Sunday, April 29, 2012
JUST WHY ARE ONLY 20% OF CATHOLICS ATTENDING MASS?
1. poor homilies
2. poor music
3. poor hospitality
Therein lies the problem. I'm not sure how many of us would disagree with this assessment or say that these are not important things to have in a parish Church and at Sunday Mass. But what constitutes "poor" has to be asked, doesn't it.
1. POOR HOMILIES: This can mean a variety of things. I've heard good homilies delivered poorly, in a dead pan fashion, but the content was good, sometimes too academic and disconnected from the person in the pews life. But then I've heard homilies that were delivered very well, with good examples but thoroughly secular, devoid of any spiritual meaning, homilies that could be given at a convention of "the power of positive thinking." Then there are well delivered homilies that keep one's attention but are heterdox leading those who hear it into anything but a orthodox Catholic life. Don't get me wrong, I preach a homily at every Mass I celebrate, briefly during the weekday Masses and about 12 to 15 minutes at Sunday Mass, but the Mass can stand on its own without a homily, can't it? The homily is not the centerpiece of the Mass, is it?
2. POOR MUSIC: Yes, this has been a terrible problem. Again there are two types of poor music. Incompetence of the music providers, they simply don't play well, whatever it is they are playing. The selection of music is too difficult for the congregation but the performers do it well. The selection of the music is vapid, trendy, Broadway-like and without staying power. There is no good repertoire of good music, starting off with the actual sung parts of the Mass of both the priest and congregation and then the ancillary music of the Mass, processional (in addition to the Introit) and recessional and any additional Offertory and Communion chants. Don't get me wrong, I love chants and music at Mass sung well by cantor or choir and congregation. But the Mass can stand on its own without music, can't it? The music is not the centerpiece of the Mass, is it?
3. POOR HOSPITALITY: Yes, studies show that of all the Christian Churches, Catholics are the least hospitable. We tend to respect the anonymity of those who attend Mass to a fault. Many Catholics come to punch their "obligation" card and their friendships and social circles are not with parishioners but with others. Go into any Protestant Church and if you are a visitor they know it immediately, they greet you and will start conversations with you, except maybe in the Episcopal and Lutheran Churches. Many Catholics want quiet time prior to Mass so they can pray, meditate or read scripture or other things (like the bulletin). They want peace and quiet and this can come across as cold, indifferent and aloof of others. Don't get me wrong, I like hospitality and fellowship and feel a sense of pride in my parish if I get a letter from a visitor telling me how welcome and friendly my parish is. (I've gotten these letters too!) But the Mass can stand on its own without hospitality, can't it? The hospitality and friendliness of the parish or particular people at a particular Mass is not the centerpiece of the Mass, is it?
Vatican II taught that the Mass is the "source and summit" of Catholic life. And certainly the Church through the ages has taught that there should be good preaching, good music and Catholics who are good and friendly (hospitable) Catholics, not only at Mass but in the world! But Vatican II also understood the foundation of the Catholic Mass, a Sacrament that shows forth the Paschal Mystery of Christ in the following Ways:
1. In the people who gather to celebrate and pray the Sacred Mysteries
2. In the Word that is proclaimed, for Christ speaks to the gathered community when they hear the Word
3. In the Most Holy Eucharist, for Christ's Sacrifice is re-presented in an unbloody way and the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Risen Lord is given to us by God as Food for our Christian life and pilgrimage to heaven
4. In the priest who represents Jesus Christ,the Head of the Church and the priest who acts in the person of Christ
One of the best homilies I ever heard as a teenager which was passionately delivered by our southern pastor, former lawyer, former Benedictine, and then a diocesan priest, Father Andrew Doris (RIP), who gave it with his deep Augusta, Georgia Southern accent and with utter conviction:
"A Protestant once said: "If you Catholics really believed what the Church teaches about the Mass and the Most Holy Eucharist, your churches would be full and you would see Catholics crawling on their knees to attend Mass!"
Somehow we've lost the real reason why we should be attending Mass and have made everything else, while good and important, more important than the real reasons:
1.SINNERS GATHERING WITH ONE ANOTHER IN NEED OF FORGIVENESS AND SALVATION AND WHERE JESUS CHRIST IS IN THE MIDST OF THOSE WHO GATHER AND PRAY IN HIS NAME;
2. SINNERS WHO NEED TO HEAR AND INTERNALIZE THE WORD OF GOD PROCLAIMED IN THE SACRED SCRIPTURES
3. SINNERS WHO NEED TO BE AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS TO RECEIVE THE GRACES OF THE ONE SACRIFICE OF JESUS ON THE CROSS MEDIATED THROUGH HIS RESURRECTION AND THE CHURCH HE FOUNDED AND THE SACRAMENT OF THE MOST HOLY EUCHARIST
4. SINNERS WHO JOIN AN UNWORTHY AND SINFUL ORDAINED PRIEST, WHO BY THE GRACE OF GOD ACTS IN THE PERSON OF CHRIST TO OFFER THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST TO THE HEAVENLY FATHER AND THE HEAVENLY FATHER WHO ACCEPTS THE SACRIFICE OF HIS SON AND GIVES BACK TO US CHRIST WHO IS OFFERED FOR OUR SALVATION AND NOURISHMENT UNTO LIFE EVERLASTING.
Now, why is it that nearly 80% of Catholics don't attend Mass? If this isn't the primary reason to attend Mass and isn't taught anymore or 80% are ambivalent, disinterested or agnostic about it, then Houston, we have a real post-Vatican II problem and Post-Vatican II failure: