ROME, January 21, 2010 – A stir was made recently by Bishop Mariano Crociata's criticism of the shoddy quality of many Sunday homilies.All well and good. One has to clearly discern the malady before understanding the remedy; and we can certainly give God thanks for the example offered by our Holy Father.
Crociata is the secretary general of the Italian bishops' conference. Speaking at a conference on the liturgy at the end of the year, he called many of the homilies given from the pulpit every Sunday insipid "mush," almost an "inedible dish," and in any case "hardly nourishing."
His criticisms were picked up by "L'Osservatore Romano" and by Vatican Radio. There were some who retrieved a quip Joseph Ratzinger made when he was a cardinal: "The miracle of the Church is that it survives millions of terrible homilies every Sunday."
As pope, Ratzinger has made it abundantly clear that he thinks one of the primary duties of the Church is to elevate the quality of the homilies.
The homilies that he gives himself at public celebrations have become a characteristic feature of his pontificate. He prepares them personally, with extreme care. In fact, he proposes them as a model.
Massimo Naro, in a brief essay, "The artistic road to the sacred mysteries" (in the lower half of Sandro Magistro's above-linked post), reviews the latest volume of a three-volume work by Timothy Verdon – an art historian, priest, professor at Stanford University, and director of the diocesan office for catechesis through art in Florence – in which Verdon comments on the lectionary for Sunday and feast day Masses using masterpieces of Christian art chosen in conjunction with the Gospel of the day.
Whatever benefit this approach may have, it seems clear that what is sorely needed in Catholic seminary education is not only more exemplary models of inspiring and effective Gospel proclamation (such as a few of our seminaries have), but a deeper acquaintance with and deeper love for Scripture, and good, solid courses in practical biblical hermeneutics and the theology of preaching.