Why Go to Mass?

To evoke lively conversations, ask why so many Catholics no longer go to Mass. Some people will cite doctrinal issues like birth control, divorce and remarriage, and sexual mores. Others will speak of their experiences of the church as irrelevant to their lives. Others will cite church scandals; and others, the fact that a priest, nun or another parishioner made them feel unwelcome.

Some say they have little time for church. This is a particular problem for families who have two working parents and children involved in organized sports and activities like band and drama. There are elderly parents to visit and care for. Boredom enters the equation in our hyper society. For getting on the family calendar, what pastor can compete with quality drama or the philharmonic, or even self-help groups with immediate and lasting effects?

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They look at how the church relates to their lives, perhaps missing that church is also about how people relate to God. Are people looking for too much? A pastor from Maryland reports that “there is a need for people’s experience of the church to be ‘transformative,’ but it is not merely about a euphoric feeling people sometimes look for. If that is what they are looking for, then they will be disappointed and give up on it. I think we have to do a better job of expressing the purpose of our worship.”

All of which challenge the church.

The Diocese of Springfield, Ill., tackled the question in 2013 and 2014 with Benedictine University’s report “Joy and Grievance in an American Diocese: Results from Online Surveys of Active and Inactive Catholics in Central Illinois.” According to the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, CARA, the two-part survey does not meet scientific sampling standards because it’s a convenience sample, not a true random sample, what is called a “volunteer sample.” Yet the results were interesting.

The survey results provided a summary of views of the 575 inactive and 827 active Catholics who responded. My own casual canvassing found similar rationales.

Some of those surveyed say “they closed my church,” which means some people equate closure of their parish church building as closure of the very church with which they identify, where they experienced their own and their siblings’ and children’s sacraments, like baptism, first Communion, confirmation and marriage, as well as family funerals. It is a narrow understanding of church.

Others say, “I don’t get anything out of going to church.” They were expecting good feelings? The right numbers for the lottery? Feeling all good inside?

“I’m too busy to go to church and I work three jobs,” which may be a paraphrase for “I have better, or at least other things to do.”

People feel marginalized. This can be especially true for women, given their exclusion from one of the seven sacraments. There also are the separated, the divorced and remarried and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual Catholics. When they hear homilies against what they are at their very core, they do not feel understood or strengthened by what comes from the pulpit. For people in marriages not recognized by the church, the church’s annulment process doesn’t look encouraging either.

Pope Francis, in his apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel, highlights the parish’s significance.

The parish is not outdated, he said. He added that “precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community.”

Homilies, said Francis, need to carry a fitting sense of proportion. He added that “this would be seen in the frequency with which certain themes are brought up and in the emphasis given to them in preaching.” He said that “if in the course of the liturgical year a parish priest speaks about temperance 10 times but only mentions charity or justice two or three times, an imbalance results…. The same thing happens when we speak more about law than about grace, more about the church than about Christ, more about the pope than about God’s word.” How to address these matters awaits another day and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

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Sandi Sinor
2 years 6 months ago
Sr. Walsh has provided a good summary of some of the many reasons the majority of baptized Catholics in the US do not go to mass. The question remains - WHY go to mass?
ed gleason
2 years 6 months ago
Maybe we have too few of the holy laypeople who would attract back the fallen away. That is showing God's grace in action to the ones who are looking.for hope to see the Way. .Francis, to engage the non engaged will just need 10% of the loyal faithful to start 'showing the flag'. The "showing of the flag' is done by action/praxis on this Pope's small preachings and very little to do with professing belief in esoteric doctrine. . 10% is the usual tipping point.. . . .
Martin Eble
2 years 6 months ago
"Esoteric doctrine" is what distinguishes a Christian from a Jew or Muslim, and a Catholic from a Baptist.
Jack Rakosky
2 years 6 months ago
CARA recently reported: “What has held steadier (than Mass attendance) is the frequency with which Catholics have their own conversations with God in their daily lives. Just fewer than six in ten Catholic pray daily and this has remained relatively unchanged since the early 1980s.” So the question should be rephrased: Why do most Catholics who pray daily, also not go to Mass weekly, or even monthly? They certainly connect with God on a daily basis in prayer. Why do they not connect with the Church at worship? This connection with God and prayer should be the starting place of an affirmative approach. We should have large signs saying “Do you pray daily? Come worship with us this weekend?” The Vibrant Parish Life Survey of the Diocese of Cleveland published in April 2003 with 129 participating parishes and 46,241 responses found that “Masses that are prayerful, reverent and spiritually moving” ranked first among 39 items in importance but only 21st in being well done. “The parish as a supportive, caring community” ranked second in importance but again only 18th in being well done. In the same study “Parish leadership that listens to the concerns of parishioners” ranked 7th in importance but was 29th in being well done; this was the largest importance-well done gap in the whole survey. Bottom line: parish leaders need to stop talking and begin listening. A clue to why other denominations are doing better is provided by a very interesting but relatively unknown journal article hidden not only behind a paywall but also a wall of statistical analysis. I summarized it for the PrayTell blog. http://www.praytellblog.com/index.php/2010/07/19/the-liturgical-year-and-average-church-attendance/ The bottom line is that conservative Protestant churches may have average higher church attendance because they emphasize going to church every Weekend rather than seasonally with the liturgical year. They back this emphasis with a high quality service every Weekend and emphasis on socializing every Weekend. In others words conservative Protestant churches are meeting the needs identified in the Vibrant Parish Life Study for higher quality liturgy and more community on the Weekends.
Sandi Sinor
2 years 6 months ago
Fellowship is a big draw for evangelical churches and they work hard at building community and making newcomers feel welcome. However, they too are losing members overall, especially among the young. Barna has done some recent studies on this, along with Pew. The Baptists are also experiencing an exodus. What is happening to the Catholic church is happening to almost all christian churches.
J Cosgrove
2 years 6 months ago
I think all these reasons are made up excuses and not the real reason. The real reason is lack of belief. Anyone not attending Mass can be laid to one thing only, they do not believe. What do they not believe? The most common non-belief is that there is no God and if there is no God, why would anyone waste their time on an essentially boring process where the same prayers are repeated day after day, week after week etc. I am not advocating a change in the Mass but just reflecting on what I have heard. The second non-belief is even if they believe in a creator, it is not one that takes part in our lives. Essentially they are deists but no one uses that term anymore. They may say they are agnostics because they have heard that term. If asked if there is a god, they will say yes but then act like it doesn't make a difference. They are certainly not candidates for attending Mass even if they were brought up Catholic. It has no relevance. The third non-belief is that there is a God and it is probably the Judeo/Christian God but why bother with the Catholic Church since it is just one of the thousand institutions that worship this God and their ceremony has no meaning to them. The Catholic Church has helped this attitude with its attitude about its role in this world. We are just one of many and nothing special about us. Come join us because we have an interesting history and are interested in helping the poor like any other church. It has become a social club for a lot of people, one that is preferred by many but for others, one that is not as good as the other social clubs nearby which also says they are religions. Another problem is that few understand the Mass. Every look at the blank faces of many who attend? Tap anyone on the shoulder during Mass and ask them what is the meaning and history of this part of the Mass, and they will not have a clue. Except for the consecration and its connection to the Last Supper, they will be speechless. A lot of the issues with people leaving the Church could be corrected if they were taught early on the parts of the Mass and why they are there and then reinforced during religious education and even in the homilies by priests. Then they might pay more attention during Mass and believe Catholics have something unique to offer. Which is what I believe.
Jeanne Linconnue
2 years 6 months ago
It has already been mentioned on this thread that the exodus from organized religion is not just in the Catholic church. It is pretty much across the board within Christianity, and also in Judaism. All the recent studies indicate that most who do not go to church do believe in God and that they also pray and that they have a moral code. Many read the bible regularly. So it's not really a simple matter of unbelief. It is certainly not due to the fact of not understanding the parts of the mass, as that doesn't impact Baptists or Methodists or evangelical christians, all of whom are also losing members. Simplistic explanations don't go to the heart of the matter. The band-aids some want to apply won't stop the bleeding out. Until the roots of the disaffection with organized religion are clear, there will be no way to stop it. It happened in Europe, it's happening in the US, and it's also beginning in Latin America. The rejection of organized religion occurs as people become more broadly educated. They now have access to information and news at a moment's notice. Many are greatly disillusioned with organized religion, but not with God, nor with seeking a spiritual path. Pew Research has done many interesting studies of religion in the US. While ALL christian religious groups and Judaism have shown significant statistically measurable declines in recent years, Buddhism has eked out a small gain of .3% in spite of the fact that 50% of those born Buddhist leave as adults. So, in the US, 72% of Buddhists are converts (mostly euro-descended rather than Asian). The only group showing a larger gain than the Buddhists are the numbers of self-declared "unaffiliated". Another interesting response from American Buddhists relates to general personal satisfaction with their lives. "American Buddhists tend to be satisfied with their personal lives. In a survey question (from the Pew Landscape report) asking "All in all, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in your personal life?" 90% of Buddhist respondents stated satisfied; the highest percentage of any religious group. Only 8% reported "dissatisfied"; the lowest of any religious group.
Jack Rakosky
2 years 6 months ago
The roots of dissatisfaction with organized religion are indeed not clear. For example there is the rise of "independent" congregations among Protestants, and a tendency among congregations to mask denominational identity when it exists. Among the standard alternatives for religious identity has been the word "Protestant." Gallup reports that people are declining to use this word but instead answering "Christian" or "Other." Gallup now uses the word Protestant to label "Non-Catholic" Christians. In an interesting study of the words "being spiritual" and "being religious" across age groups. the researchers found the oldest people understood "religion" well but did not know what "spiritual" meant. Middle age people understood both words and that they were not quite the same. The youngest people understood what "spiritual" meant but where not quite sure what "being religious" meant.
Jeanne Linconnue
2 years 6 months ago
I had not been aware of the falling off in the self-identifier of Protestant. I have read studies that document that most of those who no longer affiliate with organized religion do say that they seek the spiritual, and not religion. The word "religion" has negative connotations for them. They see religion as being a list of 'thou shalt nots", as exclusive, as judgmental, and, most importantly, as having little to do with developing a relationship with God. They seek a path to God and they find that in spirituality. The independent Protestant denominations may have a few things in common with Intentional Eucharistic Communities. They are throwing off the institutions that they can no longer be part of, while retaining belief, worship traditions, and community.
Jack Rakosky
2 years 6 months ago
Frank Newport, Gallup's Editor in Chief, has a fine book GOD IS ALIVE AND WELL, The Future of Religion in America (2012). It is a more positive view of the future of religion in America, a nice balance to those who are more worried. For example he predicts the baby boomers will become more religious as they retire, and has some evidence for it. Also rather easy to read, and gives background to the questions and methodology that are easy to read. That is where I found the discussion of "Protestant." Newport is continuing the founder Gallup's interest in religion. The Gallup website often has brief reports on religion from their daily research studies but these tend to get buried in all the politics and business orientation of the website.
Martin Eble
2 years 6 months ago
Historically denominations and sects which throw off the institutions that they can no longer be part of while retaining belief, worship traditions, and community devolve within a couple of generations. Two readily accessible examples are the continental Old Catholics and the Church of England. Were a Dutch Old Catholic or an Anglican from 1885 to visit their respective churches today, they would hardly recognize the beliefs or worship traditions. Severing yourself from the Magisterium ensures your children, grandchildren, and greatgrandchildren will be practicing an increasingly different religion than you do.
J Cosgrove
2 years 6 months ago
I stand by my comment. The problem is lack of belief. I doubt that young people not affiliated with an organized religious experience are really praying in any great numbers. We can disagree on the value of understanding what the Mass is about. I have found few Catholics and no young people who understand the various parts of the Mass and their origin. It is not a panacea for correcting Mass attendance but it can only help with knowing just what it is about. Buddhism is not a religion. It is a way of life and a person practicing Buddhism could go to Mass quite faithfully. My son is experimenting with it now, mainly meditation or mindfulness in order to help him lead a better life. For many it is a cult like experience and by that I am not being negative on it, but some go overboard. An advantage is that many of the practices have recognizable positive benefits.
Jeanne Linconnue
2 years 6 months ago
I stand by my comment also, however I will expand and clarify. There may be a "lack of belief", but the lack of belief is not primarily a lack of belief in God, in the divine, in the spiritual, although the numbers of atheists and agnostics are also growing. Yet they are still a relatively small minority. It is a lack of belief in the man-made institutions and their leadership - a lack of faith in organized religion. Many, many studies have been done by highly qualified researchers that, in the west, show that the numbers of "spiritual but not religious" are growing rapidly, and that they are coming from almost all religious backgrounds, with the exceptions of the Mormonism and Islam. The studies show belief in God, that many do pray (that you choose not to believe them may indicate some possible preconceptions on your part), and that many seek a "way", which is the attraction of Buddhism. You are right that Buddhism is not a religion. But it offers a spiritual philosophy, it focuses on compassion, and it defines a "way" of life that appeals to many. Because of this, many, like your son, do follow some Buddhist practices while also keeping some attachment to the religion they were raised in. Ironically, most western converts are attracted to Buddhism by many of the same messages and ideas that Jesus taught, but which seem to have been buried under the weight of 2000 years of increasing legalism in christianity. In the early years of the church, the followers of Jesus were sometimes described as the "people of the way" - the way taught by Jesus. Jesus taught compassion as does Buddhism. Fr. Thomas Keating, seeing that many are attracted to certain practices of eastern religion, started teaching lay christians to meditate - centering prayer. Meditation has been part of the christian tradition since almost the beginning, but it fell away as prayer came to be defined more by written and rote spoken prayer, including the liturgy. So few christians and Catholics know anything at all about how to practice christian meditation. Centering Prayer now involves christians from a range of christian denominations but even today, years after Keating started teaching CP, few Catholics have ever even heard of it. The current code of Canon Law comprises seven books, with 1752 canons (actually smaller than the 1917 code!). An advanced degree is required of those who interpret and enforce it. The Catechism of the Catholic church runs to 1000 pages. The New Testament has fewer than 300 pages, of which only 129 are the gospels. Is it any wonder that so many Catholics see the church as more a legal institution than a spiritual one? They are taught rules, laws, precepts of the church, seven sacraments, etc, etc etc. They are taught a lot about the Catholic church, including the parts of the mass, a form of worship governed by another set of rules, called the GIRM. And God help any priest who departs from it - you never know when the temple police might be there, ready to report to the Bishop. What did Jesus teach about "laws" - the commandments? That the two essential commandments are to love. Jesus' followers did not need advanced degrees to understand his teachings. They did not need to know the parts of the mass. They believed in Him and in what He taught, this wandering Jewish teacher who himself knew nothing of Canon Law or the Catechism of the Catholic church.. The exodus has little to do with knowing the parts of the Catholic mass. Knowing the parts of the mass as an academic understanding does not draw people in. It's like studying symphonies - few who love classical music care about the academic definition of a symphony - several movements of different tempos and moods. They enter into the music itself, it attracts through its beauty and harmony, not through knowing its "parts". Some may want to more academically, and may study a bit about the elements that characterize symphonies, but it comes after they have been drawn in already. Some want to know more, but most are just happy to listen and be caught up in the music. And, as mentioned before, since all christian denominations are experiencing this exodus, as is Judaism, the parts of the mass seem to have little to do with it. If this exodus is seen as a problem, then it is important to analyze the true reasons for it, and not simply jump to a conclusion. Somehow more "catechesis" seems to be the preferred answer, rather than turning to what Jesus himself taught. The Catholic church used to rely on fear (and a mostly uneducated population) to make sure people went to mass. Much of evangelical Protestantism also uses fear of hell to get people into the church on Sunday. The Catholics turned missing mass into a "mortal" sin that could send someone to hell for all eternity if unfortunate enough to be hit by lightening while on the golf course instead of in the church. But people began to reject this type of religion. The "sbnr"s reject legalistic religion, religion that judges and condemns and excludes rather than loves and forgives and includes. So maybe it's time for organized religion to look in the mirror and see what image they present to others.
Martin Eble
2 years 6 months ago
A lack of “belief in the man-made institutions and their leadership” would only explain a lack of Mass attendance if individuals refraining from attending believed that rather than a divinely instituted Sacrament in which Our Lord communicates Himself in a real and substantial way, the Eucharist is a man-made institution. That goes back to the collapse of catechesis. When I read that what Jesus taught “seem(s) to have been buried under the weight of 2000 years of increasing legalism in christianity”, I note that Westerners generally have an increasing desire not to be told what to do, which may be a better explanation. Catholicism has become increasingly less legalistic, which can be demonstrated by simply picking up a Catholic calendar from 1955 and comparing its fasts, abstinences, partial abstinences, and so on with the vastly simplified rubrics of Catholic life in 2015. Or visit an Orthodox parish for the same lesson. The average Catholic has no need to read, be familiar with, interpret, or enforce the current code of Canon Law. Those that actually bear on leading a Catholic life for the average layperson are less complicated than any American state’s traffic laws, and people seem to grasp those for the most part. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is comprehensive because it is a reference work. If a Catholic sees the Church as more a legal institution than a spiritual one, then, something else is going on. My own experience has been it is most often (a) that Catholic is dealing with an issue, such as divorce and remarriage, in which the “law” is getting in the way of what they wish to do, or (b) that Catholic is experiencing difficulties with authority in general. As to what Jesus taught about "laws", read Matthew 5:17-19. There were ten commandments, not two, not because you need an advanced degree to understand God’s commandments, but because human nature is such (“hardness of hearts”) that if something is not spelled out in simple terms, people have a tendency to pay little or no attention to it. The Catholic Church has always reminded folks to behave as though your very life depended on it - because it does. That is not fear mongering, that is being both blunt and solicitous of your welfare. To that end, and because Jesus Himself told us that the Eucharist was the very life we desire, the Church obliged Catholics to have something to eat (spiritually) once a week. As children we did not like our parents making us eat a balanced meal, but our physical health depended on it. Perhaps the problem is not organized religion, perhaps the problem is stiff-necked individuals who want to do exactly what they want, exactly when they want, exactly how they want, and nothing more. Somehow that does not sound like a path that will lead to salvation.
Bruce Snowden
2 years 6 months ago
Why Go To Mass? I think Jesus was talking to his disciples about his healing miracles when he promised that they would do "even greater things." That promise is daily fulfilled at Mass, when 'the Word" scripture readings, "become Flesh" the Body, Blood, Soul, Divinity, of the Resurrected Jesus, at the Altar of Sacrifice, chaliced in homiletic preparation. If this is not true, then yes, Why Go To Mass? If it is true, why not go to Mass! It's as simple as that.
Martin Eble
2 years 6 months ago
If individuals want an endorsement of their particular sins, bad choices, or prejudices rather than hear homilies “against what they are at their very core”, attendance at Mass should be the last thing on their list. That is as it should be - we are called to repent and convert, not get endorsed. Individuals who wish to be entertained have numerous options. Individuals who wish to commune with Jesus in a belief community really have only one option. Two millennia of Christian martyrs did not give their lives so that today’s Christians could avoid being annoyed. Unmentioned is the collapse of belief that Jesus Christ is truly present in the Eucharist - a side effect of the parallel collapse of catechesis. If a person truly believes that in the Mass we participate in the eternal sacrifice of Christ to the Father of Himself, that we are fed spiritually with the very source of our life and joined in a mystical way with the Church in Heaven, piddling complaints about this or that annoyance would not stand in the way of participating in that for which Christians have died. It is amazing the number of times college theology professors find that Catholic students are unaware that the Church believes that Christ becomes truly present at the consecration. What were their teachers doing in the previous twelve years of Catholic education? And why would anyone be surprised that their interest in the Mass is low?
Louis Candell
2 years 6 months ago
The Mass is valuable to many, as it should be. Nonetheless, I believe that the more important concern is whether or not more or less people are actually living according to the Christ's commandment to love God and your neighbor as yourself. Church attendance is no guarantee, in and of itself, that Catholics or any other Christian believer, are adhering to this tenet.
Martin Eble
2 years 6 months ago
It is rather hard to love God and not follow his Church, join the Catholic community, commune with Him as can only be done in the Eucharist. Separating living the Gospel from belief and worship invariably leads to difficulties with both.
Sandi Sinor
2 years 6 months ago
Perhaps you don't know many people who aren't Catholic? I know many, many people who love God and who aren't Catholic. They follow the gospel and some of them think that the Catholic church doesn't seem to have much use for what Jesus actually taught. All wrapped up in catechisms and encyclicals and papal bulls instead of the gospel.
Martin Eble
2 years 6 months ago
Perhaps you did not read the statement you are responding to? The discussion, from the article itself forward, deals with Catholics not attending Mass. It is reasonable to assume that non-Catholics will not be attending Mass.
Sandi Sinor
2 years 6 months ago
I read it. >|"It is rather hard to love God and not follow his Church, join the Catholic community, commune with Him as can only be done in the Eucharist." This seems to imply that one cannot love God even though not an active member of the Catholic church. Not true. Separating living the Gospel from belief and worship invariably leads to difficulties with both. This also implies that one cannot live the Gospel without being a member of the Catholic church. There are many paths to God. Many live the Gospel and believe what Christ taught without being members of any church at all. That's my point. If you believe I missed yours, well, then, mea culpa.
Martin Eble
2 years 6 months ago
Rather than continue a parallel redundant thread of conversation, I will respond in the discussion above this one.
Beth Cioffoletti
2 years 6 months ago
Way back in the early 1970s I was taking a college theology course on "Sacraments". Since this was a Catholic university (University of Dayton), 6 credits in theology, I think, were required for graduation. The instructor was rather dry, and the class was mostly bored. I was frustrated. I wrote my final paper on the relationship between sacraments and reality, and that the reason that sacraments were "boring" was because there was no connection made with these church rituals and how we knew and lived our lives. Sacraments were done in Church; real life was outside the doors of the church. I drew on Celtic writings that held out that the very earth and air and water and night and day were sacred and holy - the sacrament itself. What we are doing in the Church ritual is recognizing and affirming the holiness inherent in our (outside of church) lives. This is what I think is still missing in the typical American parish community. There is a boredom that you can see in the peoples' faces. A rote monotone to the words; sacred as they are, they sound like something that has been said over and over again and lost their meaning. It is all mostly an "obligation" of some sort. A club meeting where occasional attendance is required. I am still seeking the parish community that truly does serve the poor, visit the prisoners, welcome the outcast. The best liturgies I find are in monasteries, where a Mass might take 2 hours, but everything is done with such deliberateness that all of reality (even that outside of the church) becomes charged with holiness and meaning. Sacramental.
Martin Eble
2 years 6 months ago
You relate that sacraments were boring because there was no connection made between these rituals and how we live. Assuming you entered a Catholic university after twelve years of Catholic education, did anyone ever bother to walk you through the sacraments, their origins, and their purposes? My experience is that overwhelmingly the answer is “no”. For example, they are not “church rituals”, they are aids to our everyday lives given to us by Our Savior Himself. Since they are sources of grace for our live and stations, they are considerably more than recognition of “holiness inherent in our .... lives.” The way to find a parish community that truly does serve the poor, visit the prisoners, and welcome the outcast is to join a parish and make it one. We are the leaven, the world is the bread. It is not going to get delivered on your dinner plate cooked, garnished, and ready to eat. I find interesting that you say that the “.... best liturgies I find are in monasteries”, quite the opposite of our everyday lives. That may be what’s missing in your sacramental life, the sense of the sacred, of taking time out from our day to day existence to dwell and commune with our Creator. Fifty years of watered down liturgy aimed at the lowest common denominator and served up like a happy meal has left many people feeling that void. People who get nothing much in the way of Catholicism in their “Catholic” education should be entitled to refunds.
Beth Cioffoletti
2 years 6 months ago
Martin, I think that we are more on the same wavelength than appears in our wordings. There are plenty of little things we could quibble about, but I think that we are basically on the same page. I get what you're saying about joining a parish and welcoming the outcast, visiting the prisoner, serving the poor -- but there are ways of doing that outside of a parish setting: bringing my faith to more secular or ecumenical settings. What I'm looking for is a group of people "living and affirming and supporting one another in an alternative lifestyle. The individual can hardly live an alternative consciousness by himself or herself. The pressure to conform is too great, and the eyes (and words) to see it are just not there. It is no surprise that the word "non-violence" did not come into usage till the early 20th century." (from Richard Rohr's recent posting) There are Catholic communities who lean in this direction, but they are few and far between. I do participate in activities and Masses at local parishes, especially my weekly contemplative prayer group. But I'm still unsure about joining a local parish, and I know very many Catholics who are like I am. I know this sounds arrogant, but it's almost like we've outgrown what is happening at the parish level. (hate to be so honest, but that's how it is.)
Jack Rakosky
2 years 6 months ago
The classic Catholic model of church participation was an urban one, with the possibility of participating in the cathedral church, parish churches, monasteries, shrines, and the chapels of various Catholic institutions. With all these locations there were various associations. That model is a far cry from the recent American Catholic parish as Protestant congregation with the expectation that everything goes on in the parish. My local suburban parish is one of the largest in the diocese with three priests and a wide variety of parish groups. However it does not have particularly good liturgies. When I have been active in some of the parish groups I go to Mass in the parish. However when I am not active in a group I travel 20 miles to a parish with an excellent liturgy all the time: sung Eucharistic Prayer, homily by a scripture scholar, excellent award winning choir, and excellent congregational singing. I am also fortunate to have a friendly Orthodox parish close by where I go for the Divine Office for the vigils of Sundays and Feast Days. Although they do not have daily Divine Liturgy, they celebrate important feasts like the Annunciation and Transfiguration. For several summers a local parish with fine acoustics did an a Capella Mass to give their choir and organist a break. Since I was employed in the public mental health system before I retired, I agree very much that there are many civic and ecumenical opportunities even in affluent suburbs for serving people, and many of those opportunities are better than the ones in our parishes. I have found it much easier to initiate activities in those environments than in parish bureaucracies.
Beth Cioffoletti
2 years 6 months ago
There is an awkward divide between those who are explicit in their religious position and the many who - for whatever reason - switch off as soon as there is any mention of spirituality or religion. I am intrigued by individuals such as Thomas Berry and Rosalie Bertell who, though members of religious orders, worked powerfully and influentially in their respective theatres revealing the depth of both their commitment to justice and transformation and - especially in Thomas Berry's case - the centrality of a mystical understanding of life and death. Both Thomas Berry and Rosalie Bertell revealed the deeper nature of their work through their conduct and through the clarity of their moral/ethical positions rather than through explicit evangelizing.
Jim Coyle
2 years 6 months ago
I'm rather surprised not to see a common complaint here. Frankly, many priests lack public speaking skills, lack real engagement with the faithful, and lack conviction when celebrating the Mass. Nothing turns off people faster than having a priest read a sermon to the faithful. There's a huge difference between a priest talking and engaging with the faithful and his reading a sermon he wrote three years ago, or in haste the previous night. The faithful want to be spoken to, not read to. Perhaps I'm showing my age, but I see few priests these days who seem to have a sense of conviction when celebrating the Mass. I just don't see them behaving as if they're turning bread and wine into the body and blood of God The Son. Instead it's done by rote, will a minimum of reverence instead of awe and humility. If the priest isn't into the Mass, the faithful won't be either. On top of this, lectors often don't read or speak well, and choir directors, rather than being imbued with the Spirit, play or sing notes at tempos more appropriate for a dirge. I go to Mass in spite of this, but I can't blame my fellow Catholics who no longer go to Mass when there's little, if any, sense of the Divine, of real joy and of enthusiasm. This spirit has to be seen in priests who know how to engage their people, and who can inspire. Only when this joy and enthusiasm is the norm, rather than the exception, will the fallen away return.
Kate Gallagher
2 years 6 months ago
The way I see it, there are lots of different kinds of mass – from the short and quiet weekday morning thing, in-and-out-in-20-minutes, to the full-on, soup-to-nuts Easter vigil with gold vestments and full choir. And everything in between. Even at the ordinary Sunday mass, you have the family version, the guitar version, the solemn version... there are as many variations as there are communities, and add to that centuries of different traditions in every national culture in the world. But there’s something in common to all of these masses, and if you can latch onto that, even if only for a moment (even if, the rest of the time, you are bored or annoyed, and regardless of the priest’s abilities or lack thereof) then that one aspect will make it worthwhile. You have to put something into it to get something out of it, and that something is pretty much everything. That said, of course we all prefer substantial homilies and congenial music and like-minded communities where we feel at home. But that’s not the same thing as the mass.
CAESAR BELCHEZ
2 years 6 months ago
That I need to connect, that the One who Transcends is drawing me in through and with others- is what makes me come to the Table. What turns me off is a liturgy that is lethargy.
Kidd Icarus
2 years 6 months ago
every mass i go to is SRO (standing room only). im in my 30s. my friends that go - married, settled down. my friends that dont go - associate the institution's sins with the Faith. i would encourage a hospitality ministry revolution. I. mobile apps that include 1) before: locate nearest mass; carpool; urgent needs for mass - i.e. "we need ushers!" reminders when mass begins - parking recommendations - attire (to match vestments) 2) during: readings for the day with explanations, homily from usccb - or local priests can submit their homilies, *Note: not to interrupt mass, but people step outside i.e. babies, breastfeeding, cigarette from a priest whose homily is infuriatingly irrelevant 3) after: memo pad for takeaways from mass; notes with knight of columbus dude; upcoming events. app would be distributed through diocesan office. II. hospitality during mass - any person who is alone should be approached and welcomed and signed up for something - and get em to be first in the donut line. ive been to many parishes going solo and rarely have been approached at all. no one goes to mass to be left alone. thank you for reading
Georgiana Cameron
2 years 6 months ago
Your thoughts are all great. Doing something to feel part of the community always helps.
Andrew Raymond
2 years 6 months ago
I turned my back on mass, along with active participation in the music ministry, after a sermon included the statement by our pastor that if you didn't vote Republican you weren't a real Catholic. I haven't been back yet because I'm scared, even in these days of Papa Francis, of hearing it again.
Martin Eble
2 years 6 months ago
In many years I have never once heard a priest or bishop endorse a political party. Are you sure that what he said was not that you cannot support a candidate who considers abortion a basic human right? There are many parishes, so being offended by a single sermon is probably not moral justification for avoiding Mass altogether. And of what are you afraid? Sticks and stones and crosses may break your bones, but words can never hurt you. If you feel that this particular priest was out of line, contact your bishop and continue going to Mass somewhere.
Annette Magjuka
2 years 6 months ago
There is a different kind of parenting and a strong focus on careers, for both men and women. Kids are over scheduled and as someone already wrote, many sporting events happen on the weekends. I am almost 60 and when I was growing up, the answer to why we kids had to do something was, "Because I said so." It was accepted that the parents knew best and that kids should do what the parents said. When we were at school, we were to do as the teacher said. If we complained that mass was boring, my Mom said, "mass is not for your entertainment." It is a time for you to examine your conscience, and to give thanks for the life you have. It is to receive the Body of Christ. If we said we did not like a particular priest, my Mom said, "That is of no consequence. The priest is a representative of Christ on earth. You don't have to like him." She gave similar answers when we complained about teachers. She said, "If you do exactly what the teacher says, you will probably not have any problems." This approach, along with the memorization of Catechism and prayers, preparation for sacraments, etc., made us form a discipline. Going to mass was part of the discipline. Once we developed the capacity for abstract thought and higher level thinking, that discipline and study helped us to consider the bigger, more complex questions. And if you stick with Catholicism over a lifetime, you grow into it. It is there for you to rail against and to support and cradle you. You have lifelong conscience formation. When your whole family is Catholic, it is your religion and your family tradition. Holidays and feasts coincide with holy days and mass. The problem for me is that right now, the church is doing verbal violence to LGBT people and is expecting "the faithful" to join in. "Intrinsically disordered" is not ok. Calling someone this is bullying and wrong. Firing LGBT people for becoming a couple, a human endeavor, is wrong. And asking the faithful to participate, or even to be silently complicit, is a huge problem for me. I am Catholic, but when the bishops do verbal violence, I cannot condone it or stay silent. Inevitably, right wing Catholics tell me I am not the "right kind" of Catholic, and that I should leave the church. I will not leave, I will continue to speak out. When I was in college, I attended daily mass. Now, living in a conservative state and in the suburbs, I often want to jump up and yell at the priest for some of the horrific stuff that comes out of his mouth. So sometimes I go, sometimes I don't. There is a great little church in NC called Green Street. They are inclusive, humble, and full of the Holy Spirit. It is a Methodist church. I go whenever I am in town. After communion, I cross myself. I am still Catholic, but I am longing to hear the priests and bishops preach about love, forgiveness, acceptance, and humility. I do not want to drive any more LGBT youth to suicide or isolation. I do not want the church to inflict pain and suffering to the innocent, made in the image of God. And of course, there are the other perennial issues: women should be priests and priests who abuse should not be allowed near children. My children are still Catholic. We go to mass, we talk about stuff, we don't go to mass. It is different these days. The church has had a fall from grace. No one believes that priests are pure and always a representation of Christ on Earth anymore. No parent would tell a child to do exactly as a priest or teacher says to do. Sometimes, that is very dangerous, right?
Martin Eble
2 years 6 months ago
What horrific stuff comes out of the priest’s mouth?
Henry George
1 year 10 months ago
Annette, Your Mother was right - we have no right to be "entertained" at Mass. You don't have to like the Priest to attend the Mass he presides at. Teachers do have to have oder in the classroom and so students do have to behave. If a priest says "horrific things" gently discuss it with him after Mass. Stand your ground for what you believe is right but stand next to your fellow Catholics at Mass.
Sharon Gannon
2 years 6 months ago
My husband and I attend Mass every week, and he is active in the Knights of Columbus. I feel sorry for people who don't go to church - there's so much fellowship there. I'd bet the people who don't go just don't feel welcome. Does the priest introduce himself every week? Does he stand outside after and say hello to folks? Does he chat up people who he doesn't recognize? I have a seen more than a few priests who were not very friendly, complained a lot about how overworked they are and in general acted like they were doing you a favor if they spent a few minutes at a function.
Craig Vasily
2 years 6 months ago
I have been away from the church far too long. The need to attend mass and be a parishioner once again is a personal one. It's not to convince anyone that I am a Christian or to honk my horn I am attending! I was so misguided and how that transpired is a complicated order of events. I can't get into the situation here. Someday I will talk about it. But for now that will be discussed with my parish priest. I am very happy that the church is still open and available to return too. I hope my kids will follow me into the church but I will not dictate to them, nor will I make them feel they are wrong to not attend. They have a free will and once they see the positive effect of me attending and participating just maybe they will seek the faith in curiosity and for fulfillment in their own life. I am scared and I am returning by taking it one step at a time. No big hoopla or celebration for my return to the church.
Marilyn Burns
2 years 6 months ago
As many others here, I was born and raised a Catholic. After many years of having fallen away from weekly Mass, I have recently returned to my Faith and to full participation in the Mass. I've since reflected on why I left in the first place, or rather, became a lapsed Catholic. Part of it was for many of the reasons cited here in other comments: Too busy, life got in the way, disagreement with Church doctrine, boredom, unable to relate, and profound anger with some of the recent Church scandals these past few decades, in particular the one involving the clergy. I bounced around from pillar to post trying to find a good "fit". I didn't find spiritual satisfaction going solo, and I didn't find it in other denominations. At times, I was more agnostic than believer. But, there was always a pull there. I've come to realize that I was missing that connection that was ingrained in me since childhood. My family was devoutly Catholic. I missed that. I also sorted out my thoughts about who God is, and His relationship with me, on a personal level. I also realized that there is more to the Mass than simply saying words and old familiar prayers. I am focused on that Perfect Sacrifice, and the beauty of the Eucharist. With the exception of the Orthodox Churches, no other religion can validly claim the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of Communion. The music, the ambiance of a Church and its approach to the Mass do count, for sure, but is of minor consequence to me when I focus on the whole meaning of the Mass and the perfect sacrifice at the altar. I also realized that in the midst of the Church scandal that bothered me the most, the sexual abuse by some of its clergy, was not representative of most of the clergy. Yes, I was still bothered that on the more hierarchical level, there seemed to be a policy of disconnect from the reality of the problem and inaction, but that has changed. This Pope is more humble, more connected with his ministry, and more compassionate than his predecessors. He has also asked for forgiveness, and is active and absolute that any clergy who has committed any crime be brought to civil justice, not just shuffled around to another parish. I do hear conformity with Church teaching regarding divorce, sexual orientation and marriage, but not on a condemnation level, rather on a level that God loves us all and is here to save us, and we are to serve all of our fellow humans, regardless of what their condition in life is, regardless of their lifestyles. While the Church cannot condone Gay marriage, we have a LGBT ministry group. We have a support group for those who have had abortions in the past and need psychological counseling. We have a ministry for those who have divorced. While the Church cannot offer sacraments to many of those who have remarried or those who live together without benefit of a Church marriage whether through divorce or lifestyle, this parish does its best to include these and so many others who feel marginalized in being welcome. We have a vibrant community that has youth ministry, ministry to the poor and less fortunate in the Church community and the community at large. We have ministries to the elderly, and so many other ministries, prayer groups, and in other areas of our Church community. We also have a welcoming committee, and on joining the Parish, we literally have a meeting after the designated Mass for new members to sit and learn more about our Parish. We met each of the three priests who welcomed us, asked us about ourselves, and after, we had the chance to speak with them and be welcomed by them. They also have one of the persons on the welcoming committee follow up with contacting us at various times during the year to ask how we are doing and if they can do anything more for us. I spent about a year going to Mass without going to confession or receiving Communion. I focused on what was happening at the altar. In fact, I concentrated on it. I read up on it. I learned more about the Sacrifice of the Mass than I ever had during my previous and active years as a Catholic before lapsing. I finally had such a yearning to receive the Sacred Gift of the Holy Eucharist that I went to confession. It was the most forgiving, welcoming, and beautiful experience. I literally broke down crying when the priest told me, "Welcome Home" and that I knew he really meant it. I wish I had gone back sooner.
Patricia Zubal
2 years 6 months ago
I moved to St. Louis while Raymond Burke was Archbishop. His actions and speech pushed me over the edge. I still respect the church but, at this point in time, I feel it has regressed rather than progressed.
Martin Eble
2 years 6 months ago
What actions and speech particularly? I met him in St Louis and found him to be a congenial if traditional Catholic prelate.
Sara Damewood
2 years 6 months ago
I go to Mass, because Jesus is calling me to communion with Him and my fellow Catholics. Thanks for your insightful article!
Katie Brocklehurst
2 years 6 months ago
I am concerned with the statement regarding "homilies against what they are at their very core" referring to the separated, divorced and remarried, transsexual, homosexual, and bisexual Catholics. I must argue that who one is at his or her "very core" is beautifully and simply a child of God. As a Catholic, I believe that one's life choices, behavioral choices and innate tendencies do not make one's core being. While they certainly shape a person's life and circumstances, and may at times feel like one's identity (especially when, in my personal experience, something is off track in the relationship with God), choices do not make the person. To me, what we are at our very cores are children of God, created in His image and likeness, redeemed by the saving blood of Christ, and called by name to be with Him at His table. We follow because we recognize his voice. Maybe when we don't follow it's because our choices that we have no intention of changing make us uncomfortable in the presence of the Lord. Maybe we need to get better at being in the discomfort and letting the Lord speak to us. I am a faithful Mass attendee and often feel uncomfortable at Mass when I have been making poor choices. But I always find that if I ask the Lord to speak to me through the Word, and heal me through the Eucharist, He never fails.
Ruthann Walters
2 years 6 months ago
I am a religious woman who still works within a church ministry. However, I have stopped going to Mass on Sundays because I have not been able to find any priest in this diocese who is not so concentrated on going back to the Traditional Mass. Every parish in this city has younger priests who wish they could say Mass in Latin, and who are not well-versed in the current Liturgical Documents. They have absolutely no respect for Pope Francis. The Gospel is far less important than fancy vestments, doctrine and Latin, yet you'd never find any of these priests out helping the poor, feeding the hungry. Most, if not all, have gotten rid of altar girls, and will not allow women as Eucharistic Ministers. It doesn't help that our own bishop fully supports them. I miss my old parish in a previous diocese, which was very welcoming of ALL - men, women, single, married, divorced, gays, lesbians, young, old ALL WERE WELCOMED and many were liturgical ministers!
Martin Eble
2 years 6 months ago
It seems unlikely in the extreme that there is not *single* priest not focused on the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. In any case, dislike of the cut of the priest’s jib is hardly moral justification for not going to Mass on Sundays.
Henry George
1 year 10 months ago
Ruthann, Please go back to Mass. The "Holiness" of the priest and his desire to say or not say the Mass in Latin should not so offend you that you will not attend a Mass he is presiding at.
Mary Gillespie
2 years 6 months ago
Hard to express in words but the connection to the Holy Trinity through Mass brightens my heart, fills my soul and prepares me for anything that might happen in a day! I love to participate in the Mass and especially since Vatican II because the words of the Mass move me- touch me- make me so appreciate being a child of God.
G Miller
2 years 6 months ago
I attend a parish in the mid-Atlantic. The homilies are generally good, sometimes even great. Easter found me in New England at a similar parish. (Both run by the same order of priests.) I found the experience much more vibrant and the homily, while brief, was masterful. I found myself wishing that the New England parish be transported south so that I could enjoy it all the time. The great energy. The great vision. The part of me that work does not engage, was fully engaged. The experience lead me to understand that people need scripture applied to their daily lives. And generally I find that most priests either speak in a historical-catechetical context rather than in a way that leads to the application of the scripture passage to a persons heart and to their life. Great homiletics are critical to people going to mass. If the homily speaks to people's hearts, they will keep coming back. When we as Church cease to speak to the heart, well, we see the results of that all around us.
Sandi Sinor
2 years 6 months ago
There was an interesting article at Commonweal a few years ago, related to this topic, asking Why Do We Want People to Stay Catholic, Anyway? So, why do some here care if people they don't even know don't go to Mass? https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/why-do-we-want-people-stay-catholic-anyway

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