In a new book consisting of reflections based on the 2008 Synod on the Word of God, the secretary for the Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, writes that homilies should not last more than eight minutes.
In his book, “The Word of God,” the archbishop elaborates on methods priests can use in preparing their Sunday homilies. His first suggestion – taken from Pope Benedict XVI himself – advises that clergy members begin preparing for their Sunday homilies nearly a week in advance.
Archbishop Eterovic explains that each week the Holy Father begins his Sunday homily preparations on the Monday before, so he “has sufficient time to understand the passages from the Sunday readings. The readings become the object of profound meditation, in light of specific events, at personal and community levels.”
“Improvisations must be avoided,” the archbishop continues, “since the homily is too serious of a reality to be delivered to the faithful without adequate planning.”
The preparation for Sunday homilies, Archbishop Eterovic suggests, “can also take on the form of Lectio Divina.” He adds that priests who use this method usually “see generally positive results.”
The archbishop then notes five steps for improving homilies: “Determine the main theme of the homily, inspire interest in the faithful," and "do everything possible to transmit one’s own convictions by appealing to their hearts and intellects.
He also advises priests to help the faithful to memorize the theme of the homily … and prompt an active response in the faithful by suggesting concrete actions such as prayer, readings, activities in family, in the parish, at work or in society.”
It is “useful to remember that in general the homily should not be longer than eight minutes, the average time listeners can concentrate,” the archbishop says. “The preacher can write the homily, but at the time of delivery he should use an outline, a special guide that will allow him to follow a logical line of thought while looking at the faithful.”
Archbishop Eterovic also explains that in order to keep up-to-date, the preacher should use the Bible and a newspaper in preparing homilies.