Future of Catholicism
Absent Friends: Skipping Mass, Losing Community
By Paul Snatchko
I sometimes wonder about the lives of Catholics who do not go to Mass on Sunday (or Saturday evening).
We know that only about one-third of American Catholics attend Mass at least twice a month.
What are Sundays like for the other two-thirds?
At the base level, we know they have an hour or two extra in the weekend day - probably dedicated to sleep and a leisurely first meal. Some might golf or jog. I'm envious of the ones who get to linger over the Sunday newspaper and watch all of "Meet the Press."
The no-Mass crowd must live largely immune to the stresses and the pleasures of the liturgical calendar. They miss out on the homilies and the coffee and doughnuts. And, they never hear either the choir's pitch-perfect hymns or occasional off-notes.
Perhaps some of these brothers and sisters in Christ surface on Christmas and Easter. Perhaps not. As the years have gone by, I have noticed more and more missing from even these high holy days.
I worry that this slow march-away of sleeping-in millions may mark the future of our beloved Catholic Church in the United States.
In most cases, they leave quietly. One Sunday, they just decide to stay home. Why? I think it's a variety of reasons. Some of the reasons are personal, some political. Some reasons are related to the parish priest, some with the pope.
And, in recent years, the horrible headlines of the clergy sexual abuse scandal certainly have had an impact.
In my own family, the number of regular Church-goers has become a small one. Of my maternal grandparents' 14 descendants, I am now the only weekly Mass attendee.
Having said all this, I do have hope that the Holy Spirit moving among us can change these earthly realities. After all, Jesus told us, "I am with you always, until the end of the age.
I also recognize that there are places in our country where parishes are vibrant - particularly in those dioceses that have well-integrated new immigrants.
But, for the Church to thrive everywhere in coming years, a case should be made to Catholics who have stopped practicing their faith. Regular Mass-goers need tell their family members and friends about the power of prayer and the sacraments. Church leaders need to regain the credibility that has been lost.
We must let the Holy Spirit work through us -- to be, as one homilist said, "fishers of men, not keepers of the aquarium."
We must show the world that Sundays can be about more than sleeping in.