Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Why men don't go to Mass: Professional actors coach seminarians on 'preaching'.

And now students, we will work on how to master timing in order to deliver a Biblical truth or a laugh line.

Really?  People already complain about the Mass as performance art, required applause for the music ministry, and standing ovations for liturgical dancing altar servers, as well as accusing priests of being narcissistic, claiming they act as if it is all about them.  So why add more theatricality to the mix?

Deacon Kandra reports on a Preaching Boot Camp for Seminarians:
Detroit’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary has hired two professional actors to put priests-in-training through an acting/public speaking workshop nicknamed Preaching Boot Camp. 
For the last several years, actors Arthur Beer and Mary Bremer-Beer have conducted the three-week workshops at the seminary. The seminarians are taught how to project, how to control tempo, and how to master timing in order to deliver a Biblical truth or a laugh line. - Read more here.
Prayer works.  If a priest prays - if he ruminates the Scriptures - he doesn't have to worry about technique, style, presentation, or getting a laugh.
To get them to tap into their emotions, the men were asked to write and deliver speeches about their mothers — and to read those speeches to their moms. - ibid
Really?  Pray. Be men of prayer.  Eat the Word of God.  Fall in love and live in union with Christ in the Eucharist.  Some of the best saints were not polished speakers but they prayed.  Nothing wrong with speech therapy - but the emphasis shouldn't be on performance.  Be natural and learned and holy, and speak from the heart.

Jim and Tammy Bakker were dramatic preachers.  So was Kathryn Kuhlman.  Joel Olsteen is great too - maybe get a teleprompter then.  Entertaining the faithful is not what it's about - you don't need schtick.

Please don't add any more drama or comedy to the homily 'segment' - and don't try to master timing or deliver punch lines.  It's already too much with all the musical numbers, orchestrations, and laity prancing around the sanctuary.  How much do we have to endure?


Okay boys.  More drama!
You need pathos!
Throw open your arms
as if to embrace the congregation!
Then throw in a joke!
End with a Marty Haugen tune ...
Try, "All are welcome ..." 
Then ask them to be generous 
in the collection basket.


  1. I'm not crazy about Mass in the Extraordinary form, even though I was an altar boy and had two years of Latin in high school. I do have a 1962 missal and occasionally use it. But I think the worst thing about the Novus Ordo Mass is the priest facing the congregation, when he should be praying to God on his and our behalf.

    My feeling was that this is turning many priests into narcissistic entertainers, much like mega-church pastors.

    Yesterday, I was talking to a priest friend and he said, from his point of view, facing the congregation was very disconcerting because he could see that few were paying attention and many were engaged in other, non-religious, activities, sometimes acting as if they were at a concert, a sports event, or even a movie theater, caressing their partners or children. My priest friend generally focuses his eyes ten or 15 feet in front of him so he doesn't "see" the congregation when he celebrates the Mass.

    1. I agree. Facing the people has to be a distraction for the priest, perhaps in the ordinary man, it would at least be a source of self-consciousness.

      A couple weeks ago we had one of the new transitional deacons - his homily was alive - but it wasn't contrived or a performance. Perhaps our guys could help out the Detroit seminarians? ;)

    2. By alive I mean he spoke with conviction - his faith was evident.

    3. "Pray. Be men of prayer. Eat the Word of God. Fall in love and live in union with Christ in the Eucharist."

      Reads like we have some petitions to bring before the Lord. We must persevere in prayer for our priests since we can't just sit back and watch and cringe if some like a "show."

  2. I tend to agree. I dislike contrived homilies as well. I imagine some priests need a little help with their public speaking--or think they do--when it's best and most honest from the heart, without the flourishes of an exhibition.

    That said, we once attended Mass given by a newly-ordained priest who had terrible anxiety and delivered his homilies through clenched teeth, as if the congregation would pounce on him at any second and tear him to pieces. I don't think his process of discernment was very thorough, because he was eventually released from vows and went on to marry and have a family. So, not that anxious, I suppose? The world is strange.

  3. You know, the pope is not a great orator or great preacher - yet when he speaks he really gets to the heart. I like this recent statement:

    "It is awful," he said, to meet a bishop, priest or religious who is "beaten down, unmotivated or exhausted. He is like a dry well where the people cannot find water to quench their thirst."

    Pope Francis also told the bishops that in his two years as pope and with his thousands of meetings with all sorts of Catholics, he has noticed "a weakening of collegiality" or communion among bishops and between bishops and priests in various parts of the world.

    One sign of that, he said, is "the lack of a habit of reviewing" how well projects were carried out, how effective they were and how well they were received.

    The church misses the mark, he said, when, "for example, one organizes a conference or event that highlights the usual voices, anesthetizes the community (and) homogenizes choices, opinions and persons instead of allowing ourselves to be carried to those horizons where the Holy Spirit asks us to go." - CNS Story


  4. "You know, the pope is not a great orator or great preacher - yet when he speaks he really gets to the heart"

    Simplicity with love, at its finest. I know that is another reason why I like him so much...I understand what he is saying to me as a believer.

  5. It's tragic how homiletics is taught in most seminaries. It is about the word of God and teaching the faith not the entertaining: "me,myself, and I show" as we used to call it in the seminary. When the Lord comes back to earth, will He find any faith?!


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