Dear reluctant Mass-goers: You are the one your parish is waiting for.

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O.K., in spite of dismal national trends, in spite of your family and friends leaving the church like rats jumping from a sinking ship, you want to remain Catholic. You have your reasons. Perhaps you are rock solid in your faith. Or perhaps it is more of a hunch, that Catholicism is where Jesus is calling you. Conviction or hunch, you suspect that being Catholic is going to involve going to Mass.

But here’s the thing: When you go to Mass, you do not get anything out of it. You know no one, the preaching is boring, the music is worse, and whatever is happening on the altar does not make sense. And come to think of it, it has never has made total sense to you. So now what? Discouraged, you could just forget the whole thing and get back to your life with Netflix, while your spiritual life withers away.

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You know no one, the preaching is boring, the music is worse, and whatever is happening on the altar does not make sense.

Or you could do something about it—something more than showing up twice a year and getting depressed all over again. You could make the local parish your parish. Imagine being part of a community of people who know and love you. Imagine a place to worship the living God together with your fellow man and woman. Sounds good, sounds ideal really, and it can be done. The choice is yours: Will you be a consumer or an investor?

Here are five steps to try as you move toward investing in your local church. These steps will help you move from being a dissatisfied consumer to a living stone in the holy Catholic Church.

Pray every day. Sunday is just another day with God in your week, not the only day with God in your week. That one hour at Mass is your worship time, but most of your prayer you do on your own.

The choice is yours: Will you be a consumer or an investor?

And when you pray, try praying for the same amount of time that your priest preaches at Mass. Five minutes? Ten? Listening to God every day has to be at least as important as listening to a priest on Sunday. Pray for the local church, pray that the Holy Spirit fill it with light. Keep praying until it happens and then keep praying.

Commit. Pick a parish. First, go online and look around in your zip code. Visit every parish in your area. Check out the different Mass times because you will find different communities, different atmosphere—pews packed with families at 10 a.m., a smattering of young adults at the 6 p.m. Pick the one that suits you and start showing up on a regular basis—you know, like every weekend. Show up. Commit to it. Even read the Sunday readings before Sunday. Sit close to the front in the middle of a pew. Say the responses, and sing the songs.

You are what the local church is waiting for.

Be Bold. Introduce yourself to the priest. Go ahead, you are an adult, you can do it. Tell Father your name, ask what his is. Comment on his homily. Let him know you are listening and that what he says matters to you. Be kind, but start the conversation. Pray for him by name; being a priest is easy; being an effective priest is the work of the Holy Spirit. Work up to asking him to coffee or dinner.

Contribute. Take five dollars with you. You will eventually give online, but for now, find some actual cash and put it in the basket. Begin to give and look for ways to give more. This will change your relationship with the parish. You will be an investor, not a customer, and it will change you.

Connect. Meet the people in your pew. If there is no one in your pew, find a pew with people in it. Meet them. Go to coffee and doughnuts after Mass. Awkward though it may be, go and meet one person. That first person will not be your best friend—odds are against it. Next week, meet someone else.

These five steps will change everything. You are what the local church is waiting for. In fact, you are the local church, and the world is waiting for you to pull yourself together, leave the house and gather to worship the living God, the God who saves us through his love, the God who is found in the local parish, your parish.

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Mike Theman
7 months 2 weeks ago

The Church lost my dad as a parishioner after Vatican II. The Church is losing me after it hired a narcissistic, obviously same-sex-attracted, young priest whose homilies are about him (I count the number of times he says, "I") and his experiences as a young guy learning to be an adult and surprised how his idealism is constantly challenged.

I never understood my dad's leaving the Church (I was very young after Vatican II), but as my church has changed, with a child preaching about being nice and no connection between the readings and the homily, I understand now.

The reason that there are fewer attending mass is not for lack of trying on the part of the parishioners. Indeed, I and my family only recently started skipping after a solid 20+ years of regular attendance. There's nothing mystical (my dad would say that) and there's nothing inspirational said. The Church keeps trying to change to attract parishioners, but in changing, it chases away those of us who have come to rely on its steadfastness.

My wife attended a memorial service of a Quaker friend, and she was mesmerized by it. It's nothing but silence and stream of consciousness. But it was "spiritual." Our masses are more like religious conferences.

Jaroslav Lunda
7 months 2 weeks ago

Move. It is worth it. It is better to have some hassle than lost your soul. Choose some place, where the church is really Mystici corporis Christi, not a plain sum of "commited, bold, contributing and connected" parishers.

Lisa Weber
7 months 2 weeks ago

Poor preaching is enough to make me switch parishes. Use of the word "I" is an indicator that the homily will be all but useless.

Luis Gutierrez
7 months 2 weeks ago

I don't like to go to Mass because it is a patriarchal spectacle. I don't like religious pomp and circumstance of any kind, but ordaining women to the priesthood and the episcopate would ease the pain.

James Haraldson
7 months 2 weeks ago

Aside from your need to abuse God's Church to accommodate your self-worshiping image of what it should be, if you believe the Eucharist is "pomp and circumstance," avoiding your would be desecration through your non-attendance at Mass would ease my pain.

Steve Barry
7 months 2 weeks ago

If you do not like pomp and circumstance, then find a parish in which the liturgy is more low key. They are out there. Yes, only men can be ordained priests and deacons, but many other roles in the parish including lectors and head of ministries are open to women. For most parishes, there are more women in management positions than men.

Lisa Weber
7 months 2 weeks ago

Luis - patriarchy alone is not the problem. Patriarchy and matriarchy are mirror images of each other and they are equally problematic. I would like to see you address the two problems together because it would make your posts a bit more interesting.

BILL HOBBS
7 months 2 weeks ago

Just what we need - a priest shaming the laypeople.

James Haraldson
7 months 2 weeks ago

If the laypeople do not value the direct encounter with Christ in the Eucharist, and do not welcome encountering the reality of their evilness through confession, then the laypeople have been doing a great job of shaming themselves. (Not to mention coming to Mass dressed like pigs.)

Betty Dudney
7 months 2 weeks ago

No more money for sexism. Be an example of Equality not inequality.
Mary Magdalene first Apostle to Apostles of best Good News.

James Haraldson
7 months 2 weeks ago

If you believe equality of worth means equivalency of purpose then you have no humility before God's purposes and should be content to create your own self-worshiping religion and leave Catholics alone.

Elissa Roper
7 months 2 weeks ago

Thank you Fr Jack, I thought that this article was encouraging and practical - perfectly targeted to its audience.

Bernard McMahon
7 months 2 weeks ago

Thanks, Father, for this post, which I'll save. I am gradually finding my way back to the practice of our Faith; this will give me the push I sometimes need.

Virginia Schilz
7 months 2 weeks ago

I do attend and participate in the Eucharistic Celebration. I know many persons who no longer go to "Mass". Their reasons include both very liberal reasons, very conservative reasons, and then those who just have absolutely no concept of God and life involving a connection to their creator. I blame the multiple separations of serving God and instead making people "happy". People live today as though they are not aware of their purpose, value, dignity, and responsibility. The absence of Tradition, Catechises, Community, and other essential Values have gone by the wayside. The lack of Sacredness has left the people in an empty...vacant...barren desert.

Carol Stead
7 months 2 weeks ago

Spot on but so hard to do. My husband isn't Catholic and dislikes Catholicism. I went for a year alone and met no 👎 ne while my husband didn't go to church at all. Now I am going to the Methodist Church so we go together. No matter what, I need the Church. I have to go to both somehow. Afraid to go to Confession since I haven't gone to Mass in a while. Yes, depressed and afraid God will not forgive me. Went to Protestant churches since my marriage 48 years ago but went back to the Church after working at a Catholic hospice. I also need friends which are easy to make in Protestant chuches because of Sunday school and other activities. I feel alone at Mass and greatly dislike all the couples around me kissing when passing the peace.

Steve Barry
7 months 2 weeks ago

First, do not be afraid of going to Confession. I had not been in a while, but did not get scolded when I finally went. In fact, the priest said he was glad I was back. Catholic churches also have Bible study and activities that you can get involved in and make friends. Look in the bulletin or online.

John Walton
7 months 2 weeks ago

Tnx for writing this.

Dan Acosta
7 months 2 weeks ago

Mr. Theman, before you leave the Catholic Church, please read the Gospel of John, Chapter 6. Catholicism is so much more than the very human, sinful priests and lay people, more than boring, self-centered homilies and bad music. The Church is the repository of God's revelation and the home of Jesus' Precious Body and Blood. No other church can provide you with that. Think again before you abandon the Eucharist.

Peter Connor
7 months 2 weeks ago

You relate the same argument I do about the Eucharist. But, I think the author's theme is also relevant and timely. If we view the church as a juke box where we put in a quarter and expect a song, then I guess we are but biding time to leaving and joining some other Christian church; or, putting organized religion in our been-there-done-that box. Participating as fully as possible, not only in the liturgy, but in parish life, will bring about the fervor that we want and need. But: It isn't someone else's job to do that, it's mine.

Denis Jackson
7 months 2 weeks ago

I found this article a bit naive and immature . I'm 73 and have been a regular daily mass goer all my life until recently . I find that many folks are not attending church because it just doesn't seem relevant to their lives anymore. They are thirsty for real spirituality , but unfortunately do not find it in the institutional system we now have . I don't believe it's about left or right, conservative trad, or liberal etc...It's about something else . The prophetic words of Karl Rahner "in the future the Christian will be a mystic or nothing" has something to do with it .
I don't believe the people of God are 'losing their faith' by not attending a church,,they are discovering that God is indeed present in their hearts and at the centre of their lives . I've found that being conscious of Christ for most of my day I simply don't need to go to a church to be with My loving father God.
I just wonder or am 90% convinced that there has been some global shift in consciousness, call it a movement of the Holy Spirit who has been active since Creation began, that is making good people question a church that has become too political and obsessed about other things rather than mystical. Folks are voting with their feet and as a result congregations are diminishing . In my case I'm not rejecting anything , I still go to mass occasionally , but now I'm following my heart not my head. I'm just finding that God is just as Present in nature and all around me in everyday events & people as He is in the Eucharist .
I don't find dogmatic doctrinal thinking attractive , and maybe ordinary folks like me are looking elsewhere for spiritual nourishment . Godbless .

Virginia Schilz
7 months 2 weeks ago

I agree with your comments. The statement regarding the church becoming too political and obsessed with other things is absolutely spot on. I am 72 so we have traveled a path that has seemingly hit a dead end. Perhaps it is time to retreat and ponder why our church has become a "nilly Willy" empty of true teaching and very divided. We are now being exiled into Babylon.

Sandi Sinor
7 months 2 weeks ago

Mr. Jackson - you understand what is happening.

"It's about something else . The prophetic words of Karl Rahner "in the future the Christian will be a mystic or nothing" has something to do with it . . I don't believe the people of God are 'losing their faith' by not attending a church,,they are discovering that God is indeed present in their hearts and at the centre of their lives . ... I ... don't need to go to a church to be with God. I .. . am 90% convinced that there has been some global shift in consciousness, call it a movement of the Holy Spirit ....that is making good people question a church that has become too political and obsessed about other things rather than mystical.

Obsessions that have nothing to do with the spiritual. Many writers blessed with the gift of discernment have described this disaffection with organized religion as-it-is-now as being a movement of the Holy Spirit, as do you.

The article conveys misunderstandings and recommendations that are, as you note, both immature and naive, especially naive. I have read a number of books, and dozens and dozens of articles in recent years about people not coming to mass (or to church in general), a whole range of excuses and explanations. Also, I have read dozens of articles promoting a wide range of "fixes", none of which have changed the trend. Each "model" of church attracts a small core of aficionados, but do not bring back those for whom spirituality (rather than dogma and ritual) is of the highest importance. This is especially true of the young adults, who are leaving church in droves - not just Catholic, not just mainline Protestant, but organized institutional religion - including the "conservative" protestant evangelical and Baptist churches. Millions have decided that organized religion is an obstacle in the journey towards God rather than a guiding light on the path.

The information about why this is happening is out there. If those in organized religion who wring their hands over what has been happening would stop the blame game (as this priest does - he essentially says the "problem" is with those who don't show up on Sunday, without looking any deeper at the "why") and would take the time to read the interviews, the studies, etc - to listen to those who have left without pre-conceived ideas as to why they left and don't come back - they might begin to understand why so many have become "spiritual but not religious".

Articles such as this one will not "reach" those who left church to seek a deep spiritual life with God. Plus, the comments that often follow such articles, such as a couple in this discussion, are often so un-christian that the disaffected feel affirmed in their decision to leave organized religion.

Denis Jackson
7 months 2 weeks ago

Seems like we agree on a lot Sandi !
I think Richard Rohr has it together .

Jaroslav Lunda
7 months 2 weeks ago

"Millions have decided that organized religion is an obstacle in the journey towards God rather than a guiding light on the path."
This is well known: YES to Jesus, NO to His church. YES to life, NO to dogma. And so on.
But it has nothing to do with movement of the Holy Spirit. Rather, it is movement of the body or perhaps even imitatio diaboli - especially if it leads to an absence from Eucharist.

Frank Lesko
7 months 2 weeks ago

Denis (as well as Virginia and Sandi), these are some of the most uplifting comments I have read in a long time. Really hit home. The key word here is "and." I'm reluctant to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but we don't have to. God is everywhere, we can touch the hem of his garment anywhere. The Mass can help a lot of us tune in, but it's about inclusivity not exclusivity. Its what the great saints and mystics have been pointing to all along, if we only have eyes to see and ears to hear. It reminds me of a John Denver tune: "I didn't know... that I could see you in singing skies and dancing waters, laughing children growing old and in the heart and in the spirit and in the truth, when it is told."

Dennis Hayes
7 months 2 weeks ago

amen.

Alice Ritter
7 months 2 weeks ago

I agree with what you said. In addition, I get so angry and confused when I read about the cardinals in our church disagreeing with one another. Cardinal Tobin supports something then Cardinal Burke thinks the opposite. What are we to believe when even our cardinals are fighting? And opposing the pope!

I want to have a relationship with God that is clear and pure. I can go to 10 different churches and each has a different vision of what that looks like. That pushes me to find that on my own. Maybe it is the Holy Spirit, maybe it is confusion and discontent.

Lifelong Catholic. Catholic Schools. Kids went to Catholic schools. Unhappy. Still go to weekly mass mostly out of habit.

James Balma
7 months 2 weeks ago

Thanks so much for this article. My experience, in returning to weekly mass, was to follow your recommendation regarding praying every day. Once I learned that prayer (especially meditative prayer) is an active process; then, the mass changed radically for me from a passive activity, of expecting "it" to do something for me; to an active participatory event. I do believe that we should be bombarded with articles on how to pray. It, for me, was not a simple activity to develop a fruitful prayer life; and we should acknowledge that are many paths to get there. "One size does not fit all"

Peggy Frey
7 months 2 weeks ago

Thanks, Fr. Benz for this article. Some of the commenters have made the observation that your comments may be naive or out of touch with the reality of people who do and who do not show up for Mass on Sunday. I attend a Catholic church where the music is excellent and so is the preaching both of which hold a great deal of importance from the archdiocesan standpoint to enhance the worship service. I started returning to Mass last year after a 20 year struggle with the Catholic Church and some of its archaic responses to the laity. The church I belong to is an "intentional community"; that is, people come from all over to attend services. However, I realized how really out of touch the priest and deacon are with the community of lay people sitting in front of them last Sunday, which was vocation Sunday. They extolled the virtues of the priest and religious vocations and how they need more and more and more, and more money to get more so-called vocations, all the while ignoring the vocations of all of the lay people sitting in front of them in the congregation who also are called to a deeper spirituality through their lived vocations in whatever form of life they live in and have been called to. The Catholic Church has a very rich spiritual history that wasn't made only by priests and religious, but by all people who participated in its history. Let's have an real spiritual discussion that goes beneath the surface of empty pews at Mass, to see where the priest and religious are actually failing in their vocations as God's servants. Listen to the Lay people and listen to the yearning for deep spirituality in the shallow lives we all lead. I hope you and your editors read our comments, because there is some good information for you in these comments, if you would actually take the time to acknowledge and listen to the lay people who may or may not be sitting in the pews on Sunday. Thanks for a thoughtful article, and a thoughtful magazine.

Denis Jackson
7 months 2 weeks ago

I agree with you Peggy!
I am so grateful for the Church in my life . It was a stage in my journey to God in this earthly pilgrimage . But as you say it really needs to listen to us the laity . Everyone has a vocation!
But I'm searching on my spiritual radar for signs of the new christconsciousness in the paradigm shift ......which is happening .

Dennis Hayes
7 months 2 weeks ago

i am 82 years, lifelong catholic, now fasting from the church and eucharist after finally tiring of having priest after priest impose their own image on communities, sometimes overturning years of devoted and loving development by said communities. i'll take my chances with God in death, i cannot but follow my conscience. the roman church in north america seems determined not to allow community development,
choosing instead to impose clericalism on the people of God. i look forward to the final judgement. meanwhile, my spouse and i are church, along with friends. jesus weeps.

Lisa Weber
7 months 2 weeks ago

This is a good article. Church can be frustrating at times, but you get out of church about as much as you put into it.

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