What Children’s Confessions Reveal…

schoolchildren
School children by Ministerio de Educación – UNESCO.
Creative Commons via Wikimedia Commons

Lent is a penitential season, a time of purification and of clarification: of being purified of our sins and of clarifying the roots of what has been keeping us from God in the first place.[i]

Purification and clarification can come about through the typical Lenten observances: prayer, almsgiving, and fasting. Fasting, for example, not only acts as an immediate purification of something (ie, a thing is taken away), but it can also clarify in that, as we are feeling the freedom (or the pain) of the purification, we start to ask questions: for example, “why have I felt that I have needed this something in my life”; “what in my life has made me become attached to this”; “what is the root of my sin problem”; and so on.

Questions are crucial when we are striving to get at the root of our actions and when we are trying to better walk in the ways of holiness. The Examination of Conscience, therefore, and all its questions, is a most useful tool in this pursuit for holiness. Often, after a good examination of conscience, I discover that I have forgotten past lessons learned or I discover that I have a certain oversight that I didn’t realize I possessed. Such discoveries, when the results of which are put into daily practice, lead to a greater holiness and integrity of life.

Questions in the Confessional

For the first couple years as a priest, I would go through the usual Lenten ritual of sitting in the confessional for hours at a time, hearing various parishes kids’ confessions during school—whether Day School or PSR/CCD. And every year, I would hear the same litany of sins: “I was mean to my brother; I lied; I didn’t do what my mom told me to do; I said a bad word; and… I didn’t go to Mass.”

As a young priest, I wasn’t yet jaded to simply chalk this up to the typical child’s confession. So, a little surprised that a child didn’t go, I asked a simple question: “Why didn’t you go to Mass?”

And the kids would answer in one of three ways: “Because I had a [sporting event/vacation]”; “Because we slept in”; or (and most frequently): “Because my parents don’t take me.”

“Because my parents don’t take me.”

I would hear that answer a lot. And what really struck me about this—what really shook me to the core—was not simply the frequency that this was said, but that most of the children were saying this with a deep sorrow in their heart and a deep longing to go to Mass. They knew they were supposed to be at Mass and they thought that they themselves were to blame for their not going. They didn’t yet realize that if their parents didn’t take them, then it wasn’t their (the kids’ fault), but the parents.

Quietly, there began to develop a righteous anger in me at the parents and a desire to “propose” certain questions to our parents, questions such as “Do you realize the impact you are having? Do you realize the sorrow that you are bringing to your child’s heart?”

But those questions I kept to myself. And the anger I brought to prayer and the tempering that experience would likely bring. Maybe I had an oversight; maybe I was being harsh and not compassionate. My anger subsided into a kind of pity for the whole situation.

Cultivating Indifferent Consciences

That is, until last year. Last year, I started to notice that, by the time the kids were in the seventh grade, they would confess this sin of missing Holy Mass with a kind of nonchalance. They would go through their litany of sins, but totally dispassionate. Some would even confess with a smile on their face.[ii] Why was this? During their earlier years, they confessed this with sorrow. But now, with lukewarmness? Why?

I started to think about this and I came to the following reason: at some point during the past few years, the child felt that she had to choose. She felt, in her limited and child-like understanding of things, that she had to choose between God and parent: to love God and upset the parents or to love parents and hope that God would be ok with not-choosing Him.

It’s a child’s hope. But it is a hope that easy devolves into presumption. And presumption accounts for the disappearance of the sorrow. If God doesn’t mind if we miss Mass, then why should we feel sorrow for it?

This presumption would further devolve into indifference when the child realizes that her parents—the parents whom she chose over God—are indifferent to Holy Mass.

So, by the time the child is in seventh grade, she sees both God and parents as indifferent to Holy Mass. Conclusion: Mass couldn’t be that important as to call missing it a “sin”—much less a sin to be sorry about.

By the example of their parents and by the love the children have for them, the kids’ consciences were slowly killed—and with it, any sense of sin and sorrow for it.

Questioning the Indifference

At which point, I was angry again. But it wasn’t a righteous anger at the parents. It was an anger of helplessness. I didn’t see how this situation could possibly be remedied without some kind of miracle. I was angry that there had been decades of indifference and that it seemed as though no one had done anything about it.

So I tried doing something about it: invitations to confessions, hearing confessions more, treating it as important, teaching on the Holy Mass, etc. I even—when giving the kids their penance—I even told them to offer prayers for their parents.

And there was some improvement. But I was still very much swimming against the stream.

I too was tempted to think that maybe this is just how things are and maybe this is all part of the whole becoming a “smaller Church” thing that Pope Benedict had talked about.

Until this year.

This year, I heard confessions all throughout the Archdiocese. And I had long ago stopped asking why kids were missing Sunday Mass. I knew the answer to that question. But I started asking a new question:

When was the last time you received the Eucharist?

That’s a different question. And that’s a whole lot different than simply asking about whether one is going to Mass. This question puts the crosshairs square on the target: on receiving Jesus.

When was the last time you received Jesus?

Indifferent Answers and Answering Indifference

I wasn’t ready for the answers I received. On average, fourth and fifth graders have not received Jesus since their first holy communion… in second grade. That’s two to three years without receiving Jesus.[iii]

I wasn’t angry any more. I was sad. I was deeply sad for the kids who haven’t had Jesus for two or more years.

When the seventh and eighth graders started coming to me for confessions, I started to ask them the same question: when was the last time you received the Eucharist. For the vast majority, it had been over a year. For some, it had been a full five years—again, since first communion.

Some seventh and eighth graders would smile as they told me that. At which point I would echo their answer: it has been five years since you have received Jesus.

And I added a new question:

Isn’t that sad?

Immediately, their conscience—just as it was way back when—was alive again. Every single one admitted that it was sad. Lukewarmness became sorrow again. And they missed Jesus. They knew it.

And maybe that might be seen as mean of me. But I am trying to keep their consciences alive. Trying to keep alive the notion that Mass is important. A notion that is being killed Sunday after Sunday by the example of their parents.

Trying to Find Answers to the Usual Questions

A couple years ago, I did an (anonymous) study at a Catholic day-school. I asked seventh graders a few questions. Those questions were:

1)      How often do you go to Mass?

2)      When was the last time you went to Holy Mass?

3)      When was the last time you went to Sunday Mass?

4)      How often do you go to Sunday Mass? [options: every Sunday, once a month, twice a year, twice a year or less, never]

Every child said that they went to Mass every week. On “Tuesday” (which was the day the kids went at school). 30% said they had gone to Mass in the last month. 70% said they go to Mass twice a year or less or never.

I did the same survey with the PSR/CCD program. And the results—save the part about going to Mass every week at school—were the same.

That probably would shock most day-school parents. It shocks every engaged couple that I’m preparing for marriage. Every time, the engaged couple says, “That’s odd. I thought that day school families would be going to Mass more than the PSR families. Seems like a waste of money otherwise.”

The natural question to ask here is: Why?

Why—not only why day-school and PSR families’ sacramental lives are nearly the same (despite one group spending thousands of dollars on the particular parish school), but also why some have the erroneous perception that day-school families are more faithful than PSR families.

A few months ago, I stopped asking why people aren’t going to Mass. After all, the answers to that question are usual and somewhat obvious: liturgical banality, secularization and frenetic pace of life, lack of examples of integrity of life and joy of faith, the killing of conscience, etc.

And I’ve learned that, sometimes, when we ask the same questions and get the same answers, maybe it is time to ask new questions.

I’ve also stopped asking questions about what I should do about it. Because, it’s not a matter of what I should do, it’s a matter of what people think they should do about it. And, right now, 70% of day-school and PSR parents believe this is not something to do anything about.

So, like Lent, different questions should be asked before we embark on projects that we think will solve the problem. But they are questions that I do not ask myself, but I think we should ask the parents. I’ve answered them for myself already. It is now time for parents to answer them. Here they are:

          Parents, do you know that your children cry in my confessional because you are not taking them to Mass?

–          Parents, do you know that your seventh-grade child has a killed conscience, the victim of indifference?

–          Parents, do you know that if you continue in the way you are going, you will not see your kids married in the Church, they will likely not have kids, and all of this time and money you are spending is really wasted?

–          And parents, isn’t that… sad?

Maybe the parents’ consciences were killed long ago too. Maybe an examination is in order—an examination with questions meant to clarify and purify.

Maybe then we can ask the next logical question, which is: What should we do about it?

[i] Credit to Father Robert Barron for this idea. See “My Beloved Son,” Lighthouse Media CD; meditations by Father Barron.
[ii] There is a counseling action called immediacy where the counselor points out something about the patient for the patient to consider. For example, “When you were confessing your sins, did you know that you were smiling? Do you think that’s odd?” I started to ask this. Some admitted to being nervous and the smiling was a cover-up to that. Others didn’t even realize that it was out of place—they didn’t equate confession with sorrow for sins.[iii] Of course, the kids have received communion at school, and so in full disclosure I do add to my question the phrase  “except when you go to Mass at school.”
 

agerberFather Anthony Gerber is a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, serving at St. Joseph’s in Cottleville.

He has been ordained since 2011.

He blogs at Uberrima Fides.

Prodigal (1)

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Deanna Bartalini

    What a wonderful, truthful and insightful post. Thank you!

  • http://catholicreligionteacher.com CatholicReligionTeacher.com

    As a 7th and 8th grade religion teacher at a Catholic school I can totally sympathize with many of the observations made in this article. In my experience, general parental faith has everything to do with how ready my students are to receive the Gospel and start living it out in their lives. As discouraging as this can sometimes be, I have also witnessed how ready and willing some of my students are to bring their PARENTS back to the faith. Two quick examples:

    1. At a parent-teacher conference a few years ago a mom came in and said, “Our family is going to Mass again. We’re they’re every Sunday – all because of my daughter. She is like the mom of the family. She started asking us to go, then began demanding that we go. If we started making excuses, she would have nothing to do with it. She’s been such a leader in our house.”

    2. At a parent-teacher conference just a few weeks ago another mom came in and said (with a big ol’ smile on her face), “My daughter got me to go to Confession again. I hadn’t been in years and she told me that we should go – and that she would go with me. She tells me all the time that she wants me to be saint. She REALLY wants me to be a saint!”

    Stories like this remind me that all hope is not lost. Let us not forget to encourage kids to love their parents so much so as to bring them closer to the Lord.

    • Vanessa

      My parents resent me for being the parent in the family, even though they don’t pick up the slack either. It’s great that at least these parents respect their child enough to take them seriously.

      • Terrence Tuffy

        St Thérèse of Lisieux, your patron saint. Read about her “little way”. She’s fantastic.

    • Terrence Tuffy

      I teach 7th grade religious ed. (formerly CCD-still known as CCD) :/ Unfortunately I don’t get the reinforcement from being in a Catholic school. My kids get an hour fifteen a week. Not enough. They have no idea how to think in the abstract.

  • Wally Noon

    Totalitarian regimes always brainwash youth to coerce their parents into compliance and inform upon them if they don’t, so that they can be “purified” by the authorities.

    • FatherAnthony Gerber

      My heart goes out to you, Wally, that your experience of the world and of the Church has been of a quality such that your first thought is about totalitarian regimes and not about the longings of love.

  • TerriB

    Great post!

  • Terrence Tuffy

    It’s NOT the parents,,,,it’s that nothing of substance is coming from the pulpit, or from the bishops, or the “who am I to judge?” pope. Or that table that use to be an altar. No leadership. Transubstantiation taking place in the mass is no longer evident. Nobody believes it. The liturgy sucks. There’s no piety, no fear of the Lord. Plenty of flip-flops and tank tops. Plenty of l o v e…and m e r c y and other such nonsensical kum-by-ya crap. No sin though…everybody goes to heaven. Everybody gets communion, even Andy Cuomo! So? Why do we need the church? or priest? or confession? This priest says; “I was angry that there had been decades of indifference and that it seemed as though no one had done anything about it.” Well, think back, Mike..what happened 50 years ago?
    When the ship runs aground, ya BACK THE THING UP!!!!. 50 years ago we had priests, altars and a sacrifice. Now we have MC’s a table and a meal.

    • FatherAnthony Gerber

      Thanks for your comment, Terrence. Do not forget that there IS some good being done today– not every parish is all “kum-by-ya,” nor is every priest lacking in piety. That being said, we do penance and acts of reparation for our sins and those of the world. And recall the humility of the Lord: even as He was stripped of everything, He loved us to the end.

      • Terrence Tuffy

        And thank you, father, for listening to my complaint.

      • Sue

        Thank you for welcoming those of us who prefer the Novus Ordo Mass, Father. On most Catholic websites today, I get the very strong impression that we’re looked upon as not-as-good Catholics. We DO share the exact same Faith, right? I was very happy when they made the Tridentine Mass for available for those who prefer it. But, the few times our family went to it, we were treated like outcasts. I didn’t come away from it with a good impression. Plus, I like to understand the prayers of the Holy Mass so I can spiritually unite myself with them. Felt very lost at the TRM.

    • Vanessa

      I don’t recognize the mass you speak of. My priest is very traditional.

      • Terrence Tuffy

        Have you ever been to a mass celebrated by the FSSP(Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter)? If you get the chance, go. http://www.fssp.org

        • Vanessa

          Isn’t it not inline with the pope?

          • Therese12

            The FSSP is in full communion with the Pope as is Institute of Christ the King. Both say only the Extraordinary form of the Mass. Otherwise known as the Traditional Latin Mass or TLM.

          • Terrence Tuffy

            Therese12, you say “say” but I say celebrate. Not to nitpick, but Christ, dying on the cross for our salvation, for the forgiveness of sins, for our salvation is something to Celebrate! Truly

          • The_Bustle_in_Your_Hedgerow

            Actually, the better word would be “offer.” Priests offer a sacrifice, and Catholic priests OFFER The Sacrifice.
            Terrence, you sound like a person who might like http://www.fisheaters.com !

    • RPlavo .

      Fifty years ago we had quickie Masses in a language that no one understood and sermons condemning contraception and communism….that was it….I was there!

    • Billy Bagbom

      The Church has problems. The Church has always had problems. There was never a “golden age” when the Church militant was already perfected. Read the New Testament epistles. Martin Luther had some good critiques of the Catholic Church. He still had no right to pick up his marbles and go home.

  • Moneybags

    Why are kids even confessing about not going to mass? I don’t get it. Who is telling them that they’re responsible for this?

    I’m pretty sure I didn’t confess not going to church even once when I was a kid.

    • mn_catholic

      I’m sure it’s in the examination of conscience they are using. The standard wording is “missed Sunday Mass without a good reason.” Kids typically aren’t mature enough to understand that the “reason” was their parents’ and not their own.

      • Terrence Tuffy

        And their parents don’t go, because there is nothing of substance being presented. The Church needs to present to the “lost generation” that life has meaning other than sex and accumulating material goods.

        • kmk1916

          The Lord Jesus Christ is being presented, right? Look back over the past 20 years: excellent priestly vocations, online resources, devotions being revived, at least one 24/7 Adoration chapel in any given diocese. We can’t give up fasting and praying.

  • http://athenasantics.wordpress.com/ AthenaC

    Thank you for writing this. I am afraid I have been part of the problem for too long. My lazy butt didn’t want to bother rounding up all the kids and taking them to Mass, so I didn’t go very regularly. When I finally told myself that I had had enough of my excuses and I took everyone to church for the first time in a while, it made me very remorseful that I had to explain simple things about the order of the Mass to my kids, because they just weren’t familiar. It wasn’t second nature to them like it was to me, and it was completely my fault that it was that way.

    • kmk1916

      God bless your efforts and the Lord loves you and your children so much! He is so pleased and your fellow parishioners are SO BLESSED that you have returned and brought your children!

      They will catch on quickly. I don’t know how old they are, but there’s a book called “The Bible Tells Me SO” by Christian LeBlanc which is his 6th grade catechism class–a Bible study which links the Bible to the Mass. It’s a fun read which connects the Mass to Salvation History. In any case, none of us will EVER get finished learning, praying, experiencing the depths of the Mass, so no worries!

      Sometimes the devil gets us in a rut of “God doesn’t care whether I come or not” or whatever, or it is tiring to get the kids together, or you face other discouragements. Don’t get discouraged, and just do it. Go to Confession, give it to the Lord, and do NOT look back. Do not scourge yourself. AND — you have just a begun a family conversion story, always a lovely item to add to the family history.

    • Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble

      What a blessing that you were inspired to return to regularly attending Mass with your children. Praise the Lord. You and your family will be in my prayers Athena.

      • http://athenasantics.wordpress.com/ AthenaC

        Thank you! I really appreciate your prayers.

    • Sue

      Sounds like the Holy Spirit & Our Lady have been working in you! Welcome back! Praise God!

  • kmk1916

    Great article.

    The number one reason we home school our children (through 8th grade, then to Catholic High School) is that they have the time to form a relationship with Our Lord, the Church, and us–family. It gives us the “leisure time” to get to daily Mass a lot, to form relationships with the clergy, religious and “regulars” who do so much for our parish. We all volunteer on a regular basis. We go on family or friend accompanied pilgrimages to various places. We go to family Holy Hours. Our 6 year old invents his own Mass for family prayer time. It becomes natural to pray when they pass a cemetery, or hear a siren.

    This is not about us and our parenting, with its many failings, but was us meeting families who were already living like this and God clunking us on the head and asking us to do it. (And homeschooling is not a requirement, it was the way for our family, though.)

    I think often parents are afraid of what they don’t know (been there), or don’t even know what they don’t know (ditto), and it is very awesome to get the “aha!” moment and start to learn and grown in that personal relationship with Jesus with our children. We who have the “aha!” already just need to live our lives and love them and not be afraid to give them the reason for our joy (I need to do that….)–and ask good questions.

  • Terrence Tuffy

    Oh, so while I’m here, let’s get down to the crux of the matter. Why don’t men-fathers- go to church? Why do you think that fathers, who want what’s best for their children don’t go to mass? I’m not shy, I’ll tell ya. Because of the “wishy washy” liturgy of femininity . Altar girls and Extraordinary ministers, female lectors etc. etc. Islam is a man’s religion. That’s why so many men are attracted to it.

    • Cathaholic

      The “crux” is the liturgy? They don’t know what’s happening in the liturgy because they don’t go. And not because of lame excuses, but rather because of their unwillingness to man up, repent of their sin that they are enjoying too much, go to Confession and start fresh.

      And you can remove Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion from the list of lame excuses. Even the Church Fathers were practicing this, as written by St. Ignatius of Antioch to the Smyrnaeans around 110AD. You can find all the Church Father writings on http://newadvent.org/fathers

      Paragraph 8
      See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or BY ONE TO WHOM HE HAS ENTRUSTED IT. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.

      • Terrence Tuffy
        • Cathaholic

          I agree that it’s best to have altar boys only. Teenage boys don’t want to serve with girls. It’s awkward enough at that age. I also don’t believe there is any valid excuse for not going to mass. Let’s not give them excuses not to go. Rather, let’s give them reason to go.

      • Terrence Tuffy

        No, I’m not going to eliminate extraordinary ministers from my list of lame excuses because extraordinary ministers are an abuse. Just as are communion in the hand and altar girls are an abuse.

        • Cathaholic

          So St. Ignatius of Antioch, a martyred bishop, introduced the abuse in 110 AD. I guess that proves that not even the saints are perfect

          • Phil Steinacker

            That’s a poor argument. Read Benedict on the flaws of “archeologism” – citing early practices as legitimizing their practice today.

            It was may not have been an abuse when it began but the Church stopped it and it’s easy to see why.

        • Cathaholic

          And nobody can be denied communion on the tongue, since that is the norm. So they don’t get that lame excuse for not showing up

        • Cathaholic

          And I’m glad we agree on the “lame excuse” part. :-)

      • Sue

        I think you’re misreading St. Ignatius’ words. “By one to whom he has entrusted it,” would refer to PRIESTS, not laypeople. It is priests who are sacramentally united through ordination to their bishop, not the laity. So, this is not proof of the use of extraordinary ministers. Additionally, the Church must follow the rubrics of the Church today & they make very clear that EMs are to be used ONLY when there are very large numbers of communicants. That’s very rare these days in most parishes. People CAN spend 15 minutes during Communion distribution, praying to Our Lord Who is physically present within them, instead of singing some trite song!

        • Cathaholic

          I suggest you read his letters. He is very exact. He wrote these letters to the churches on his way to be martyred. These were his final instructions to the Church. In the very same paragraph he is very careful and exact in his use of priest(presbytery), deacon, bishop and apostle. To conclude that “one” means presbytery is putting words into his mouth. The Church cites this as supporting documentation for the practice, and it is very practical. So you would require that only priests give communion to the sick in hospitals? This is impractical.

          As we started building larger churches without sufficient priests and deacons to support the numbers, it’s become a practical necessity. Is it ordinary..the norm? No. And you won’t see it in Italy. Their ratio of clergy to laity is much higher there. But that is not the case here in the U.S.

          And remember. The sanctity of The Eucharist is not a function of the minister.

          • Sue

            I am familiar the writings of the Church Fathers & stand by my comments as written. The Church was not founded for convenience. It was founded to bring the Faith to all peoples.

          • Cathaholic

            You misread my words. Practical does not in any way imply convenience. Why would you confuse that? Do you think that clergy are looking for conveniences, or sitting around between masses waiting for something to do? I doubt that you do. I’m sure you realize that they are out serving their flock, and they are very busy.

        • Cathaholic

          I’d like to know at what point the laity decided that they know better than the bishop and clergy how to administer sacraments and run the Church.

          • Phil Steinacker

            That is a funny argument to make. We say that to liberals all the time in response to the incessant tampering with the Mass to reflect their own image and likeness.
            Did you know that when EMHCs were approved after Vat II it was specified that lay ministers be utilized ONLY when there are not enough ordained ministers to handle the numbers?

            That criteria is NEVER in evidence today. I’ve seen how practical it is for priests to distribute Communion on the tongue kneeling at the altar rail. It is a lot faster than in the hand standing.

            With the mushrooming of permanent deacons we dimply do not need so many EMHCs – perhaps none.

            It is completely irrelevant what was done in the early Church. You might pray on the wisdom of the Church’s abandoning old practices that yield unintended and undesirable results, like the lack of reverence in receiving Communion in the hand standing from a lay person after centuries of the Church insisting on the necessity of receiving from consecrated hands. Changing that tune to excuse lay people profaning the Eucharist has cause a drop to 30% of Catholics believing in the True Presence.
            They don’t want to think of themselves as profaning the Eucharist, so the logical shift in thinking is that He must not be truly present in the Host. If people don’t need to kneel and receive humbly on the tongue, then there are no external signs that something special and unique is
            happening here.

            No surprise, and very Protestant.

          • Cathaholic

            So the response to this priest’s article is that clergy and Church liturgical practices are primarily to blame, so as soon as they get that right then things will turn around. Sorry, I don’t buy that. If you ask those who have left, that will not be their reason. Why would they be attracted to a Protestant church then?

            Why don’t we worry less about the excuses, and worry more about our relationship with those who have fallen away? It is not irrelevant what the early Church did. See how they love each other? Whatever happened to that?

            Personally I would love to see us return to the Communion rail. But that is not the key. The key is loving them back to the Church.

          • Phil Steinacker

            Oh, btw, in a different response to your snide remark about laity. It is not only upstart laity who challenge this sort of nonsensical thinking.

            Try googling Bishop Athanasius Schneider on the Eucharist. If you really have some stones, you should buy his book “Dominus Est” – “It is the Lord.”

            Don’t worry about us laity. We may not have as many as we want, but we have as many bishops and priests that we need to lead us against the spirit of innovation infesting our Church.

      • Phil Steinacker

        The only valid reason for EMHCs was/is the priest shortage, although the number of permanent deacons makes up significantly for the shortfall of ordained MHCs.

        However, the sheer numbers of EMHCs is FAR beyond necessary and appropriate because of a foolish and false form of clericalism which implies lay people are not fully participating in the Mass if they are not doing something formally reserved to the ordained; i.e.being EHMCs or lectors (which were once instituted as Minor Orders on the way to priesthood).

        I know churches where so many are used that Sunday Communion is often over in a little over 5 minutes because there are 12-14 teams (bread and cup). I stand with the claim that the frequency of EHMCs is a problem contributing to the mess outlined by Terence. It is most legitimate for distributing Communion at hospitals and nursing homes.

        • Cathaholic

          The problems of Church attendance are due primarily to changes in the liturgy? Come on, let’s get real. What about people’s inability to accept the inconvenient but truthful teachings on contraception and abortion, or whatever else? Isn’t that what it’s really about? If you don’t go to mass, you don’t have to face your sin, and you don’t have to face the cross….yet.

          But you know what? It’s better that they are not receiving the Eucharist unworthily, because that would be a far worse abuse and defilement of the Body and Blood of the Lord. I think some of them deep down know that, and so they stay away because they don’t want the embarrassment of going to mass and not receiving. But that’s a pride issue, and a ploy of the devil because nobody should be judging them for that. And the net result is that they are compounding the sin. Too bad they don’t realize the power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Again, that’s not a liturgical problem.

          So shouldn’t our energy be placed in changing hearts? And I think that has to begin with the laity, because we encounter them more often than do the clergy.

      • Dagnabbit_42

        It’s unlikely that this passage refers to extraordinary ministers.

        It refers to priests. “Administered” here would not be “placed in the mouths of people” like a doctor administering medicine, but rather “presided over” like a presidential administration.

        He is saying that a valid Eucharist is that which is confected either by the bishop or a priest consecrated by him.

        • Cathaholic

          It could not possibly refer to priests. Priests and deacons receive holy orders. They are automatically entrusted by virtue of their ordination to administer the Eucharist, and therefore are ordinary ministers. That was common knowledge, especially nearly 80 years into it. No need to write a letter about that.

          And even today, a priest does not authorize a EMHC. After they are trained, before they can serve as ministers, the names are sent to the bishop to be approved and authorized. That authorization does not give the EMHC freedom to minister anywhere he wants. It applies only to that parish, or in special circumstances within the diocese, but certainly not outside the diocese since that falls under a different bishop.
          Where do you suppose this requirement for bishop approval comes from? Yes, you guessed it. From this letter by St. Ignatius of Antioch.

    • alicewhoojit

      I agree. I think men like to spend time with men, just like young people like to spend time with other young people. Maybe that’s wrong, but its a natural human frailty. It’s how we’re made or brought up, I dont know the reasons for it, but its the way it is. We can rant and rail against it all we like, but that won’t change it. Its like when the scouts allowed girls to join it led to a decrease in the number of boys joining. I agree that seems wrong, but we have to work with human nature being the way it is, not the way we would like it to be. Women are important, but so are men. We mustn’t push men to the sidelines in our attempts to engage women and prove we’re not a sexist organisation. We know we’re not, and we need to have the courage of our convictions.

  • April

    Thank you so much, Father, for your honest post. i have struggled with this for years, seeing the purity and innocence of the young children seemingly being robbed, in an almost child-abuse-like way. Then by Gods grace, and through much prayer, I now remember that the parents were children once, too, and they still are in God’s eyes. I pray for continued renewal in our Church, through the children and through our youth.

  • Helena Horwath

    My Father was an ardent aetheist and my Mother a lapsed Catholic (fortunately restored to the Sacraments before her death). God and I were formally introduced when I went to school at the age of five. I was captivated by the Nativity and Bible stories. At about the same age, I began to abscond from home and run off to Sunday services. And then I had to go home and probably stand in a corner for being “naughty”. Imagine that for a “crime” of childhood. LOL. Actually, I probably WAS naughty in trotting off without my parents’ permission. Seriously, though, my point is that children have a natural sense of holiness and the sacred. Jesus Himself warned people against scandalizing children. Parents have a high calling in being entrusted with little souls to bring up. That is an awesome responsibility, and so those blessed with children should heed His words.

  • Jim

    Does God really care if we miss Mass? Attending is a church rule, not a moral law.

    • Chris O’Neill

      Yes, I think He does. Think of it this way, do you care if someone for whom you have given a gift refuses to say thank you; not because you need the thanks – you give the gift as a gift, not because you expect to be repaid- but because they don’t (or can’t) understand what the gift is or what it means or even that it is a gift. Dont you care when the person you love refuses to allow you to love them because they treat your love as something they are entitled to? Again, it is not repayment that the one who loves seeks, but simply the opertunity to love. It is a deep sadness when the one you love insists on their own loneliness. Yes God cares if you miss mass.

      • Jim

        Why do you ascribe human characteristics to God? How do you know this?

        • Chris O’Neill

          Its not a matter of attributing human characteristics to God – as if I were the source of God’s qualities. Rather the analogy between human experience and God rests in His gift of being to me. In other words, by creating me, God imparts a certain similarity with himself to me (and every other created being). I know this because I know that I exist, and I know that there is good in having existence – which includes the experience and the capacity for participation in generosity. I also know that that whatever being or goodness that I posses (including my capacity for giving and receiving in generosity) is contingent and is rooted in the generosity of another. I did not create myself. Rather, I have been given being. I did not create or invent or even choose my human nature, but that nature with all of its capacities was given to me. What is more, there is no reason to suppose that I coming into existence was at all necessary. I didn’t always exist and it very well could have come about that was never given my existence. Everything I am, including that I am, is a gift that has been given to me from another. And so i have been given gifts and I have the capacity to give gifts with a similar generosity. I can love my kids and my wife, my friends, and even my enemies. I am capable of giving that which another depends on for their existence and goodness. When i do this, when I emulate the generosity which I experience on which I depend for existence, it becomes ever clearer to me what it is that i
          I am and what I am capable of. I become aware of what I am and what i need and what i have received. I am not God, I could never give what He has given. But I am like him because I can give in a similar way. This I know immediately and is just as obvious and reasonable to believe as is the knowledge that I have a mother and a father and that I breath air and need food and the existence of countless other things to continue to exist. Just as it is obvious to me that I am a husband and a father and a colleague and a friend on whom others depend. Gratitude to that from which every good gift comes, on whom i rely for my very existence and for anything that is worthy or good in my life is the only reasonable response to this knowledge. The opposite would be a betrayal of reason and a denial of everything that is good.

          There is of course more to say. The fact that the source of all that is good continues to be good to me, that my life and every good thing in it continues, despite all of my ingratitude and my denials, is a gift far more beautiful and good and precious to me than are all of the other gifts combined. It is this gift, more than any of the others, that gives me hope. And for this I owe a debt of gratitude that I can never rightfully repay. But I think attending Mass on Sunday where I recieve this great gift and offer my thanks seems a reasonable obligation of gratitude.

    • Cathaholic

      It is not a “church rule”, it is a moral law and therefore an obligation. You just don’t understand why it is a moral law.
      Let me get you a reference to the Catechism which will help you understand.

      Please prayerfully consider what is written here:
      http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s2c1a3.htm

      • Jim

        No, it is a church rule, not a moral law. The Church can change the Mass attendance requirement anytime it wants to, the way it changed the rule about not eating meat on Fridays. It cannot change moral law. If attending Mass once a week is a moral law, then 80% of Catholics and 5 billion non-Catholics are doomed to hell.

        • Cathaholic

          Jim, congratulations on changing the third commandment. Speak to a priest about this to receive a pastoral response. You are gravely mistaken on so many levels. A combox reply just won’t suffice on this. I’ll pray for you.

          • Jim

            I was a Trappist monk.

          • Cathaholic

            Come back to the Church. I left for almost half my life. The best thing I ever did was to come back. I will pray for you.

          • Jim

            What makes you think I left the Church?

          • Mr. Adams

            Prove it.

        • Christopher Lake

          Jim, I would hope that you were already told about this years ago, as a former Trappist monk, but the Church gathers for Sunday Mass, because the very early Christians, just after the time of Christ’s death, began to gather on Sunday, as that was the day on which Jesus rose from the dead. The Sunday Mass “requirement” is a matter of basic Christian reverence for the Resurrection. It astounds me that, as a Catholic, you seem to see Sunday Mass attendance as something about which God does not care very much!

          • Jim

            It seems to me that with all the does and don’ts on God’s list, attending Mass is pretty low.

          • Mr. Adams

            Right next to the Eucharist, right? Going to Mass on Sunday is one of the commandments and a precept of the Church. Meaning a moral law.

          • Christopher Lake

            “Do’s and don’ts,” Jim? Is this truly how you were taught to think about God and the Church as a Trappist monk– from the perspective of “do’s and don’ts,” rather than obeying Christ and listening to His Church because you love Him?

            Do you believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist at Mass?

    • Jacqueline C. Harvey, Ph.D.

      Yes. Because He loves us and we need it for our salvation because that’s where the Richards is. And He needs our prayers.

    • Mr. Adams

      Actually it breaks the 2nd Commandment.

  • alicewhoojit

    Why do people not go to mass? I don’t think any of the answers you gave really give the answer that I felt. That it wasn’t relevant to me. Mass is filled with older people, people at a different stage of life to me, people who are highly unlikely to be my friends, my support, my peer group. Who are highly unlikely to give me the backup that I need to remain faithful in this secular and aggressive-to-religion age. What happens is that you’ll get one or two younger people go along, they want to go to the mass, they want it to be relevant, but there is no-one else there of their age range to make it relevant. The catholic church needs to pay more attention to people in their 20s and 30s. it needs to help set up groups which are social and spiritual, and be active in supporting those that already exist. It needs to look across parishes, not just confine itself to each parish. If you have 2 young people in each parish, then that’s not a lot in that parish, but if a city has 10 parishes, then that’s 20 young people in the city who should be encouraged to meet up and provide support for each other. I found this kind of group (which is struggling to stay on its feet) and it made religion relevant again. If we want religion to continue to be relevant we need more things like this. Look at how the evangelicals do it. We need to learn from them – in this area if in no other.