Saturday, January 20, 2018


In the post below this one, I jested, tongue in cheek of course, that I would start using pot incense to fill my church to 100% of parishioners attending Mass.

But in a midwestern parish, they do use gimmicks and they have seen increases in Mass attendance.

I can see using gimmicks to get kids to come to youth programs and CCD. And we know that kids themselves can be a gimmick to get their parents to come to Mass and go to Confession when we do family sorts of things and tell the kids that they are the ones to help their parents to put behind them their mortal sins of not participating in the Mass each Sunday and compounding their mortal sin when they don't bring their children to Mass.

I am into have many "ministries" or activities in the parish to keep people engaged and to show outreach to those in need. I love the idea of small groups in homes for faith formation and programs geared to every age group.

But I am sad we have to resort to these things when the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is what should get Catholics and keep them coming. In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass we experience in an unbloody and eternal way the One Sacrifice of Jesus at Calvary. And then, we are are encouraged to receive the Most Sacred Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ in Holy Communion if we are in a state of grace. And the gift of being returned to the state of grace is the Sacrament of Confession.

If only the glory and majesty of our Lord and the magnificence, transcendence, awe and wonder of our Liturgies would keep them coming week after week, day after day, we wouldn't have to resort to flimsy gimmicks like the ones below at Christ the King parish in a midwestern diocese:

This is what they do:

  • Sent weekly e-mails to all of our parishioners inviting them to celebrate the Eucharist.
  • Put a flyer in everyone’s mailbox.
  • Each week, at one of the Masses, we had a well-known parishioner give a short presentation on “What CK Means to Me.”
  • Sports Mass and pizza party.
  • One of the organizations sponsored Saturday night Mass and pizza separate from the Sports Mass.
  • Debut of our new student choir.
  • Each week offered anyone in the school a special prize if they had a picture taken with one of the priests at Sunday Mass: out-of-uniform pass or homework pass.
  • On the last Sunday of October, if 75% of a particular classroom came to Mass, the classroom was given a treat and game time with Fr. Matt or me. If 90% of the class came to Mass, then the whole classroom got a pizza party. It was great to see the kids encouraging each other to go to Mass.
A number of families told me that after 4–5 weeks of going to Mass, that future attendance was moving from a “hope to” to a priority.


Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

"If only the glory and majesty of our Lord and the magnificence, transcendence, awe and wonder of our Liturgies would keep them coming week after week, day after day, we wouldn't have to resort to flimsy gimmicks..."

Gimmicks can have their place, but on the whole I agree.

What must underlie an appreciation of and a desire for the Holy Sacrifice is a deeply felt understanding of the individual's need for redemption - the realization that I am a sinner and NEED what is offered by the Church. That we begin each liturgy acknowledging our sin is no accident.

Self-reliance, one of the GREAT icons (idols?) of Western culture is what blocks us from coming to terms with our need for saving grace. And this is not just a reliance on God, but a reliance on others in our community for all we have. I, alone, don't make the bread - farmers, shippers, manufacturers, groceries get it to me. I don't built the cars, make the medicines, educate my children, procure clean drinking water, etc.

As we have become "rugged individualists," capable of achieving great thing on our own - or so the mythology tells us - we become less and less able to appreciate our interconnectedness. St. Pope John Paul spoke of the signs of this disability often when he addressed materialism and consumerism as two of the great burdens of wealthy societies. He noted the influence of Marxism and philosophical materialism that portray God as the "enemy of his own creatures."

The shift to the "I Am Complete In Myself" concept has painful consequences in societal life from church attendance to participation in social service organizations across the spectrum. If a person does not see that "There's Something In This For Me," they don't participate. If a person doesn't see that being a member of the Church offers the gift of redemption/salvation because they don't think they need it, they don't keep coming.

Anonymous said...

Bee here:

The Church used to teach the following in sometimes blunt but very effective language:

-You have a soul.
-Your soul lives on after the death of your body.
-Everything you do, good or bad is seen and remembered by God.
-God is the judge of your soul when you die.
-When you die, the things you did, good or bad, will be what determines your fate.

-If you have done good, and repented and done penance for any bad, you will go on to live in the presence of God for all eternity, in joy, happiness, peace.

-If you have done bad, and never repented of it, you will be cast away from God, into hell, for all eternity, where you will suffer forever.

I'm not aware that any of these truths have changed. However, how many priests now-a-days hammer this lesson home every week at Mass? (I know the answer: None.) How many priests NEVER really say any of this in the harsh, blunt language of fact, but soft-pedal the message, and never really say out loud that most of us are going to hell if we don't repent and change our ways? (I know the answer: Almost 100%.)

I think in the olden days, people pretty much realized, given the ins and outs of their daily lives, they were in deep doo-doo with God, and needed to strictly follow the Commandments and the laws of the Church, because they really believed in hell as the consequence of unrepented sin. And the eternity of it. And they really didn't want to end up there.

My cousin told me her husband believes God is SO merciful everybody is going to heaven. No matter what. So what motivation is there to pray, or go to Mass, or confess if you're lulled by that complacency (and presumption)? She knows better, and she is terrified for the fate of his soul.

Back when churches were full, priests were trying to save souls. Now they want to "form community."

A priest at my parish recently gave a homily about John the Baptist. He said John did not talk in nice, soft, welcoming, merciful language to the people who came for the baptism of repentance. He called them a "brood of vipers."

"He said therefore to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits that befit repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."

The priest then said something on the order of, imagine going over to your friends' house for dinner and being welcomed as a 'brood of vipers,' "come on in, you brood of vipers!" (that got a chuckle from the congregation). Then he said something, the gist of which was, if anyone sitting in the church there today thinks they are holy and saintly and justified before God, they have another thing coming. And he closed with, "So, welcome, you brood of vipers..."

If people really were being taught to see the condition of their souls, they would come back to Mass, because they'd be scared out of their wits. But the devil, with the help of the "pastoral" Church, keeps them unaware of the precipice they walk.

God bless.

rcg said...

If they are gimmicks, then they might hurt more than they help. If they are events where Catholics can join together to enjoy each other's company and events that might otherwise and circumstances be accompanied by challenges to their Faith, then it is a good idea.

This relates to what drove me to the local TLM parish: I actually like folk music (like Vaughn Williams, not like Haugen) and other things that found their way into Mass. It seemed to me that we should strive for dignified and reverent Liturgy and have the conga line afterwards in the Parish Hall. If it is pizza and a jam session or the local sports playoff on TV I think that's fine. It seems that people are taught to no segregate behaviours any more. I think that is a very powerful skill to develop and the Church misses the chance to cultivate that when we allow the Mass to become a party then let people escape home without actually talking to each other.

TJM said...

Oh my God, I am having a heart attack - Kavanaugh said "Holy Sacrifice" instead of Happy Meal! Then he said "redemption." I may have been mistaken about Kavanaugh. Mea culpa

ByzRC said...

Weekly, I'm drawn to church by the mystical beauty of the Divine Liturgy - a priority for myself and many who surround me. There are no carrots dangled with pizza, beer and whatever other enticements someone can dream up. Reception of the holy gifts is more than enough for us. We don't require weekly invitations to attend, just word of mouth, social media and emails/texts should the schedule need to change. It scares me that the next generation is being taught this and will perhaps expect it in other areas too as they get older. A very sad total misunderstanding of the awesome gift that is made available to us weekly on the holy table.

Adam Michael said...

What is a "Sports Mass"?

Adam Michael said...

Personally, I don't find some of these ideas to be all too bad. Youth groups do things like this a lot and I think it helps young people remain connected to the Church. The problem is the ethos that surrounds the Novus Ordo Mass. Sports Masses (I am curious to learn what these are) and pictures with priests during Mass (how does that work?) make divine services seem trivial and man-centered. I am less worried about awarding pizza for good Mass attendance than I am that the young people might not see divine services as all too different than a pizza party.

Anonymous said...

Bee, I always appreciate what you write.
What you wrote above is so true!

George Orwell and others wrote c. 1920 to 1950 that even among believing Christians there had developed a real lessening of belief in death, judgment, heaven and hell, while, so unlike earlier centuries, the vast bulk of the average population in the UK and Europe would hardly even consider the possibility of having an immortal soul.

By the 1970s, that thinking had really infected Catholics and much of Catholicism.

In the 1990s, I attended lectures at a Catholic theology institute, and priest/philosophy and theology lecturers would go on at length how it was really a total mystery what happens when we die; and we really can have no certain knowledge of it; basically, almost agnostic regarding the fate of individual immortal souls.
And those claiming the only logical and sensible thing to do is focus on our lives this side of the grave.....and then go on to describe the truly Christian actions of Left of Centre politicians who can pour millions into public schools, public hospitals and housing and social security etc.

Anonymous said...

Bee here:

Thanks Anonymous Jan 22, 2018 at 2:15 AM

I too have lived through the "learned" lectures, from both secular and theological elites, and have found very few, very few, who have the courage to believe the Church's teaching on the soul and the last four things: Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell.

After years of listening to them, trying to gain wisdom, and reading the ideas of modern philosophers and theologians, and then reading the Church Fathers and Saints of old I have come to the conclusion most modern "teachers/lecturers" don't believe what the Church teaches regarding these things. At all. Even those wearing clerical collars.

It seems to me many of them are embarrassed of the Faith. They understand themselves to be intellectuals. But then they cannot justify the assertions of our Faith to those who ask for proof. They cannot defend the Church's teachings against modern skeptics. They wither under the contention that the idea of the soul and afterlife is derived from ancient beliefs that are infantile compared to modern knowledge (which I think is a questionable assertion in itself), and they seem to be ultimately won over by the arguments of atheists, and then try to find ways to interpret the Gospels and teachings of the Church that lessens their cognitive dissonance.

In my mind, they value their title, their career, their credentials, their reputation, their credibility, the admiration of others (human respect), more than Jesus Christ, and because of that they are not worthy of Him.

As I see it, they failed the test. And they are useless to me. Blind guides. So I ignore them.

The devil is having a field day. It truly is his era.

God bless.