Friday, August 13, 2010


These children have a sense of obligation and fear of the Lord because their parents and their priest have thought them to have it by their word and example. The parents instilled a sense of obligation in their children by making sure they understand the obligation to attend Mass. Their heads are bowed thanking God for their good parents and wonderful priest!

Yesterday I was speaking with our retired pastor, Msgr. John Cuddy about the decline in Mass attendance over the past 40 years. He is 82 years old and grew up in Hartford, Connecticut. He contrasted what the Church was like in his growing up years and how it has changed today. For example, his home parish church could seat about 1000 people. Almost everyone in the parish attended Mass every Sunday. His parish had to have about seven Masses on Sunday spaced about a half hour apart to accommodate everyone and the Church was filled to capacity at each Mass! He mentioned that people attended Mass out of respect for God, a strong sense of obligation and the fear of hell it they did not "hear" Mass on Sunday which to do so willfully is a mortal sin.

We contrasted his childhood experience (which to a certain extent is also mine, but on a smaller scale) with the mentality today. In Macon, Georgia we believe there are about 60 to 70 percent of baptized Catholics who do not attend Mass on Sunday. They do not know how to respect God. They have no sense of obligation toward Him or His Church and they have no fear of hell sense they have no understanding of mortal sin and how through our conscious choices we separate ourselves from God and Church. Seeing is believing and if we don't see people at Church, they've cut themselves off, haven't they?

Many people today want a "feel good" religion and relationship with God. In many ways they live in a fantasy-made up world of the God they create in their own mind, like a make-believe friend in childhood. This "god" is a false God with no basis in Scripture or Church teaching. This concept of thinking about God has no sense of obligation to Him or His Church.

You know what, sometimes on Sunday morning, I don't want to get up and go celebrate Mass. But out of a sense of obligation to those who have come to the Church to attend Mass, I do get up. Could you imagine what they would think of me, if I stayed in the rectory right next door and could care less about the full church right outside my window? I have an obligation to be there for them. How much more for God?

We need to recover a strong sense of obligation in our lives in general and to God, Church and our fellow Catholics in particular. We need to recover a sense of "the fear of the Lord" and what mortal sin is and can do to us.

Your thoughts.


Henry said...

Not every member of my traditional Latin Mass community is at our Mass every Sunday. Most are active in their home parishes, and sometimes attend the OF Mass there. Some Sundays they may be out of town, or sick.

However, thinking of all our adult members over the five years of our history as a TLM community, it is simply inconceivable to me that a single one of them could have voluntarily missed attending Mass somewhere, even a single time, during this five years.


Templar said...

I do use the word obligation with my children. I also understand that I have an obligation. But I will also say that when I went out of obligation it was because that was all I had. Once I came to truly embrace my faith, and began teaching myself all the things my poor Catechism denied me, I came to want to be at Mass. In fact I can truthfully say that I would rather be at a well said Mass than almost anywhere else on Earth. Conversely, poor Liturgy is like Purgatory for me.

Anonymous said...

Oh that dirty little word "Obligation".
Two years ago I heard a priest tell parents of incoming CCD students to bring their children to Mass every Sunday because it is their obligation to do so, and to teach them it is an obligation to attend, and to keep at it until they WANTED to go to Mass.

The concepts of there really being a Hell and one can go there by acts of ommission, by NOT doing something just seems too 'oppressive' to most people.
However, once one becomes GRATEFUL and UNDERSTANDS the Mass, then one WANTS to go. It becomes painful NOT to go.

The key is to cultivate a sense of awe, an understanding and appreciation, a sense of terrifying fear (sorry but real fear is a great motivator) , and a sense of gratitude. Then both Sunday and daily Mass attendance will rise.

Two resources that really transformed how I understand the Mass are "The Mass Explained" I don't remember the author/priest but I think it is the back of St. Joseph Church. I KNOW the cassette is in the Resuorce Room; and Scott Hahn's "The Supper of the Lamb".
As my daughter matures I plan to teach her to appreciate the Mass as I have finally come to appreciate it.

Furhermore, I'm puzzled as to why more parents don't attend daily Mass after dropping off their kids at school?
and why more parents of Catholic-school kids don't keep up the once a week daily Mass routine for their children during the summer?

and why more teenagers who can drive don't attend daily Mass in the summer?

But mostly I'm puzzled as to why I have NEVER in my memory heard homilies that reminded parishioners of all the graces received by daily Mass attenance and made an ongoing effort to encourage daily Mass attendance?

Gene said...

Obligation or, to put it more accurately, duty is the bane of our pseudo-sophisticate, post-modern cabal.Oh no, we are all aboutthe"fitting,"the "pragmatic," or the "democratic" (most good for the most people) ethic. Of course, none of these is rooted in anything other than social context, which makes them all a type of "situation" ethic...that is to say, relativistic and ephemeral. Maybe our pseudo-sophisticates should go back and read good old Immanuel Kant and his "duty ethic" once again (if they ever read it the first time). Oh, yeah, we can make fun of Kant's "always tell the truth" ethical imperative with sophomoric reductio ad absurdums...fact is, I believe Kant saw the 20th century coming and the post-modern reduction of all value and morality. Interesting that theologians (mostly Protestant but Ratzinger likes Kant, too)have found an ally in Kant the "anti-metaphysician." The concept of duty speaks strongly to the Christian sense of obligation to God's will...that there are absolutes beyond which we have a duty not to go, and sacred imperatives to which we are bound by Faith, the Holy Church, and God's righteous judgement. Strong stuff for today's enlightened, cosmopolitan, and hip

Sr Elizabeth said...

Maybe they stopped attending because there was no reverence demanded or even suggested to them. I am not so sure that they are all Godless and unafraid of Hell...let's face it; we have not being doing the best job in celebrating the liturgy with intention and focus on the "holy". Let's invite them home to worship with us and celebrate the sacraments in a spirit of reverence and necessity, with humility and charity. Lets remind them of the awe and wonder they may have experienced once before.
The responsibility is on both sides.

Anonymous said...

And who's fault is this lack of obligation? Rome relaxed and the world's Mass goers did the same. Now that's obligation.

Anonymous said...

Sr. Elizabeth is right. The obligation is on both sides. I had been taught a sense of revernce and of the holy by those nuns in the 1970's and by my parents, then I wouldn't have slipped away for 25 years.
And without landing in a parish with a sense of reverence, I probably would not have returned.
Some of the fallen away are indeed Godless and unafraid of Hell. They don't believe in Hell.
I know, I was one of them.
And I must mingle among them.
And sometimes it would be a whole lot easier to slip right back than continue saying 'yes' to all the challenges God places before me.
Now I understand why a retired Monsignor who lives in New Jersey once congratulated me on my courage to decide to return to Catholicism. Courage is indeed required. A sense of awe and of the holy truly helps.

anon at 7:44