On this day after Christmas, facing the first of the turkey leftovers and too many opened boxes of half-eaten goodies, it is traditional in England to rest and enjoy the holiday. Go for a walk certainly, but mostly put up your feet!
So, I could not believe my eyes when relaxing with my i newspaper that I learned that Pope Francis has turned attention on priests who bore - or even repel- the flock with turgid sermons. He has approved a nine point guide to better preaching. Priests should include in their New Year resolutions a commitment to ensure that sermons are no longer 'autoreverential, purely moralistic or indoctrinating. The homily should not be a light entertainment show but should nonetheless avoid sounding like a conference or a lesson. The priest should appear like a mother talking to her child with sermons grounded in Scripture.
The Italian press has approved of this message, with one paper declaring 'very often today, priests don't put much thought into their homilies - and that's why many churches are empty.'
The last thing I expected today was a papal challenge about the need to renew contemporary preaching. But I applaud loudly and feel that one of my New Year resolutions - to give my best to the 'New Kind of Preaching' initiative - is bang on target!