Pope on Short Masses

Pope Francis in Sicily garners big applause when he says a homily shouldn’t last more than 8 minutes. “A 40 minute homily? NO. The whole Mass should last about 40 minutes!”

Archbishop Mark Coleridge on Twitter: “Very Jesuit really… they left the long liturgies to the Benedictines et al and got on with the mission.”






19 responses to “Pope on Short Masses”

  1. Chris Loetscher Avatar
    Chris Loetscher

    Penelope Fitzgerald said that her uncle, Wilfred Knox, “believed that a sermon should never last more than ten minutes, every minute after that bored the listener and undid the work of two minutes, so that after fifteen minutes you were, so to speak, preaching in reverse and ought logically to have a deduction made from your pay.”

  2. Rev. Thomas A. Flowers Avatar
    Rev. Thomas A. Flowers

    The pope is not infallible on this one. If the 12 minutes are INTERESTING, folks won’t get bored. Try addressing the scandals of abuse, cover-up, and silence, and you will be humbled ans amaze at the vigorous applause! NB: good Jesuits don’t belittle Benedictines who celebrate with reverence, solemnity, and devotion.

  3. Roger Durand Avatar

    Attended an hour and a half funeral lately. It was so drawn out that I almost forgot the name of the deceased…almost.

    30 to 40 mins should be the norm

  4. Fr. Jack Feehily Avatar
    Fr. Jack Feehily

    The length of the Mass should not be determined by the “opinions” of popes, bishops, or priests. The more solemn the Mass the longer it will take to offer it. Reciting prayers at Sunday Masses which are intended to be sung would greatly shorten the length of the Mass, but why are we thinking chronos when we should be thinking Kairos? I love pope Francis, but I part company with him on this one. Methinks he was referring to weekday Masses or just employing hyperbole. I do agree on keeping the message to the point, but its length will make a huge difference if the speaker has the gift of preaching. There’s a lot of bishops, priests, and deacons who appear to need more of this gift.

    1. Robert Addington Avatar
      Robert Addington

      Agreed. Clock-watching does not make for good liturgy. Concentrate on doing it well, not on ‘getting it done’. This applies particularly to the Easter Vigil.

    2. Fr. Khouri Giardos Avatar
      Fr. Khouri Giardos

      Fr Feehily is right; during Liturgy is chronos more important than kairos.

      Most Jesuits I know and have worked with are good men and good priests, but they are not generally Liturgists (and by that I mean someone who liturgizes, not someone with a degree in Liturgy). Their attitude is “Say Mass move on.”

      I don’r especially like Francis’ views and comments and these kinds of stupid statements contribute to my dislike.

    3. Alan Griffiths Avatar
      Alan Griffiths

      Re. Fr. Feehily’s comment about reciting or chanting prayers.

      I’m not so sure about that. Three of us tried an experiment many years ago on the Passion according to Saint John. We chanted it in English and read it in English. The chanted version was about two minutes shorter than the recited version.

      Chanting collects avoids the temptation to add stagey tone and emphasis to the words and therefore tends to brevity.

      My policy with the Homily is to print it out in 14 point on a single sheet of A4. That means a usual length of about 5mins. In Lent I allow a bit more time.

      Good luck to His Holiness. 40-45 minutes for Mass is about right, though of course there are uncontrollables such as the time taken for Holy Communion, if done reverently. Asking people to make a gesture of reverence before receiving slows it down.


  5. Anthony Hawkins Avatar
    Anthony Hawkins

    I guess eight minutes is about the length of the sermon by Ed Foley in the previous post.

  6. charles jordan Avatar
    charles jordan

    View from the Pew:
    Regarding: “Pope Francis in Sicily garners big applause when he says a homily shouldn’t last more than 8 minutes.”
    – Within the context of a Sunday liturgy in a parish an eight minute homily seems to be a good mean.
    – There are times when a slightly longer homily has its place.
    – After about 8 minutes, a congregation of mixed ages, cultures, and ‘first’ langugages of 500 to 700 souls gets restless, not because the homily is uninteresting, per se, but because children decide that they need a snack, want to color their bulletin graphic, or have to go to the bathroom., or because the homilist has entered into the world of sermonizing. Teenagers are good people to have at an liturgy, but I think singing during liturgy engages them more than the celebrants homily as their inattention would indicate.
    – Most clerics are of of average ability with regards to the homily. However such a cleric can keep it together long enough to have a clear beginning, an useful middle, and a clear ending for the 8 minutes.

  7. Shaughn Casey Avatar
    Shaughn Casey

    Context is everything. Forty minutes is a breakneck pace for a Sunday Mass and an eternity for a weekday Mass. For the former, I’m imagining the altar party double-timing during the procession and recession, singing only one verse of every hymn, and reciting everything in an awful hurry.

    As for homilies, it really does depend on the quality and content. A rambling, disjointed mess is too long at five minutes, let alone eight, but a good homily can make fifteen minutes wink by.

  8. Tom Blackburn Avatar
    Tom Blackburn

    Interesting comments, but not enough attention to the congregation. If a daily Mass with half or more of the congregation needing to be to work in the next 90 minutes runs over 30 minutes, then the celebrant is responsible for everything else that goes wrong in the parish.

    On Sundays in our parish, if a celebrant performs the liturgy beautifully and preaches with the voice of angels but goes beyond 60 minutes, half of the congregation — through no fault of its own — will be late for the next Mass, and some seniors will give up and go home because of being pushed to the far reaches of the parking lot. Every celebrant should try to drive into the parking lot before Mass and out of it afterwards occasionally to see what everybody else has to do to approach the Mass reverently.

  9. Joe McMahon Avatar

    Please prepare your sermon. Don’t wing it! When I suffer through pointless, rambling sermons, I give it up as penance for all the 8th grade students that had to listen to me for 42 minutes when I had prepared only vaguely.

  10. Ed Nash Avatar
    Ed Nash

    Maybe the Pope is trying to voice the concerns of many who feel they are held hostage by long homilies and overly scrupulous priests that take 8 minutes to purify the vessels. It might be a worldwide experience though if the people of Sicily will start to applaud.

    I don’t mind the comparisons of orders because of the lived experience of the statement “as lost as a Jesuit during Holy Week.” I have always appreciate the on point and reflective style of the Benedictine Masses I have had the pleasure to attend.

  11. Sean Connolly Avatar
    Sean Connolly

    In my region, parish Sunday Masses average at 1 hr to 1 hr, 15 mins.

    The Nigerian priest at the neighboring parish says, “If I were to finish Mass in only one hour in Nigeria, I would be reported to my bishop!”

    I would be very upset if my Sunday Mass were only 40 minutes long as a norm. Where did we lose the sense that our Divine Worship should be our (for some people) weekly foretaste of heaven, a taste filled with sweetness and bathed in light, that we wouldn’t want to shortchange for anything in the world?

    Why treat it, think of it, as a drudgery, a chore, something to be achieved efficiently before the real rest and relaxation (or perhaps work of the day) can begin?

    1. Roger Durand Avatar

      One element which has been left out of the equation with this discussion is the longest part of the Mass in many parishes……the Communion line, which is declining with the folks in the pews.

      Fewer souls shorten the Mass considerably.

  12. Jackson Schoos Avatar
    Jackson Schoos

    It is true that a well-prepared and -celebrated Sunday Mass in a parish of any size is gong to be longer than 40 minutes, but I think that overlooks the main point; I think the Holy Father was engaging in hyperbole. As a parish, seminary, Cathedral and diocesan music director for now 40 years, I couldn’t begin to calculate the number of homilies I’ve heard. (Calculating the number I’ve remembered for more than 90 seconds would however be fairly easy.) What is of importance is the understanding that the homily is ONE PART – yes, a very important one – of a complete celebration. If it outweighs any or all of the other parts, it’s not only a mistake, it’s an abuse. I think back on homilies that have so drastically driven the entire celebration straight into the ground that the assembly is utterly enervated and completely removed from any spiritual plain to which the other elements of the Liturgy might have raised them. Or the many occasions on which a homilist, realizing he has talked much too long, tangibly rushes everything that comes after to get ‘back on track.’ PROFOUND abuse. Lastly, preachers need to consider particular circumstances; a longer-than-typical set of Readings, or the need to celebrate some additional Rite at a given Mass, means: a shorter homily. A little preparation and common sense would go a long way.

    1. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
      Karl Liam Saur

      The longtime (over 30 years – appointed several years before the 1983 code of canon law, so his was a lifetime appointment) pastor of the parish I where I was raised would regularly give 30+ minute harangues-as-homilies, and then make up time by rushing through the Creed and the anaphora. My father in particular was offended by this mis-applied zeal for decades.

  13. Bernard Cotter Avatar
    Bernard Cotter

    Never realized till now that the Pope was so influenced by his month in Ireland all those years ago! This is THE land of the ‘fast Mass’, a national obsession, where 45 minutes on a Sunday is seen as a bit long, 30 minutes is ideal and 15 to 20 minutes is possible on occasion, when everyone including the priest is in a rush!
    (It’s supposed to be the result of the years of penal laws, when Mass was illegal and priests were persecuted; context is all.)

  14. Stephen Woodland Avatar
    Stephen Woodland

    8 to 10 mins seems to be in good proportion with the rest of the Mass. But the above comments are correct: Let them be well prepared, “relevant”, 8 to 10 mins.

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