Eons ago, my late parents went to a gorgeous seaside village in Spain called Calefell for a holiday. And, as devout Catholics, they were delighted to learn there were staying right beside a church where they could get Mass on the Sunday they’d be there – even though they knew this would be said in Spanish and they wouldn’t understand a word!
And unlike in Ireland where a Mass rarely takes longer than 45 minutes, homily included, this local Padre managed to keep his congregation in church for well over 90 minutes – where he seemed to spend at least an hour of this giving out yards to his audience on a variety of topics!
My father was livid as he was absolutely of the school that believed “A ‘good Mass’ is a short one! And if a sermon was given, it should always be of the ‘3 Bs’ variety: “Be upstanding, be brief and be gone!”
And when they finally got to leave the church, my parents got to meet and chat with the Priest, who happened to speak a little English. And my father asked him, half-jokingly: “Is it normal to have such a long Mass in Spain?”
“No” answered the Priest, “But since I only get people here once a week, I want them to stay a while and learn just as much as I can share while they’re a captive audience!”
“Captive is right”, muttered my dad to my mother once out of ear-shot. “As a vicar of Christ wouldn’t you think he’d be minded to show some forgiveness and let his parishioners out early for good behaviour?”
Of the many stories I heard as a youngster, this one has stuck with me to this day because I learned something useful from it – which has even more relevance today in this era where winning and keeping attention has never been more difficult: ‘Never pack too much into any speech, it’s a surefire recipe to an audience that’ll check out and remember nothing afterwards!’
As Mark Twain once noted:
“No sinner is ever saved after the first saved after the first 20 minutes of a sermon”
True that! And the moral of this story and blog, is: Less is always more when you speak since ‘few and well’ will beat ‘many and shallow’ any day of the week!
And so endeth this sermon!