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Vatican cardinal urges priests to spice up ‘dull, irrelevant’ sermons

By on Thursday, 10 November 2011

Cardinal Ravasi also encourages priests to use Twitter (Photo: PA)

Cardinal Ravasi also encourages priests to use Twitter (Photo: PA)

A Vatican cardinal has appealed to clergy to liven up “dull, flavourless” sermons in an address at a conference in Rome.

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, claimed that homilies had become “irrelevant” to worshippers who were used to the thrill and excitement of modern technology such as the television and the internet. He said: “The advent of televised and computerised information requires us to be compelling and trenchant, to cut to the heart of the matter, resort to narratives and colour.”

The cardinal described the theological language used by priests in their sermons as “grey, dull and flavourless” and appealed to priests to use the graphic and dramatic imagery of the Bible to illustrate their sermons with colour and intrigue.

The Bible was “crowded with stories, symbols and images”, he said, which were appropriate for “the children of television and the internet” who grace church pews.

Speaking at the conference the cardinal encouraged priests to use social media networks to communicate the faith and the Word of God. He said: “We need to remember that communicating faith does not just take place through sermons. It can be achieved through the 140 characters of a Twitter message.”

Cardinal Ravasi was appointed president of the Pontifical Council for Culture in September 2007. In November last year Pope Benedict XVI elevated him to the College of Cardinals.

The cardinal, who some see as a possible future pope, blogs regularly for the Italian financial newspaper Il Sole
24 Ore.

  • Uhogb

    It is not about talking fairy tales or spicing up YOU PRIESTS are responsible for salvation of the souls. I haven’t heard for a long time sermons about necessity of confession about hell or devil. Is it all gone ? NOT 
    You must say the truth.Immodesty in the church, lack of reverence in the churches, communion in hand, women dresses like in the carnival, Eucharistic ministers when only 100 people in the church do you know what canon law says about it ? 158 ( Indeed, the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion may administer Communion only when the Priest and Deacon are lacking, when the Priest is prevented by weakness or advanced age or some other genuine reason, or when the number of faithful coming to Communion is so great that the very celebration of Mass would be unduly prolonged.[259] This, however, is to be understood in such a way that a brief prolongation, considering the circumstances and culture of the place, is not at all a sufficient reason)
      

  • Parasum

    The cardinal, who some see as a possible future pope”

    ## That’s one man whose election has been given the “kiss of death”.

    He’s right. Too many priests are thundering bores, whose sermons make one long to watch paint dry. Men who cannot preach their way out of a paper bag shouldn’t be ordained, regardless of their other qualities. It would vbe far better for the laity to preach – being ordained does nlt confer the ability to be any good at preaching, & many other Catholics would be far better in every way as preachers – they could hardly do worse than the superficial bores in cassocks who currently inflct their shallow nonsense on somany millions of us. Unless the Church was founded for the benefit of the clerical cast, ther is no excuse for not allowing others to preach, of either sex. They are, after all, almost always far better Christians than the clergy. They have to be, because they are mot sheltered from reality by living in palaces or dressing in trains of watered silk or putting on headgear that would Imelda Marcos green with envy. It is the laity, not the parasitic layabouts and paedophiles who pass themselves off as men of God but would not know shame if it mugged them in broad daylight, who are the real Christians.

  • OMC

    Our Morningside Cardinal (future Pope)

  • AidanCoyle

    The Cardinal definitely has a point in my experience but I wonder why priests don’t routinely ground their sermons in the richness of the Bible. I wonder if we think ‘that’s what the Protestants do’. In my parish this summer we had the pleasure of having a priest from an African seminary help out for a few weeks and his sermons were always absolutely grounded in the gospel of the day, engaging also with the other readings in ways that breathed life into the sacred texts. There are so many engaging ways of reading Biblical accounts: not to make full use of them impoverishes a faith community.

  • Nat_ons

    Dear Lord, do preserve us from rashly heeded good ideas; and this is – in theory – a very good idea indeed. In reality, of course, the already mouthy, wordy, rambling of the far from super-intelligent priest, that workhorse of the whole church, must spew a steady stream of ‘relevancy’, ‘interest’ and worse still, ‘entertainment’. Working the audience – for such is the current relationship of the stand-up/ active-involvement liturgical congregation and facilitator – has its place in teaching, even humour fits there, but doing a Stanley Holloway, Dave Allen or Jack Dee monologue sort of ‘turn’ at the mike is the very opposite of ‘homily’ let alone ‘sermon’ or even vaguer ‘talk’; personalising the truth of the Faith is to empty its objectivity – to replace the Cross with a mere subjective thought for the day or the more promising ‘Have you heard the one about Old Mother Riley’s cross, well ..’

    That is not the wise Cardinal’s meaning, naturally enough .. yet I feel sure many are already squirming at the thought of the seat in the pew already. If the preacher is a new Augustine (preaching Latin theology at Punic fisherfolk), or a renewed Dominic (giving all-the-roads a good going over), perhaps even a Newman (wrapped in the joy of truth in Faith) well and good, I for one would sit spell-bound (amid the sniffs, time-checks and restless infants); nonetheless, the idea is good and requires thought (preferably before action). A course in the rhetoric of Fulton Sheen’s ministry, a wee bit of practice at the art in Chesterton’s parables, but above all else a firm grasp of the whole point of preaching; humour, yes, personal details, fine, a paradox or two, if available, splendid, but first, last and always: the Faith.

    It is this last that is so pitilessly absent from the pulpit, lecturn or walk-about. Just spend a few silence minutes listening to the awesome Benedict XVI, he is no stand-up act, he isn’t even a stage filler like the Blessed John Paul II. Yet in only a few, swiftly passing, hardly noticed minutes and he lays forth the Faith and a sincere, thoughtful even pastorally fit witness to it .. so fear not workhorse, pew-filler or wriggling, itching, childish mind, it can be done, and without the stage knack of ‘I wanna tell you a story ..’

  • Ian Williams

    A practical solution: limit the homily to 5 minutes max, with additional minutes only to be granted by the diocesan Bishop in recognition of exceptional preaching skills.

  • http://twitter.com/PJTPOOAM Thomas Poovathinkal

    THE BIG CHRISTIAN CHURCHES ARE FULL OF SPIRITUAL IDIOTS WHO IN PRACTICE SET ASIDE

    AND INVALIDATED  (LIKE THE CLEVER MEN  OF THE LORD’S PHYSICAL DAYS WHO ARROGANTLY

    ACTED AGAINST HIM AND FINALLY DID AWAY WITH HIM)  THE FOUNTAIN AND TRUE SOURCES OF

    SALVATION : GOD’S WORD.
     

    THE SMALL CHRISTIAN CHURCHES ARE BETTER IN THIS CONTEXT; THE PERSECUTED ONES

    AMONG THE CHURCHES ARE THE BEST. THEY ARE WINNERS BY LOSING

    THEMSELVES IN THE SPIRIT AND IN TUNE WITH THE DEMAND OF THE LORD. THESE KEPT ON

    PROCLAIMING GOD’S WORD AT ALL COST AND THUS WENT ON WINNING. THESE REMAIN  AND

    WORK  AS APOSTLES OF THE LORD IN EVERY AGE.

    SINCE THE BIG CHURCHES GOT RID OF THE WORD OF GOD BY RITUALISING IT; THE LEADERS

    (NOT APOSTLES) OF THESE CHURCHES  BECAME WORLDLY-WISE,  BORING, UNINSPIRING,

    UNTRUTHFUL  AND POSITIVELY SCANDALOUS,  BUT THEY ALWAYS SAW TO IT THAT THEIR

    CLEVERNESS PREVAILED! BEHIND THE MANY CURTAINS THEY LEAD A LIFE THAT CAN BE APTLY

    SPOKEN OF AS “THE BEST OF BOTH THE WORLD”; THEY HAD PLENTY OF REASONS READILY

    AVAILABLE AT THE TIP OF THEIR TONGUE TO DEFEND THEMSELVES. IN AND THROUGH THEIR

    REASONING AND ARGUMENTS, THE WORD OF GOD GOT REDUCED TO THE WORD OF MERE

    MEN AND SO THEIR CHURCHES DECAY AND DISINTEGRATE. THE YOUNG, ESPECIALLY, ESCAPE

    FROM THESE CHURCHES; ONLY THE HELPLESS: THE OLD AND DYING  ARE FOUND TO REMAIN

    BACK.

  • http://twitter.com/PJTPOOAM Thomas Poovathinkal

    WHY DON’T THE “LAY PEOPLE” START PROCLAIMING GOD’S WORD IF NOT IN THE CHURCHES

    ELSEWHERE? THE WORLD IS SO WIDE AND FULL OF OPPORTUNITIES FOR THOSE WHO HAVE

    THE FITNESS.? WHO PREVENTS THEM? SOME GOOD PRIESTS MAY EVEN ENCOURAGE THEM.

    TRY.
     

    WAS JESUS ONLY A LAW KEEPER?

  • Honeybadger

    Is the caps lock on your typing implement glued stuck?

  • Anonymous

    Lay people are forbidden to preach at Mass. 

  • Anonymous

    Sounds too much like penalty time in footy LOL

  • AgingPapist

    Sermons do need to be “spiced up” and the apparel of popes and cardinals should be less “spicey”.  Drop the purple and scarlet gowns, lace dresses, and jeweled party hats.  Attire more suitable for clowns and not for real shepherds.
    A plain white alb, stole, pectoral cross, crosier, and a plain shepherd’s wool cape and matching skull cap to go with the spiced up sermons would be ideal. 

    That’s just for starts.

  • Anonymous

    Benedict XVI is a heretic and an antipope.

    See this video by Most Holy Family Monastery called The Amazing Heresies of Benedict XVI:

    This is the MHFM website:

    http://www.mostholyfamilymonastery.com/

    Sede vacante. There has been no pope since Pius XII. His law and discipline are still in force, including the traditional days of fast and abstinence and the holy days of obligatory attendance at a traditional and valid mass.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Pius_XII

  • Davidanthony Davies.

    I presume he means the Bishops as well!

  • Carton

    We also need to ground our liturgy in the richness of the Divine Office which is nothing but psalmody, canticles, scripture, and lots of incense. No mass on Sundays and feast days should ever be celebrated without one of the seven hours of the office preceding it, or, at the very least, the singing of psalms by the cantor/choir before the liturgy.