Skip to comments.What are they thinking? (The Easter and Christmas only Church-goers, that is!)
Posted on 04/10/2012 10:09:53 AM PDT by Salvation
On Easter Sunday I had the privilege of serving as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion at the 9:00 am Mass. By the time Mass began it was standing room only in the church. This was not a surprise. I bet it was the same at your parish. When it came time to distribute Communion, another person and I were asked to go to a station at the rear of the church. A line formed among those standing. At a certain point, I wondered why the line did not seem to get shorter and I realized that people were coming through the doors of the church and getting in line for Communion. After Mass, I learned that indeed people were standing three deep on the sidewalk during Mass. Because it was such a beautiful day, the doors were wide open and the music could surely be heard, but how much of the readings and homily and Eucharistic prayer did people hear?
Ive been wondering what made them stay and what makes our brother and sister Catholics who dont come to Mass often and maybe only at Christmas and Easter come on these feasts. On the one hand, if recent studies are correct and a majority of Catholics consider themselves as active if they go to Mass once a month on average, then making sure you plan to go on Christmas and Easter is a no-brainer. But for those who come infrequently, why stand on the sidewalk? Reverend Andrew Greeley, SJ, a sociologist talks about the sacramental imagination that is nurtured in the Catholic mind and that like Baptism seems to leave and indelible mark and so even for the Catholic who is not practicing the faith, his world view is a Catholic worldview. Another priest pondered that maybe if a person calls themselves Christian, then at the very least they see a need to come to church on Easter to represent so to speak!
Dont get me wrong, I love that the congregation overflowed onto the sidewalk on Capitol Hill. What a witness to the truth that the Easter story has real meaning and continues to capture peoples imagination. When I ask what are they thinking, I really want to know, because if we who are serious about the New Evangelization can better understand what the pull is to come to church once or twice a year than we can use that as a starting point for helping them look more deeply at their own experience. We can better able in our preaching and teaching and conversation make a more convincing argument for how active participation in life of the church will make a real difference in every part of ones life. Fr. Bill Byrne, the pastor, in his homily said that the story of the Resurrection does not just have meaning for a moment but rather calls for a commitment. If you believe the story, you need to make a commitmentto discipleship, to Mass, to service. How did people hear that? Are they still thinking about it today?
He knows as all of us know that it wont be standing room only next week. When we better understand the impulse to come to church once, twice, a few times a year, we can better help our brother and sisters move from impulse to commitment. Any insights you can share with me?
Throughout life I have grown much closer to the Lord and worked to live a Christian life every day. Throughout that same time, I have also become more and more cynical toward most organized religion. I have watched the hypocrisy of both clergy and parishioners as they wallow in sin throughout their daily lives then try to cleanse their lives in an hour each week with a church and collection plate.
I stopped reading at “Extraordinary minister” and citing Andy Greeley. She’s not supposed to be any kind of minister and he’s a heretic.
But what can you expect from the Washington archdiocese that suspends a priest for refusing to give Holy Communion to an atheist lesbian!
—Also many of the things we are instructed to do occur in the assembly of believers, not by ourselves.—
I agree. God created us as communal creatures. A man surrounded by churches, but attending none of them can, even if he reads the word daily, get a rather introverted and strange interpretation of scripture if he does not commune with fellow believers, IMO.
My dad has fallen into that trap. He is all into the “true” seventh day adventist movement. He thinks that all churches are lost, but the “normal” SDA church is the worst of all. He thinks the pope is the antichrist, and that any bible other than the King James Version is the work of satan. And no matter how much clear scripture you give him to argue the point, it’s literally like arguing with liberals on DU. He does not hear the meaning of the words you use. If it were not so serious, it would be comical.
“” Jesus said we can know each other by our fruits. “
He said that about knowing false prophets ... the “each other” is known by the work of the Holy Spirit which bears witness (to each other) that we are children of God. “
Yes, but there are false prophets among us, which presupposes an “us,” a group of people that can actually discipline and be disciplined by elders - there are instructions, quite explicit, for choosing out elders from the assembled Christians for the purpose of ruling over them.
Consider the instructions Jesus gave us in Mathew chapter 18 for example:
“15 Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.[b] 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.
18 Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
19 Again I say[c] to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.
This instruction presumes, among other things, that there is a “church” to tell it to.
Why do churches not make an effort to get people to come back regularly?
The parish where I grew up had a “Welcome Sunday” where people were asked to come back and have a fresh start. They advertised it for several weeks at Mass and in the bulletin. People were asked to speak one on one with relatives and friends to invite them back. We had a communal reconciliation service on Saturday and lots of folks came to Mass on Sunday and regularly afterwards as a result.
I can’t imagine why this is not more common.
—They dont exist. —
I think you may be on to something. And people like me specifically avoiding that day make it bearable for the rest of them.
I used to drive the bus for my church and play in the orchestra. I’ve attended a LOT of Easters and Christmases. Same messages. Nice clothes.
Also, (God forgive me again), I find myself judging, "why don't all these folks come for other services, not many of them are out-of-towners..."
We are in the middle of Holy Week, so I am making a determined effort to attend as many services as I can (it's never crowded during the Week!), and pray for strength to have a go-with-flow attitude come Saturday night. The Easter Homily of St. John Chrysostom is very helpful for keeping a welcoming spirit to those who arrive at the "Eleventh Hour."
Then it's not 'yes'
Throughout life I have grown much closer to the Lord and worked to live a Christian life every day. Throughout that same time, I have also become more and more cynical toward most organized religion.
That is something I’ve struggled with as well, except for the hypocrisy stuff. I played trombone in an AG church orchestra for many years and about 15 singing Christmas trees. I then learned the bass and was in the worship band in another church, and then the whole band (except for me) decided to be the band at another church. What’s up with that?
I became the music leader at that church, and years later when I left it (I really thought it should have disbanded, frankly) I worked in the music ministry in another church.
It was like being in school plays - everyone acted like children trying to be teacher’s pet. There was a lip-service of “doing it for God”, but when people are complaining about not getting enough solo’s etc, well, you know...
I now attend a small Baptist church less than a mile from my house. We never thought we would like it because it was just too convenient (and it was Baptist). So we church hopped when we moved here and when we finally went to that one, as my wife describes it, “we were home”. The people were so nice. They really DO study the bible and try to live Jesus’ commandments, and the pastor has a real heart for the people there and it comes out in his messages. And after a few months, I finally confided in him an actual miracle I experienced, and how odd and hard to explain it was. And he had had the exact same thing happen. As he described it I even recognized some emotions I had at the time that I had forgotten.
I’ve heard the term frequently. Then again, I was a Baptist deacon for a few years and thinking back I mostly heard it while talking shop with the board and the pastor. It was not meant in a derogatory way. One of my responsibilities was reaching out to the “Holly and Lily” folks to see if they could be served by the church in some way. The responses were predictable. Most of them seemed to just be “keeping the family tradition” or “doing it for the kids”, both terms I heard frequently. Catholics aren’t the only ones guilty of making a mere “show of hands”.
Have HOPE, the seeds have been planted.
Incorrect. Catholics are the original Christians and those who've drifted away from the Bride of Christ of their own accord don't have a very thorough appreciation of the history of Christianity. You also need to pay attention. The post I responded to specifically asked a question regarding Catholic teaching, teaching which is based on Scripture.
As far as I know, the most the bible gets into it is do not forsake the gathering together of yourselves.
Better brush up on your reading of Scripture and not the abridged and heavily edited version of it that you apparently are loosely familiar with.
—This instruction presumes, among other things, that there is a church to tell it to.—
Whenever I see the word “church” in the bible, I interpret it as “the body of believers”. And in the example you gave about, I would say your “local” congregation of believers.
—choosing out elders from the assembled Christians for the purpose of ruling over them.—
I am really uncomfortable with that wording. I see them as church leaders. Those that make decisions. Not those who “rule over me”. There have been some bad church leaders in every major religion. I’m glad I never saw them as “ruling over me”.
—Why do churches not make an effort to get people to come back regularly?—
My church does that every week.
I know from years past how fast the Church fills up on Easter and Christmas, so I make it a point to get to Mass 15 minutes early AT LEAST so I won’t have to stand and to obtain a decent parking place. If I had to stand outside for Mass, I wouldn’t stay, because I wouldn’t feel as if I heard Mass. Also, the church has a simultaneous Mass in the Parish Hall to help alleviate the crowding of the church.
I suspect the people standing outside are the twice a year crowd because they wouldn’t realize that they have to get there early, and I don’t think they really care if they are hearing the Mass or not, just the fact that they attended at all is enough for them.
—Better brush up on your reading of Scripture and not the abridged and heavily edited version of it that you apparently are loosely familiar with.—
Actually I am familiar with the Greek and Hebrew lexicons.
What you quoted was not in the bible.
I would also appreciate it if you tried to show me the same respect I’m trying to show you.
In case there was any confusion in my original response, what I *meant* was that it was uniquely Catholic, not universally Christian, in the same way that some things are uniquely Baptist and not universally Christian.
I hope it is different elsewhere. But I know it isn't,
Missing Mass on Sundays and Holy Days is still a mortal sin, but many Catholics are either unaware of it or don’t care. When we go on vacation, we always look up where the nearest Catholic Church is so we won’t miss Mass. We’ve never missed Mass yet when we were out of town, and I’m 64 years old.
Is that hypocritical?
I never understood this whining from church money collectors. Not just Catholics.
If they were serving Christ, they would be so happy to see the ones who they thought they had lost at Christmas and Easter rather than whinning.