Here’s one woman’s perspective, from the op-ed page of The New York Times. She stopped going to Mass last year, explaining:
In this house, we have never been Christmas-and-Easter-only Christians. My husband and I grew up in the church and raised our children there. Even during the hardest years, when mobilizing three young sons and various configurations of elderly parents felt like running the Iditarod every Sunday morning — even then, we didn’t miss Mass.
But the 2016 presidential election changed all that for me. I just couldn’t forgive my fellow Christians for electing a man who exploited his employees, boasted about his sexual assaults, encouraged violence against citizens who disagreed with him, mocked the disabled and welcomed the support of virulent white supremacists. This is what Jesus meant when he told his followers to love one another?
At church, all I could think about were the millions of people likely to lose their health insurance thanks to Catholic bishops who opposed the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act. I was supposed to be thinking about the infinite love of a merciful God, but all I could hear were thousands of Christians shouting, “Build that wall!” By the time Easter had come and gone, I was gone too.
But, she concludes, she needs to go back:
I miss being part of a congregation. I miss standing side by side with other people, our eyes gazing in the same direction, our voices murmuring the same prayers in a fallen world. I miss the wiggling babies grinning at me over their parents’ shoulders. I miss reaching for a stranger to offer the handshake of peace. I miss the singing.
So I will be at Mass again on Easter morning, as I have been on almost every Easter morning of my life. I will wear white and remember the ones I loved who sat beside me in the pew and whose participation in the eternal has found another form, whatever it turns out to be. I will lift my voice in song and give thanks for my life. I will pray for my church and my country, especially the people my church and my country are failing. And then I will walk into the world and do my best to practice resurrection.
Notably, she doesn’t seem to have missed the sacraments, the Eucharist, or anything like that. She doesn’t miss Mass or Reconciliation or hearing the priest (or deacon) break open the Word in a homily. She doesn’t miss the music or the prayers or anything that most of us might consider, somehow, transcendent.
I’m grateful she wants to return. But, reading her reflections, I wonder how many others like her carry similar sentiments.
And I wonder what we as a Church can do about it.