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Yawning youngsters inspire priest to cut homilies to five minutes

A boy yawns as parishioners and clergy of the Greek Orthodox Church of St Michael the Archangel attend a service for Feast of the Epiphany on January 08, 2017 in Margate, England (Getty Images)

A priest in Northern Ireland has promised his parishioners that his homilies will no longer last more than five minutes.

Fr Paddy O’Kane, writing for Derry Now, made the vow after he heard several “short, sharp” sermons while sitting in the pews during a trip to Texas.

He said many priests, “including myself, are under the illusion that our homilies are more interesting than they really are”.

He said: “A wise old priest once told me: ‘If you cannot strike oil in the first five minutes, better stop drilling.’”

He told the Belfast Telegraph that shorter sermons would be more accommodating to children. A parent, he recalled, had asked him on the radio why they should take their children to Mass “when all they do is yawn throughout a long sermon in a language they don’t understand?”

“What that parent said really struck a chord with me,” he said. He added that shorter homilies might encourage families to come back to church.

The priest said a five-minute limit would be “difficult”, but that his parishioners were supportive, recalling: “In fact one wag said: ‘Could you not make it four minutes, Father?’”

In a previous column, Fr O’Kane had lamented that First Holy Communions had been reduced by some parents merely to an “orgy of materialism”,  “with miniature brides and bouncy castles and bursting bank accounts”.