Writing homilies is often one of a priest’s biggest challenges — particularly as he considers preaching to the younger generations. Tasked with crafting a message that draws from Scripture, church history, current events, personal stories, and more, it can be difficult to make it interesting enough to hold the congregation’s attention.
So how can priests tailor their homilies to be more engaging, especially for the younger generation? See some tips below.
See How Others Do It
Sometimes the best way to learn a new skill is to observe someone who has honed a talent for it. For priests, this could mean watching homilies from popular priests. Aleteia has a list of priests who have their homilies available online. Among their suggestions are Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, and Father Mike Schmitz of Duluth, Minnesota — all of whom are well-known and personable speakers.
Priests can create their speaking style based on their personality and experiences, as well as what kind of topics interest their parishioners. Incorporating bits and pieces of other priests’ styles can help in this effort.
Consider What the Parish Wants
Once you have an idea of what could work for you, it’s time to consider the content of the homilies. Word on Fire has a list of elements for phenomenal homilies.
- Homilies should be about general concepts and have simple messages that are easy for everyone to understand.
- Homilies should tell a great story and use those stories to tie concepts from the readings and present life together in a relatable way.
- People want to feel like their priest understands the things that bring them joy or cause struggles.
- Take the time to prepare and use language and phrases that are easily understood by everyone.
- People want priests to preach with “authenticity” and a genuine love of God.
- People want to hear about grace, transformation, and a person relationship with God and the Church.
Tie in Church Teaching
A 2014 directory of homilies from the Vatican — described in a National Catholic Register article — says that the homily gives a priest the best chance to tie the readings to everyday life and to give the congregation a chance to see how God’s Word is applicable to their lives today. While it’s noted that the homily should not be a formal “catechetical instruction,” the preaching should clearly draw from Church teaching and be written and delivered to the congregation in the context of prayer.
The Vatican document also notes parallels between the homily and the Eucharist. As Holy Communion nourishes the body every Sunday, the priest’s preaching is God’s Word distributed for the parish’s spiritual nourishment.
Don’t Be Afraid of Feedback
Priests should not be afraid of seeking compliments or criticism on their preaching, and parishioners should not be afraid to be honest. If a priest doesn’t hear what people think, he can’t make adjustments to his approach that will help his flock understand and be inspired by the Word of God.
For priests, how do you prepare for your homilies? Let us know below!