Last week, Pope Francis offered a few words to participants in a course for Diocesan liturgical officials, organized by the Pontifical Institute of Sant’Anselmo. He had some thoughts on reverence and beauty in the liturgy — and took a swipe at ineffective preaching:
I urge you to cultivate silence. In this age, we talk, we talk… Silence. Especially before the celebrations – a moment that is at times taken for a social gathering. We talk: “Ah, how are you? Is everything going well? Why not?”. Silence helps the assembly and concelebrants to concentrate on what is to be done. Often sacristies are noisy before and after celebrations, but silence opens and prepares for the mystery: it is silene that enables you to prepare for the mystery, it permits its assimilation, and lets the echo of the Word that is listened to resound. Fraternity is beautiful; greeting one another is beautiful, but it is the encounter with Jesus that gives meaning to our gathering, to our coming together. We must rediscover and cherish silence!
I want to emphasize this a great deal. And here I will say something that is linked to silence, but for priests. Please, the homilies: they are a disaster. At times I hear someone: “Yes, I went to Mass in that parish… yes, a good lesson of philosophy, forty, forty-five minutes… Eight, ten, no more! And always a thought, a sentiment and an image. Let people take something home with them. In Evangelii Gaudium I wanted to emphasize this. And I said it many times, because it is something that we end up not understanding: the homily is not a conference, it is a sacramental. The Lutherans say that it is a sacrament, it is a sacramental – I think it is the Lutherans – it is a sacramental, not a conference. It is prepared in prayer, it is prepared with an apostolic spirit. Please, the homilies, which are a disaster in general.