30 minutes. It went round and round in circles, repeating himself in various ways. I remember seeing the priest from the parish shortly after this mass and he brought up on his own that where he and his other fellow priests in India come from and are trained, they are actually taught to give very long homilies, and he actually did mention to this priest about perhaps trimming the homily, which he actually did. So, it could have been much longer than what we heard. Also, our parish priest mentioned that he, himself, had to learn how to trim down his homilies for the American congregation, once he came to the States, especially since most of the masses at our parish is back to back.

You mentioned that the priest had an accent… perhaps he attended a seminary where giving long homilies was taught and promoted and that is why he doesn’t seem to find anything wrong with it?

Let me give you the flip side of the "lengthy sermon." My parochial vicar preaches a good 20-25 minutes on a given Sunday. He is arguably the best homilist in our diocese and is an effective preacher. His homilies are very thought-provoking and the faithful of our parish do not complain about the length, as they are engaging and doctrinally rich.

The Holy Father also goes for about 15-20 minutes in some of his homilies. Granted, he is the Holy Father, his homilies are engaging and very deep, yet comprehensible.

I will say this about my parochial vicar: he told us that he would rather that we pay attention to the Word of God (the readings), than to the homily, if we had to tune something out. He said that in the readings, God is speaking to us. In the homily, the celebrant or deacon is interpreting the readings.

My Pastor and Deacon give homilies that last between 20-30 minutes, generally about 25. Our total mass time is roughly 50 minutes on any given Sunday, we don’t leave anything out, all the announcements are made, the mass is sung, the responsorial psalms are sung as well as the Alleluia and Gospel verse. We have an entrance, offertory, most times 2 communion hymns and closing hymns. We have a Saturday Vigil Mass, a Sunday 9am Mass and Sunday 11am Mass, and there is a 1pm Latin Rite Mass. We are a small parish but I don’t see why mass should take anymore than an hour to complete. Of course Christmas and Easter can be longer maybe an 1-1/2 to 2 hours but that’s normal for Holidays.

You are in a small parish to finish Communion so quickly. We cannot finish an average Sunday mass in less than about 1 hour 15 minutes and that is with using about 10-12 lay people to help distribute during Communion. We still have people for the next mass sometimes opening the door before we get the final blessing. Let’s not talk about the parking lots. There are times when I would appreciate a little more homily and a lot more time between masses.

We have had visiting priests from Nigeria for several years. They told us that in Nigeria they preach for more than an hour and the people expect it. For those who walk with their entire family from their farm into the small rural parishes, they bring food with them and go to mass for a couple of hours before eating and socializing. The entire Sunday is taken up for church with the whole family which is how it used to be in this country when people didn’t have the ability to jump into the car and zoom off for endless offerings of secular entertainment on Sundays.

The Mass at my college, with between 20-30 people in attendance, last for about 45 minutes. This is due to a very consice homily (the homilist is amazing, and most of us would love for him to speak for hours), small congregation, and because the priest has another Mass to travel to right after ours.
The priest before this one, however, was not as good of a homilist, and the Mass lasted for an hour and a half (with a congregation of 15 on good Sunday nights).
The length of the Mass isn’t important, but rather the fact that Mass is celebrated.

Direct communication is better than gossip, but good luck with this one. I am one of those of us who go on and on, and it is a devil of a habit to break.

Hmm, at my Anglican parish homilies are often 30 min or more, and the service on an average day is 1 1/2 hours.

But it does sound like it would be easy to reduce the time, and if the homily is very repetitive or lacks focus, that is not a good thing at any length. I think speaking in one's second language can make good public speaking especially difficult - I can easily imagine not feeling I'd quite said what I meant.

But this sort of thing is very difficult to bring up. It sounds like he needs an editor - could he be convinced to let someone do that?

[quote="TxConvert3201, post:8, topic:177197"]
If you know.. Which Seminary? Which professor? Name?

[/quote]

Apologies TxConvert3201 - I've only just noticed your questions to me.

The seminary was St Patrick's College, Maynooth, Ireland. I attended Maynooth College, at that time a constituent college of the National University of Ireland, now a university in its own right.

I can't recall the name of the professor. Sacred Eloquence is now, of course, known as Homiletics. The current holder of the chair in homiletics is Ronan Drury who was definitely a professor in the seminary in my time so it may have been he. But please remember this was a long time ago and I remember the cleverness of the quip more than I remember the details of who said it. :)

Last week, I spoke to the Priest. It was after choir practice and he happened by.
So, I struck up small talk, then ventured into the topic. I told him that I was worried about mass and its effectiveness. I told him that I wanted him to be the most effective pastor he can be, and that I have some ideas to address something that is holding him back. (I tried to set this up in a collaborative and positive way.) Then, I shared my observation that people no longer discuss the reading and homily after mass, but rather they all just comment and complain about mass duration.

In sum, he was very resistant to the idea that mass needs to be shorter. In fact, he commented that it needs to be longer. Thus, the problem is not with the mass length or his homilies, etc. Rather, he sees the problem as being in the people in attendance.

I don't disagree completely with that. We should all give God all we have and are everyday, but especially on Sunday. However, extra time at mass is not the only way to put God first. I've heard somewhere that some people mix up priorities of church and God. I've also heard that the priority is God, Family, Church in that order.

Anyway, I tried to suggest that the way to change people effectively is to slowly move them from where they are to where they need to be. Thus, if the people in the pews are currently at a 8 minute homily attention span, you have to start there. Hit them with 4 weeks of 8-minute homilies. They will be shocked by the brevity. They will tune back in. They will no longer zone out habitually. Then, the next month move to 10-minute homilies. Then, on the 9th week move to 12-minute homilies. If they are all engaging, and if the increase is gradual, you will shock them out of their current habitual day-dream state and put them back into an engaged state.

He dismissed that suggestion fully. I simply stated, "do you want to be heard by many, or do you want to just talk and be tuned out by many?" He again dismissed any legitimacy to the comment.

So, I just transitioned back into small talk and eventually ended the chat.

I figured that it was no use. He wasn't ready to hear those comments.

Now, I don't know if this is coincidence or not, but earlier this week at the mass for the Feast of Mary's Immaculate Conception he gave a wonderful, 10-minute or less homily. It was fast, and could have even been 8 minutes or so. He had a clear message and take on Mary's example that was concise, relevant and simple. Mary represent being simply human but with complete love for God. She is the example of the Church. She is our role model. We need to give and love like her from our pure, simple humanity.

See??? Retainable Homilies = Shorter Homilies or extremely well organized with recurring themes.

Maybe he later did hear what I said in that chat. Maybe not. But I am definately going to tell him that it was a home run, winner of a homily!

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