Tired of encouraging his parishioners to go regularly to Sunday Mass, a parish priest resorted to a more creative approach. Resourceful that he was, he published the following announcement in his parish bulletin:
To make it possible for everyone to attend Church, we are going to have a special "No Excuse Sunday" soon.
This Sunday we are celebrating the Feast of Corpus Christi when we express our devotion to the great gift of the Eucharist. One of the most obvious ways to express our devotion is the Sunday Mass. My hope and prayer for each and every member of our parish is that we will all get into the habit of going to Mass on Sunday without fail. If children develop this good habit when they are young, they will grow in their indebtedness to this great gift.
Even though I grew up in a Hindu country, going to Sunday Mass was a given. No one would even dare question it. In the thirty years that I have been in this country I have noticed that Mass attendance has gradually dropped. For the first time more Protestants go to church on Sunday than Catholics. Missing Mass now and then does not seem to faze some of my good friends who are otherwise well-principled individuals and good Catholics.
I often wonder why this has happened. I would like to share my honest reflections with you. Please do not look on them as accusations or attempts to lay blame on people. This column is my sincere attempt to make sense of the situation.
First of all, we are rugged individualists. We bowl alone. The mythic figure of our culture is the cowboy who is a law unto himself. We may be developing an allergy towards the community holding us back. We want to do what we want to do, when we want to do it. Sunday Mass may interfere with our lives lived out on our own terms.
Second, our links to communities have become tenuous. In the process our ties to the Church community have also become weak. As consumers we are accustomed to drift in and out of communities which serve our whims and fancies without requiring any type of commitment or sacrifice on our part. Going to Mass every Sunday certainly calls for a lot of sacrifice.
Third, we are driven so strongly by our utilitarian and pragmatic philosophy that in every activity we ask ourselves: “What is in it for me?” We are always looking for relevance. Our experience of the Eucharist in some churches may not help in this regard. We want some sort of reward or gratification and we want it now. How often we hear Catholics say, “Why should I go to Mass? I don’t get anything out of it.”
Fourth, in our society not too many obligations are taken totally seriously. We live under the unspoken assumption that every commitment can be broken and every obligation can be negotiated. As consumers, everyone else has to pander to our needs and not the other way around. Our unwillingness to commit to Sunday Mass week after week, all the year round, may be another manifestation of the consumer mentality.
Fifth, many Catholics have not yet discovered the beauty and richness of the Eucharist. They look on Sunday Mass as an obligation. It is a privilege. The King wants us to sit at table with Him. How can we refuse? If only we understood the beauty of this great gift, we will go to Mass not only on Sundays but also on weekdays.
Finally, to some extent we have lost our appetite for the transcendent. We have become imprisoned in material reality and mundane concerns. We live in a trivial culture that is obsessed with superficialities. Do the majesty and formality of the Eucharist seem too distant or foreign to our generation?
As the pastor, sometimes I am called upon to discuss the difficult things. I hope these thoughts will help us to reflect and to commit. Jesus has given us Himself. We must heed his command: “Do this in memory of Me!”
Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.
After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...