Thursday, May 17, 2007

MANY MEMBERS MISS MASS MINDING MEGACHURCH MESSAGE

And the ground shook. We looked up into the sky for signs of the parousia for such a momentous event points to mighty works that only God could accomplish. And if He were wielding His mighty right arm with such strength, it must mean the end is near for Satvicwarrior and I have agreed upon something.

To come close to quoting him he says that the Church is totally out of step with the faithful who are so with the times. I could not agree more. Furthermore I would venture to say that this has been true for some 2,000 years and will likely be so in the future. It is the perennial accusation lobbied at the Church and not one she is likely to take as a negative.

That being said it is no hidden secret that many Catholics have left the Church particularly for Protestant mega-churches over the past few decades. Many have sprung up around northeast Ohio and a census of their membership reveals anywhere from a good chunk to a majority of their members being ex-Catholics.

A meeting was held recently to discuss this trend. Reasons cited for people joining such churches include an “accept Jesus and you are saved” message, that they often offer a more friendly atmosphere, are more entertaining, have more programs, are more with the times, make people feel more included, and they have more of an emphasis on evangelization.

Ideas for stemming the tide of those leaving include not worrying about it (for it will run its course) to teaching our people apologetics. I doubt either will prove very effective.

There is always making the mass more entertaining but that will also fail miserably. We are not good entertainers and the mass does not lend itself to entertainment very well. The mass can come off looking like a middle aged man in a midlife crisis trying to dress like an 18 year old, using popular slang and driving a red convertible sports car. Even if he pulls it off he comes across as someone about whom you think something is just not quite right.

We have only one thing that works. We have only one thing that nobody else has. We have only one thing that we do really, really well. We have the Eucharist. If everything we do does not somehow flow from and to the Eucharist we will bleed parishioners.

People leave the Catholic Church because the (you choose the denomination) down the street (pick one: serves more donuts, has youth dances, has a senior group, doesn’t ask for money, is anybody except our cranky pastor, insert your own reason here.) And for most areas these are good reasons but not if you believe in the Eucharist.

Most mega churches are service-oriented Churches; that is, they provide services for their membership. The Catholic Church is also a service-oriented institution, but we mean get your own behind up out of the pew and do something. It might behoove you to join a church that will provide you with services but not if you believe John 6 concerning the Eucharist.

It might be more fun to go to a church whose focus is to distract and entertain you rather asking you to participate through a concerted effort, but not if you believe that Christ established a Church and entrusted it with his Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.

Perhaps it would be beneficial to join a church that agrees with your theology rather than a set theology handed down from apostolic times, but not if you knew that it would mean you would be leaving the opportunity to touch Christ directly on earth.

Mass must be absurdly focused the Eucharist. Education must flow from our celebration of the Eucharist and back to it. Sports, Scripture studies, picnics, men’s groups, women’s guilds, societies, banquets, everything must get their inspiration from and point back to the Eucharist or we’ve nothing really special to offer.

Most important are youth groups. They cannot simply be opportunities for youth to get together and feel welcomed or entertained. They can do that anywhere. They can’t be connected to the Eucharist anywhere. The youth groups in Cleveland that are the most successful and spawn vocations are those that continually focus everything back to the Eucharist.

Faith is more than about us. It’s more than simply educating Christians even when teaching absolute truth. It is about a relationship, a relationship with Jesus Christ. And nowhere else can you directly see Him, worship Him, touch Him, and bring Him into yourself. Only in the Catholic Church. We must start operating at every level personally and institutionally as if we actually believe this truth.

12 comments:

Rob said...

-the mass does not lend itself to entertainment very well. The mass can come off looking like a middle aged man in a midlife crisis trying to dress like an 18 year old-

Furthermore, trying to entertain 17-year olds only turns them off. You might capture their attention for a short spell, but those seventeen year olds eventually become twenty-five year olds and thirty year olds wondering who the hell sold their patrimony to the devil and replaced it with the Ronald McDonald liturgy. Then they take their kids somewhere to where people take the concept of divinity seriously.

Winnipeg Catholic said...

I grant you the whole staunch unchanging truth thing on one level, but there is another level where the church has grown with the ongoing message of the holy spirit. Of course an example of this is slavery. Over the fullness of time, the church came to realize that slavery was wrong.

Likewise there are other areas where the church will continue to mature and grow with the message of the HS or she will be relegated to the sidelines. This is a bit like ultraorthodox jews and the samaritans. There are still tiny communities of jews that require women to sit in the unclean place during menstration, and require a rabbinic inspection of bathroom mold and so forth. Those stubborn sects become sidelined and marginalized. I wish them well in their faith, but I believe that they are closed off to the revelations of the HS and the ongoing message of God.

So I agree with you that turning the mass into entertainment is not the way, and that it is all about the eucharist. But I also think that the church has some growing to do in some areas.

The church is also a pretty big tent. Franciscans, Spritans, Dominicans, Opus Dei ... there are so many different groups with different emphasis.

Generally the church has found a path to support the ongoing spiritual needs of her flock.

Finally, I'll say this. While we do have plenty of small churches, the catholic church has always ahd lots of her own mega churches. This is in part because the small number of priests does not support lots of small churches. Obviously this could be remedied, in part, if we ceased to withhold holy orders from the married.

Better coffee hours, sunday school, singles services, day care, and non-profit services before and after mass, and the rest of the week would also help. Here again, we have the message 'be fruitful and multiply', then we coldly turn our back on one another when it comes to living the message.

Anonymous said...

WC ~ Since you brought up slavery you should educate yourelf in the truth of it:

http://www.catholicculture.org/docs/doc_view.cfm?recnum=6765

http://www.ctlibrary.com/ct/2003/julyweb-only/7-14-53.0.html


Throwing slavery into this discussion is a strawman and has no bearing on the topic.

Adoro te Devote said...

Great post, Fr. V. !

I agree...the Church is out of step with society, and I thank God every day for that! It tells me I'm in the right place, and quite honestly, the Church is the only place on earth where I know I'm truly safe.

Sadly, so many don't believe in the True Presence. They have been taught that it's just a symbol, or they don't understand the theology behind our beliefs so that's the conclusion they come to. The sense of reverence and awe was lost, and with it, a sort of offhand dealing with the Eucharist, as though it's just something to get through before everyone can go home after Mass.

I do think catechesis is needed, but it's not just an intellectual concern, as you note, but it's something we have to PRACTICE. Lex orandi, Lex credendi.

Rich said...

There are four markings of Christ's Church. She is one, holy, catholic and apostolic. There is only one bride which fits into this shoe and she is the Catholic Chruch (one need only examine history and the claims of the Church to verify the above.) There is of course only one reason to be Catholic and that is because she is true in her claims (all of them.)

MJ said...

Great post!
When people go to church to be entertained or be served they are missing the point. We are there to worship and become closer to God. We then go forth to serve - not be served! One of the Catholic high schools I'm at has 2 great signs as a reminder to students. There is only one entrance and one exit to the parking lot. The entrance says Enter to learn and the exit says Exit to serve. Very simple but a reminder. I think having different groups, youth, senior, singles etc., at church is great. Many people need and like the companionship and socialization and what better place to find it but at church. But what we need to remember is these groups main focus is on God and service to others.

Gypsy said...

Well, the second saddest words a Catholic mom can hear from daughter are, "Husband and I are going to his church this weekend, and bringing the girls." Which is a Lutheran mega-church in Ohio. (What IS it with Ohio -- there are like, 7 or 8 or more US Presidents from there, and wall-to-wall megachurches. Gawdsakes, you folks don't get out enough.)
:-) Don't hurt me.

Good post, Fr. V. and good points, all; and W.C., I believe one of the saints said it, "Where there is no coffee hour, put a coffee hour there, and there you will find one." Facetious but serious -- the last time I asked someone in the parish if they needed help with some social thing, they gasped and shouted something about Godsends while wiping their eyes on my trousers shortly after kissing my feet.

Honest. Well, close enough.

Rob.. you've clarified something important for me. I've had my hesitations about how youthful our new young priest, Fr. D, makes the Mass, especially when he said he gave up all music --not just his iPod-- for Lent, and refers to himself as "Papa D." (i.e., how far is too far?)

Ok, maybe I don't get out enough, either. Or maybe I'm old. But risking the selling out of "their patrimony.." yes, that wants thinking about -- thank you.

Winnipeg Catholic said...

Gypsy,

I know, I know.... I am going to talk to one of the padres at my parish about getting more involved in these things, it is difficult with a toddler and a baby and the many other excuses I have... Also it is difficult because my parish is a mega church in its own right, with something like 13,000 people, and 3000 showing up each weekend to something like 10 masses in a lower and upper church and 4 pastors. So anything one would possibly plan sounds like an enormous undertaking. (My parish is consolidated after another parish was sold to pay for the scandals).

BTW - Have family in Akron and have visited Clevland diocese quite a few times.

All the Best,
B

Gypsy said...

Holy mack'rel, W.C.! What a huge parish.. yes, we are "clustering" some parishes here as well, and for the same reasons, sorta.. also from a shortage of priestly vocations. And now we are talking about re-clustering.. we may have to close one church enitrely. And yet, as Pope Benedict said long ago, it may be alright.. we are becoming a smaller but more serious Church.. we shall trust the Holy Spirit to be bringing Good from it all.

But anyway, I'm sure there is something you can do in the parish, W.C., and I'm pretty sure it'll help you jump-start a greater parishional closeness for many others. At one point, it seemed all I was doing was phoning people to bake for the soup kitchen - but that's a genuine help, and one gets to know the people one calls.

Most folks think someone else is doing this or that, so they don't offer...Meanwhile, someone as goofy as me is running the coffee show after two Masses (for at least 1/2 the 2000 families) alone. And with your clustering circumstances, one may be even more hesitant to offer, not knowing who did what in which parish.. but that also may work to everyone's favor. I've never been in a megaparish (unless it is happening right under my nose!), but just your caring about a greater social closeness will help bring it about, I know this -- that is how it all gets started.. so I thank you for that concern.

Winnipeg Catholic said...

I am uncomfortable with the 'we'll be small but serious' mentality attributed to B16. I hope that's not the case. We are supposed to appeal to the sense fidelis, so if the faithful are leaving something must be wrong. If the unfaithful are leaving that is a different story. But if the faithful are perceiving a different message from Christ than the magisterium, than the magisterium needs to listen.

Adoro te Devote said...

WC ~ You're right, if people are leaving, something is wrong, but it's not wrong with the Church...the problem is within those who choose to leave.

Go back and read John 6. Jesus' disciples left him, too. (not the apostles, but others who had followed him up until that point).

Jesus let them walk away and he didn't change his words or his teaching to satisfy them or appeas them or to keep them there. He reinforced what he had to say with even stronger emphasis each time...and they walked away.

That is a lesson for us today, too. The Church's teachings remain and will always remain.

Now, that said, there can be human factors that cause people to leave, and those are things that HAVE to be addressed. Do people leave because they are not entertained? That's their problem. Are they leaving because the parish and maybe the priest is rude, inhospitable, not available, etc....boy, that's a culture that would have to change. Are people leaving because the faith is not being taught thus they have to go elsewhere to find the truth? (I can think of a couple parishes locally that claim to be Catholic but make a mockery of the mass, have invalid sacraments, and read the latest "social justice" poetry in place of the Gospel). I'd leave that parish, too, and never come back.

The Church is big, and there is a place for everyone, but if they are leaving because they have a problem with the truth, then we need to let them go. I left once, too...but the Truth brought me home.

People go through that. We cannot let people fleeing the Church for THAT reason force us to water down the Truth or try to change the teachigns and practices in order to appease them.

Hmmm...I actually wrote a blog post on that idea once. I can post the link if you'd like.


Anyway, I actually attend a Catholic "Mega-church". We have over 5200 registered families and individuals. (I'm number 4,852, I think). :-)

But this parish, although the building is modern in style, as one of the main Vocations suppliers from our corner of the midwest, and that says a lot. We do have to endure Lifeteen, but I'll get over that...and we have a Saturday night band that I prefer to avoid, but other than a band jamming "on stage" during Mass, the liturgy is otherwise reverent and most of the music is theologically correct. We have thriving ministries and always have the largest RCIA class in Minnesota. (25 this year).

So yes, people will leave, but people are flocking to the Church in droves, too. It's beautiful.

Winnipeg Catholic said...

Fr. V,

I wanted to mention a YouTube video from the Hank Hill cartoon with him searching for a church and then ending up in a mega church where they play Dallas Cowboy games after the service. funny.

Adoro,

I think we all agree. But remember that in the days of the early church the early christians were held in some esteem by the surrounding pagans as really taking good care of one another, being kind, caring, et cetera. To me, this isn't about the mass, or the priest, or how warm and fuzzy the priest is.

And I don't really see the mega churches as being all that "liberal" either, so I doubt it is a doctrinal issue.

What I am saying is that the church ought to be a place where we really take care of one another. If catholics want NASCAR after mass, then by golly let's give it to them. Not my thing, but that's how it goes.

I went to the Boston Men's Conference a few month's back, St. Patrick's day.

They had:

Adoration all day
Book sales
Booths from every group you can imagine
Confessions all day
Several speakers
Mass with Cardinal Sean and a visiting Cardinal
Music

And on and on. But it was all men-only followed by a women's only thing the next day.

Now WHY can't we do things like that for families? WHY can't we begin to really offer a full service, fun, inspiring day after mass with other catholics, whether that includes BBQs, sports, outings, bible groups for people in each stage of life, whatever.

Catholics always seem to act like that is some kind of wimpy, mamby-pamby prod stuff. Catholics tend to react with disdain that protestants shower attention on folks in nursing homes resulting in death bed conversions. Well, why aren't we showering one another with love? And not just starving children in Cambodia. I know that there are special priests on missions and so forth. But I mean treating one another well right here in the good 'ol USA.