I critique the priests’ sermons at Mass. I don’t mean to do it. It just happens automatically for me. Just like how I automatically correct anything I read, people with whom I talk, and even the conversations I overhear, I critique the sermons at church.
Grammar is one thing, of course, and it is always being tracked in my mind. I regularly use a certain phrasing or structure that I know to be incorrect, but that I know is, essentially, necessary for understanding for the listener or reader. (I also know that errors show up on here all the time, but that’s mostly due to either the previously mentioned reason or the simple fact that I am writing on my phone, as I lie in bed, ready to go to sleep… Not the best time or means for correct writing, I know, but I’m lazy, so it’s often the situation I have.) For the sermons, however, my brain decided years ago to treat them like essays. I analyze their quality in terms of how they connect with the readings, how they connect with the audience (congregation), and how they create an inspiring message and clear means for doing good in the world.
It takes a true writer to come up with a sermon that would earn an A from me. Most of the time, unfortunately, sermons earn somewhere around a low C. Occasionally, there are bonus points awarded for specific tidbits within the sermon, but the sermons as a whole are not so great right now. (This was actually one of my main reasons a decade ago for why women ought to be allowed to give sermons at Mass, even if they couldn’t be priests – not everyone is good at writing and giving speeches.)
This isn’t to say that I actually award points as I am sitting in Mass. Certainly, I do not do that. My brain is just in a sort of passive automatic critique mode, coming up with ideas for betterment in the sermon each time it hits a rough bit. I do take care to focus on the actual sermon, especially since I know myself to do this critiquing so automatically. It’s kind of like background noice, really, and so I only end up fully focusing on it when the sermon is really terrible. (Fortunately, that isn’t too often.)