“Sorry, No Steeple…but we do have a drive-thru” is what the clever, cool, hip billboard sign proclaims.
I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant so I didn’t pay it much never-mind.
Then another one popped up with something that was, to me, similarly vague: We don’t accept perfect people.
Still, not paying attention.
Then a topic of conversation was begun in my small Catholic study group. The essence of the conversation, which has taken more than a few twists and turns along the way, was this: Should we allow—or even encourage—our Catholic teens to attend non-denominational churches? In particular, this local one with the clever, cool, hip billboards? In a way, though, the conversation was almost a non-issue since it appeared that our Catholic teens (and even many of our adults) were already attending on their own without our small group’s permission—or seemingly without much guilt, either.
At first we decided this was a good thing. Maybe because our hand was forced: everyone was doing this without our wisdom, guidance, or input.
So, in our minds, we were able to argue that it was better to have our kids attend a non-denominational service every week and fall in love with Christ than attend Mass a handful of times a year and fall asleep. We all agreed that Mass couldn’t possibly compete with whatever the non-denominational service offered. Although, since none of us had ever attended such a service, we weren’t actually quite sure what it was that was drawing our kids (and those adults) to these services and away from the richness of their Catholic faith.
But we knew it must be awesome!
After all, these people were walking away from the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
And they were walking away from the Sacraments of the Catholic faith.
Basically throwing out two thousand years of history for…what exactly?
We weren’t sure; but we all agreed that it really had to be amazing.
Then God provided a turning point for me: a publisher sent me a book in which the popular female author opined about the “boring” homily she was forced to sit through. My heart just sank.
Boring? You want to indict the priest for his homily versus your own heart during Mass?
All of a sudden this non-denominational option for our Catholic teens (and those adults who also left the Catholic Church) seemed far less appealing.
With that, God also brought to my mind two separate instances in the past couple of years in which adults who had left the Catholic Church for non-denominational affiliations had, in fact, received communion at different funeral services that they had since attended. Wait a minute!
Add to this image, the words in this book about the “boring” homily and now I’m ready to defend my faith; I’m no longer willing to see how it might be a good thing for Catholics of any age to leave Mother Church.
The author’s words kept reverberating in my mind. I kept thinking: if this is what adults are taking away from Mass, can we expect anything more from our kids?
The indictment ought to rest on our shoulders since it is not up to the priest to entertain us. Rather, our attitude ought to be “Speak Lord, Your servant is listening.” If He is using a less-than-perfect instrument, does that take away from what God may be trying to say?
The same attitude should be taught to our children: Mass isn’t about “entertainment;” nor will it ever be able to compete with the world we and our children live in.
Walking into Mass is a time to put our lives aside and connect with God. It is a time to open our hearts and minds to that which will draw us into a deep and personal relationship with our Savior. Mass is not meant to keep pace with our world. The opposite is true: it should remind us that we are in the world but not of it! To make demands upon our faith to keep up with where we are in our everyday lives is to rob us of what our Savior came to do: to seek and save, not condemn.
And isn’t our world ripe for condemning?
We must not clamor to change our Mass into a place that looks like our world; we ought to rejoice in the knowledge that Christ and Holy Mother Church had the foresight to have carved out a sacred place that saves us from the world. Is it better for our Catholic teens (and those adults) to attend a non-denominational service every week instead of attending Mass a few times a year?
It is better for each of us to more fully understand what our Mass is and what it offers and trust in the Holy Spirit to answer our prayers for our family’s faith. It is better for each of us to witness to the beauty and majesty that is our Catholic faith and trust in the Holy Spirit to move the hearts and minds of those around us.
If you’ve not yet read Dr. Curran’s book The Mass: Four Encounters with Jesus That Will Change Your Life (published by My Catholic Faith Press), you’ll want to do that asap.