When the Homily at Church Stinks

homiliesHow often does your family get back in the car and say, “What was Father talking about?”  Maybe you’re at a parish with fantastic preachers who explain Sacred Scripture with holy eloquence.  Or maybe your parish is about an 8 minute comedy show and everyone goes home laughing.  Or maybe you just keep going to Church because you believe in the Real Presences of the Eucharist, despite any heretical teachings that come from the pulpit.


Maybe your none of the above and just want more from the Sunday homily.


Preaching is definitely an art form that requires practice, preparation, and prayer.  After asking a number of clergy, we have found this little axiom true.  At the same time some priests and deacons are just better preachers, than others.

If the priest or deacon has to practice, prepare, and pray, maybe those who listen might benefit from the same equation of success.

Preparing to Listen to a Sunday Homily


  1. Practice going to Mass Sunday to stay in touch with the liturgical season.
  2. Practice monthly confessions to keep your soul free from mortal sin and detached from venial sin.
  3. Practice reading the Sunday readings a few days before Sunday, so the words are in your mind.


  1. Read a commentary on the readings for Mass (http://thedivinelamp.wordpress.com/
  2. Read the Pope’s Wednesday Angelus message because it often interprets the Sunday readings.
  3. Read the Salt & Light blog because they give great sermons on the Sunday Readings


  1. Pray individually or as a family for your parish priests.
  2. In your daily prayer, ask the Lord to open your ears so you can hear Him speak through the priest.
  3. Ask the Lord to send more priests to your parish to preach and be heralds of the Gospel.

We hope these little insights might help you get the most out of the homily on Sundays.

The Importance of Praying for Each Other

cultureWe are still recovering from the shocking behavior of Miley Cyrus at the 2013 video music awards. Along with the public demonstration on live television, Miley has published a hit music video with her wearing nothing. Is this the fruit of her years working for Disney?

Miley isn’t the only modern day performer to build a multi-million dollar legacy through publicity about her body.   Lady Gaga performs in a similar manner.  Even more shocking, Japan now sells a life-size doll of Lady Gaga for men.  It’s better that we don’t explain.

Both performers are raking in millions of dollars. This industry knows what they are doing, but do they know what they’re doing to our families, children, souls?

What has our culture come to? What are our teens experiencing?

Parents face a daunting task raising children today.

There is a current addictive substance added to a large majority of entertainment.  Movies, like the recent Hunger Games, mix scenes of violence and lust, planting graphic images into the minds of children.  Pop icons sell records by blurring the line between the bedroom and the stage.  Even best selling books keep the reader engaged by adding little sprinklings of regular adultery.  (I am trying my best to watch my language).

It would be cliche to say our current culture is filled with sin.  We are beyond that and almost immune to sin.  Instead, we could say that our culture is satisfied with illusions to the true good.

Theology of the BodyBlessed John Paul II, in Theology of the Body, speaks volumes on the beauty of marital intimacy and the human body.  However, today beautiful bodies are used to make money, rather than making themselves truly happy.

Instead of blaming the Pop icons and entertainers who feel it is necessary to reveal their bodies for money, why not criticize the bankers, producers, managers, and directors who encourage this behavior.  Behind every celebrity, pop singer, or movie star, is very large supporting cast.

Where were the virtuous men and women around Miley at the VMA awards encouraging her to act with prudence, rather than act vulgarly?

Often when one person falls into sin or acts in a way contrary to the common good, you find that person surrounded by strong influencers.  If multiple people can lead a person into sin, then maybe it takes multiple people to help that person return.

Do we influence those around us to to good and avoid evil, or sink away from truth and into evil?  Secondly, when those around us are wallowing in the filth of evil, do we stay silent and let them sink or reach down and help them up?

Through Baptism, our Lord shares with all of us the incredible power of the Holy Spirit.  This powerful advocate is always with us.  Do not be afraid to influence those around you to do good, walk away from sin, and return to Jesus.  Likewise, when someone is in serious sin, pray, pray, pray, because your prayer might be what helps them return from the grasp of the devil.

Deliverance Prayer against the Devil

Using Pinterest to Promote the Catholic Faith

Pinterest for CatholicsVisually appealing evangelization materials can be hard to find, yet they are so important to transmitting the faith.  For two thousand years, much of the Catholic Faith has been taught through images, sounds, and smells.  Consider stained glass windows, sacred artwork, or statues of the saints.  Today, the visual appeal of the Faith is extremely important.   Archbishop Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization,  explains:

Within the Church, we are accustomed to the use of texts as a normal mode of communication.  Many of the websites that have been developed by different Church institutions continue to use that language.  One can find on the web many wonderful homilies, speeches and articles but it is not clear if they speak to a young audience that is fluent in a different language; a language rooted in the convergence of text, sound and images.  We need to rediscover the capacity of art, music and literature to express the mysteries of our faith and to touch minds and hearts.  Just as the stain glass images of the medieval cathedrals spoke to an illiterate audience, we must find digital forms of expression that are appropriate to a generation that has been described as ‘post literate’.[1]

Pinterest may be your answer to finding digital forms to evangelize to a post literate generation.  (Pinterest is a social media network used to curate images.)

5 Creative Catholic Pinterest Boards to Follow



How do you use Pinterest to evangelize in the New Evangelization?

[1]. Archbishop Fisichella, 2012 Address to Our Sunday Visitor.

Catholic High School Retreat Ideas

Catholic High School Retreat Ideas is Eucharistic AdorationEvery parish we encounter wants a better youth group filled with inspiring Catholic youth devoted to the Lord.

Unfortunately, most of the time, both the pastor and volunteers do not know where to start.  After a few years of watching, asking, and learning, we have discovered (maybe you already know), that the fastest way to a large, vibrant, Catholic youth group is starting immediately after a retreat.

High school retreats offer an opportunity to disconnect from the busy world and connect in the intimacy of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  Read A Better Way to Run Catholic Retreats for a starter game plan.

Like all our practical tips over the years, we think the Eucharistic is the core of a Roman Catholic retreat.  High School students respond to Jesus.  However, games, food, and activities must prepare the students and leaders for this encounter.  The work of youth ministry is a thankless task.  There are no short cuts.

7 Catholic High School Retreat Ideas

These are simple starter ideas anyone can do.  Be warned – these still require work.

  1. Find an already established Catholic Parish High School Retreat and Join Them.
  2. Organize a Franciscan University Summer High School Conference.
  3. Connect with your Catholic High School and join their Kairos retreat.
  4. Call your neighboring parishes and ask what retreat experience they use.
  5. Contact the high school minister at your Catholic High School or a neighboring diocese and ask them for advice.
  6. Start with a small, one day retreat at your parish.
  7. Find a service project, participate with it, add opportunities for the Sacraments.

5 Time Savers for Retreats

There is always time to fill in a retreat and that’s why large blocks of great content can help any priest, sister, or youth minister, in planning a retreat.  Consider putting these 5 times savers together to form a great retreat.

  1. Show the Movie Bella or For Greater Glory - These great Catholic movies lend themselves to discussion.
  2. Play a Sport – Remember John Paul II and sports?
  3. Find a Fantastic Local Public Speaker – They can even be your parish priest.
  4. Praise and Worship Music
  5. Make food for the homeless


What do you do for creative high school retreats?

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New Evangelization and Social Media

Social Media Catholic ChurchSocial media is the hot topic in secular media and almost everyone else.  However, the Church also has something to say about the role of social media to evangelize.  Pope Benedict XVI spoke at great lengths outlining how he thought the Church could utilize social media to spread the Catholic faith.

CatholicTools.com doesn’t really use social media because our marketing approach is search engine optimization.  However, Pope Benedict XVI alludes to this strategy under his call for the Church to use new media to evangelize.  The only reason we didn’t try Facebook or Twitter to any great length is because we had so much success in our specific area of expertise.

Every Roman Catholic Church and Catholic lay organization looking to evangelize needs to know the Church is officially asking them to utilize social media to enter into the digital realm where people congregate.  Proof is not necessary to know how important social media is for the Catholic Church, knowledge of how to utilize it is.

Here are the best articles (make sure to read them slowly) on social media and the Catholic Church.  These are not how-to articles, but source articles to find a foundation.

The Catholic Church and Social Media

How to Use Social Media for a Catholic Church or Catholic Organization

The best way to start using social media for your parish is to try.  Try, Try, Try.  No really, we are doing the same thing here.  Did you see our new Facebook page?  There is nothing there, because we are just trying.  Our team of experts know the value in a parish website, but we have also seen great improvements in parish events and interactions through social media.  The best part of Catholic social media is the ability for parishioners to easily share your great Catholic content.

Catholic Social Media Strategy Plan

  • Start with a Facebook Page since 71% of Catholics use Facebook
  • Link your Facebook Page with your wordpress parish website using Publize.
  • Listen to this great podcast from Social Media Examiner.  (We do it)
  • Look at what Mary Mother of the Redeemer Parish does as inspiration
  • Keep Reading Social Media Articles and asking your friends for advice

How do you utilize Social Media for your Catholic Parish or organization?