How to listen to the sermon tomorrow

Saint Bernardino of Siena Preaching by Lo Scheggia


There are plenty of criticisms you could make of the sermons that you hear at Mass. Moving on from "boring", you might say that the priest did not prepare well, or that he read out an essay, that he was too serious, or too light-hearted, that he ignored current events, or talked about news items, that he was too theatrical, or lacked rhetorical skill.

You may well be right: priests are not always great communicators, but did you know that a sermon is a sacramental? That is to say that a sermon signifies spiritual effects which may be obtained through the intercession of the Church. By sacramentals, we are disposed to receive the grace of the sacraments.

So we can use a sermon, as a sacramental, to increase in grace - but we have to use it properly. Simply finding fault with the delivery, the rhetorical skill or the erudition of the priest isn't going to get us nearer heaven. What we need to do is to ask the Holy Spirit what He wishes to give us here and now through this sacramental.

It might be one sentence or phrase, it could be a commonplace truth of doctrine, morals or devotional teaching that we really need to hear again and act upon. It might even be a passing thought that seems a distraction from what the priest is saying. One way or another, if we are ready to receive the grace of God, He will give it, often in ways that might surprise us.

And if you are unfortunate enough to hear a heretical sermon, but do so open to the grace of God, then He will strengthen you to hold fast to the faith, encourage the faith in your family and among your friends, fight against error - and find a good parish where the faith is taught properly.

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