A few posts down from this one, I ask regular readers to give me some serious feedback on my homilies. Since I firmly believe that the preacher preaches to himself first and that I've been feeling that my homilies have been somewhat BLAH lately, I thought it would be a good idea to hear from those of you who listen. Below is an exemplary critique from a former student of mine. This is what I'm looking for, folks!
I think you tend to sound more Protestant in your homilies with respect to delivery and style, or at least what my very narrow experience of Protestant preaching has been. Your content is, obviously, Catholic, but the mannerisms of speech can come across to me as a cross between a Baptist minister and a car salesman and like you're trying to be too clever. Now, a decent amount of the Protestant delivery feeling could be my Bostonian upbringing shining through and really more about northern vs. southern speech, but I think that there is a legitimate issue there as well. You sound every bit the academic that you are when you are speaking, and that's fine in general but sometimes it can result in sounding talked AT versus talked TO/WITH, particularly with the over-reliance on rhetorical devices. Answering your own questions to that degree (case in point: The Resurrection! So What?) can feel exclusive and condescending.
I've had you in classes before, and you were probably my favorite professor in college, and I think you should go more that direction in your homilies because in class you tend to draw out of your students more than what they necessarily even know they have to give. I think that in your homilies you sometimes are not as personable as you really are. Of course the point is to communicate Christ, but the packaging matters, and you will reach more people if your manner is more personally engaging. You are really great one on one, but that seems like it's getting lost in the written homilies that I'm reading because you are not meeting people where they are. People who are experiencing suffering as they try to live in faithful accordance with their vocations need to be able to go to Church for comfort as they carry their crosses. You don't know who is having these struggles, and when people in crisis go to Church to be comforted and fed, I'm not sure that your more recent homilies would fill that need. It's not the content that is the problem. Right now I really would like to, and need to hear about the resurrection of the body, but it took me 3 times reading through your homily to really feel like I get most of it, and even then some of it probably did go straight over my head. Most of your recent homilies I have been barely skimming as I have them on my friends list. You could convey the exact same ideas in a far more accessible way and I think it would reach more people, better preparing them to be transformed by the Eucharist.
I think it's almost like you're combining preaching with being an opinion columnist, now that I just glanced at a few more of your posts. You can be hard hitting and brave in speaking the truth while still being accessible and relatable to people. In a certain way, I feel like the priesthood and midwifery are quite similar. You don't control what happens, and neither does the mother/individual Christian who undergoes birth/theosis, but how you exhort, educate, and support does enable a more or less grace filled transformation into bearing fruit. I hope that this helps you and does not offend, and look forward to seeing how your homilies change over the next few weeks.
Reprinted with permission
Reprinted with permission