It’s easy for a parish to accidently compete against itself by scheduling two events on the same day. It is even easier for this to happen between numerous parishes. All of a sudden you realize that two or more parishes have scheduled a concert or a dance or a fundraiser or some event on the exact same day. Throw in Catholic high schools, diocesan events, and churches, synagogues, and temples all doing things and the situation gets worse. Next add city events, major league sports events, and holiday weekends, and the possibility to schedule something on a day that nobody else is doing something inches toward nil.
Truth be told, however, most of this is manageable. But one thing that drives pastors (across this diocese anyway) absolutely nuts, is when our parish sports teams practices and games start competing with the faith life of the parish. For many years, there was a raging battle to get CYO to stop having games before noon or one o’clock on Sundays. Too many kids were skipping Mass because they had to be at the game or risk getting kicked off of the team. Oddly, that threat is perfectly acceptable to some while cautions about not living the faith life of a Catholic is seen as harsh.
The center of the life of a Catholic parish is the Mass and the Eucharist. Everything stems from that. If this parish did not have at its heart the Eucharist, then there would be no point to staying open. Send the kids to public school, let city leagues take over the sports, go to dance at the local social hall, have the art museums take over the art, go hear live music at the bar, and buy tickets to motivational speakers of we are not going to make Mass our source and summit. For us, all these things draw meaning and importance because they are centered in the Mass and flow from it; grace being the only thing that you will actually take with you at the end of this life and these other activities being tools to help us live that grace more fully.
So when these other activities start competing with the Mass rather than flow from it, it is rather the tail wagging the dog. And pastors become a bit hot under their starched collars. But that doesn’t mean that Mass and those things most closely united to it should be made as inconvenient as possible and everything else suffer. They should, rather, complement and build up each other, which I find most involved are more than willing to do, for it is then that we are truly parish and I thank them deeply for that.