See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. - James 5:7

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Attendance at Mass is off... Why?



One word:  Ordinary.
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It hit me last Sunday.  A great deal of Catholic worship has just become too ordinary - and that includes the Ordinary Form of Mass - as well as too much trying to be ordinary; like the up with people music ministries, entertainment tonight adult faith formation, rock the youth ministry; boring, mind numbing homilies, running the parish like a business, and so on.  Take fundraiser homilies for instance - or rather stewardship drives - not unlike public television donor week pitches.  Why do priests twist the scripture of the Sunday to suit the fund raising appeal?  You need money - ask for it straight up - don't put on a show or turn the scripture into some banal commercial.   
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Culture clash?
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The Archdiocese of Cincinnati is calling the drop off in attendance a culture clash - because they are losing young people.  I think there is less to it than that.  When church people play down to people - young or old - they get bored.  When they go too far in the other direction, it can all become too cerebral and more boring still.  And if church people try to entertain - there is nothing more pathetic or boring.  You see, at one time the Church successfully offered and supplied the extraordinary in life - now however, so much has become just plain ordinary - in it's presentation at least.   
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I may be wrong but it seems to me that the greatness of ordinary life is only found in and through the extraordinary greatness of the Church - it's liturgical life and worship which sanctifies, feeds, nourishes and animates.
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What the experts are saying.
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The churches once were packed. A Gallup poll 60 years ago found that 75 percent of Catholics said they attended Mass in the past seven days, compared to 45 percent today.
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Church leaders and researchers say the trend is driven by a combination of cultural and social forces, as well as the church’s failure to prepare its people for the elimination of the Latin Mass and other changes following the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.

The clergy abuse scandal also hurt, but the drop in Mass attendance was under way long before the crisis erupted eight years ago.

The explanation cited most often for falling attendance is an increasingly secularized society that emphasizes individualism over community.

The role of the church in the social lives of Catholics also is waning. In the first half of the 20th century, the local parish was the hub of social activity for Catholics, many of whom were poor, working-class immigrants shunned by the rest of society.

Today, however, Catholics tend to be as educated and wealthy as Americans of any other faith. They don’t rely as much on the church because they don’t have to. - Cincinnati.com

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It may sound old fashioned, but in the early 20th century and throughout the 1950's the importance of devotion and fraternal organizations which facilitated it, focused upon sanctification.  For instance, groups such as the Holy Name Society, Altar and Rosary Society, Legion of Mary, along with the Dominic Savio Club, or the Maria Goretti Club, were featured attractions for parishioners, who actively participated in and contributed to the parish.  Nevertheless, the main attraction for all, or rather the source and summit of Church life remained the obligation of Sunday Mass - and it was extraordinary... 
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Get it?

13 comments:

  1. please tell me the photo here is a joke ...

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  2. I guess I'm seeing the glass half full (Pleez don't flame me Terry!). Over the past several weeks I have been to Mass in 3 different towns; the churches were full. I am seeing a lot of vitality and devotion. Sure, there is always room for improvement in the liturgy; maybe the new GIRM will help. But I'm not seeing a Church circling the drain by any means. I don't think harking back to days gone by (which grow more golden in our minds the more time that passes!)is the answer. We still have the Mass, its essence is changeless regardless of the form.
    BTW I agree with you about fund-raising; I hate it (but see the necessity) and am dreading October; because guess what, it's stewardship month (didn't we just finish that?).

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  3. what we need is reverence. you can have a lack of reverence in the extraordinary form as much as the ordinary form of the Mass; although i admit i recently attended the extraordinary form about a month ago in my archdiocese and it was sublime. why? reverence. an awareness of the fact that the Mass is not about us. the sacrifice of the Mass with the priest at the altar is all about Jesus and His relationship with the Father; and He condescends to include us in that relationship. what happens at that altar is going to happen whether i'm there or not, whether i'm paying attention or not. i am there to *receive.* i think a lot of people have come to see the Mass just as one more communal thing that's all about my neighbor next to me and feeling good. baloney. who cares how you feel about it. blah blah blah.

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  4. Suz - it's an old one - but a real one.

    Melody - I wouldn't flame you at all - I always welcome your perspective - Unfortunately I'm basing my opinion on subjective experience.

    Thanks DB - excellent points.

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  5. Coming from a Protestant background there are similiar issues in the Protestant Churches...

    Unfortunately you DO have to appeal to the "What's in it for me?" If the sermon is dry and boring, given by a speaker who mutters and mumbles and wanders off topic during his talk, and is not applicable to MY daily life, I'm going to lose interest. If the Mass is more like a funeral service, I'll find a Mass that has more uplifting music. If I want a continual fire and brimstone sermon I'll attend the Baptist Church. If I am new to the church, and no one take ANY interest in me, and won't even great me and say "good morning, welcome!!" I won't stay long. If there is nothing for me to participate in after work and on weekends to enrich me spiritually and socially, I'll go someplace else.

    Jesus said "Feed my sheep." And yes, that means really CARING for them, not just throwing down hay and water and expecting the poor sheep to feed themselves.....

    Sara

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  6. When Pope John XXIII was elected my mom was thrilled - she felt the Church needed to reform, renew, etc. But did she go back to Mass? No.

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  7. In the early 20th century a lot of the fraternal groups were founded as a way to lure men back into the church; in particular, the Knights of Columbus was one such group. Much like today people were focused on other pursuits.

    There's someone at my parish whose homilies I don't prefer because he talks down to us by over-explaining everything. Homilies I love? Assume that we understand the subject matter and are capable of understanding the homily without three repetitions of everything.

    My wonderful surprises tonight? Two priests instead of one at Mass, two books on Mother Teresa a friend sent from Amazon (no wish list) and pin money for my trip from another friend. Pretty amazing stuff.

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  8. I used to like Schönborn until I saw the balloon Mass video and heard about some of his 'rockstar' moves to make nice with the press. And then about Medugorje. And then about the craziness in Austrian diocese, ... well, at least he's better than Abp. Zollitsch in Germany!

    NB: Schönborn is an arch-conservative by EuChurch (TM) standards. The Habsburgs are rolling in their graves.

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  9. Those societies and such had their place. You forget, there was no tv or internet, no commuting many miles to work, school, or church. You walked, everywhere. The societies were a social as well as religious outlet to free one from the hum-drum of daily life. There were no or few after school activities that weren't religious in nature and none at all on the weekends. They served their purpose in their time. We're lucky now, with the way that 21st century life is, to be able to get to Mass once a week.

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  10. Much has been sacrificed in the mass including the sacrifice of the mass. Striving to be relevant eventually makes one irrelevant. That's really all there is to it.

    {That said it would be unfair of me not to note that as the NO goes it is entirely possible to celebrate it with solemnity, respect, honour and I've seen it done. Thankfully the NO we attend is much, much better than the sorry things I hear reported by so many people.}

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  11. I actually like the Novus Ordo when it is celebrated reverently and prayerfully and without commercial interruption. I do not travel across town to attend the Extraordinary Form. The Ordinary Form can and should be celebrated extraordinarily well.

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  12. And, fort he record, the NO was a part of helping us convert. So, Amen.

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  13. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, in either Forma, is the Sacrifice of Calvary.
    Any priest who does not understand this needs to be refreshed, spiritually and liturgically.
    Reverence. Absolutely. God is everything; He is the Center of all.
    As for Card. Schoenborn; pray for him.
    He needs it, badly.
    I don't have a clue to what is going on...the Devil attacks those with influence and holiness; evidently, he is being attacked in many, many ways.

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