Sir,—Of the thousand or so sermons in Catholic churches that I have heard in my life, I can remember the contents of perhaps five. I remember further that another thirty or forty had something to say of value.
A percentage retention of the order of 4 per cent is not very high. Like most people in industry and commerce, I have to listen intently and frequently to verbal messages. Ninety six per cent of the sermons I hear, however, I find literally incomprehensible. They ramble. The congregation gazes passively ahead, unmoved. uncaring. Uncomprehending?
What made me write this letter was the experience of visiting the University Chaplaincy at Manchester and hearing a sermon which had all those present listening intently. It was an exposition of the doctrines of the Council concerning the priesthood. It had been carefully and logically constructed and was expressed in rigorous theological terms.
Bearing in mind the intellectual complexity of much of people's life today, whether at work, as, say, a designer or engineer, or at play, as say, a musician or amateur radio constractor, I wonder whether parish priests are underestimating the level of intellectual achievement of their congregation. I wonder whether sermons providing an adult discussion of the Church's doctrines might not prove very much more valuable than the "exhortation" type.
It is much easier. I imagine, to knock together a sloppy sermon. than to think out one of value. It is also much easier for an executive in business to knock together a sloppy report than to prepare a detailed study of a problem. If the report is understood by only 4 per cent of its readers the executive will soon be out of a job.
The sermon is for many their only contact with the thought of the Church. It is too important to be a dreary rehash of the gospel for today.
M. J. B. Naughton Manchester 20.