Monday, October 25, 2010


This past week from Tuesday to Friday the priests (most of them anyway) of the Diocese of Cleveland got together for their semiannual convocation. Priests converge from all over the diocese to a large hotel for presentations, workshops, meetings with the bishop, and camaraderie, the last part probably being the most valuable. If left to our own devices we would see each other at an appallingly rare rate save for confession or Mass help. Therefore I find the social, the card game, or the swim as valuable as the workshop. As it was there was a mass exodus

You know what else is pretty cool? A couple of hundred priests getting together to celebrate Mass and hearing a tidal wave of men’s voices singing and making the responses. At the seminary it is a daily occurrence but one that is not often had elsewhere.

The talks were pretty good. They basically made the case that we need to do more if we want people to be excited about the faith. In a very rough one of the speakers as said, “It is not a matter of having two or three more ministries, but 50 or 60!”

That thought came back to me today when after the morning Mass a person stopped me and asked if I could hear his confession. My mind raced through the morning schedule – I have a half an hour to eat breakfast and walk the dog, then my first appointment will be here leading right into a meeting with a person from the diocese, and since our secretary is on vacation my letter for the bulletin must be written by noon. So I say, “Okay – but it has to be quick!”

What a rotten answer. What are we here for but to be dispensers of God’s mercy? But I say, “I’m sorry but I am busy” with my response. “What – do you have a breakfast appointment?” Well – sort of yes. I swear that if I hear of one more program that is going to save priests time and money I’ll boot the person out of the rectory – because they always take more time and more money – evidenced by the fact that I am giving the person 45 minutes of my time for him to tell me how he is going to save me time.

Wow – there was a rant I wasn’t expecting. Anyway . . .

In the middle of all this talk of all these new and, quite frankly, wonderful programs they were suggesting that we begin in order to keep Catholics practicing as Catholics should, no one made mention of doing what we do best save for one of our (great ) priests who stood up and said that we should make darn well sure that we are celebrating the sacraments to the best of our ability and being as orthodox as we know how. (Another rough quote taking from what he said more what I wanted to hear than what he actually said.)

I think it a rather mega-Church/Protestant idea that we need to attract people to Sunday services by making sure that we are providing other great services for people. Rather, (and this is subtle) it is the great and proper celebration of the sacraments that gives meaning to all these other groups. Now, it may be that having them will attract people to Mass, but that shouldn’t be our modus aperandi. Our goal is to get people excited about the faith through great homilies and worship so that they wish to express it somehow in a greater fashion in the rest of their lives and therefore these ministries flourish. It is tail wagging the dog that a club meeting should inspire someone to think, “Well, I better go to Mass too.” That will happen – but we shouldn’t count on it. Doing so will cause us to run our limited resources (space, volunteers, materials, time, funds) into a pit as we try to have a meeting for left-handed, shuffleboard playing Catholics over 6’3”.

Well, such were my thoughts as we gathered for a priestly social after the talk and everybody did the, “What did you think” thing.

In happier news: This Sunday was also our Oktoberfest (at the same time as the teen dance and the Chesterton Society and AA) I got out my button box and played with the band for a little bit. Of course I look a bit more Slovenian than German and the polkas we played were all Eastern European, but I don’t think anybody minded. Here is a picture of my get up.


ck said...

You are 100% right in your analysis.

Margaret Comstock said...

I agree with ck. I am sick and tired of being told that we have to be more friendly to attract people and so get them to come to church. If we were more Christian we would be more friendly, etc. and where do we get the motivation to be Christian except from the sacraments? It's not for nothing that we say that the Eucharist is the 'source and summit' of our faith.

Cracked Pot said...

I've begun to wonder if the more the laity "get involved" in things at the parish, the more the priests' work load [unintentionally] increases, rather than decreases. More groups and more committees don't necessarily help the priests "run" the parish more efficiently. We need to help, but in practical ways, as the "grounds committee" does.

You are correct, Father, that the role of the priests is to inspire the laity to go out into the world (our proper sphere of influence) and be witnesses of Christ's love and mercy. I think that's what Vatican II meant.

lgreen515 said...

I think someone said that we aren't here to receive services, but to give service.

Anonymous said...

Two of my sons age 27 and 18 who are generally not good about going to Mass on a regular basis unless I guilt them into, have been going to the Latin Mass and actually wanting to go. They enjoy the quiet and reverence there. They are turned off by the overly "social" atmosphere at our parish before Mass. My point is that it's not the ministries or friendliness that is applealing to them, but the true reverence and prayerfulness that seems to be present at the Latin Mass

lgreen515 said...

Interesting, Anon. I came from the Methodist tradition, and the St. Sebastian service seems the picture of quiet and reverence to me. I am never aware of people talking before the service. I can't tell you how great it is to come in Sunday morning and not have somebody interrupt me as I am trying to compose myself and pray. I really must try the Latin Mass sometime.

Anonymous said...

oh dear i got a serious "flashback" when i read the words attract in a mega church protestant way---yikes my heart is beating like crazy--my blood may be curdling for all i know---i guess it is clear this idea doesn't sit well with my little convert soul--i guess my fear is this is the wrong path--i know it would never have attracted me--quite the contrary--i would have thought why bother --it seems to be more of the same--i don't know --i know for me i longed for something "finer" something more lovely--more precious--more HOLY--and that sometning was the EUCHARIST---not the gift of finest wheat--even though it is--but just the stand on its own EUCHARIST-present in every catholic sanctuary---in pride of place--not off in god only knows where---i'll stop my rantings--ta,ta--sincerely, nancy p.s. dear Father V.--just in case you are still with me--i worry about Holy Days for the celebration of the
mass extraordinare---you know of course these are not "optional" any suggesstions of what to do when we run into scheduling conflicts---thank you in advance


Nan said...

The priest was right about celebrating the sacraments and being Orthodox. Please don't entertain me during Mass. Especially not during Mass.

Patty said...

I remember hearing someone recently on Catholic radio (can't remember who, possibly Fr. Corapi or Fr. Pacwa) say that it's better to have a parish will well attended masses and no programs than a parish with a lot of programs but poorly attended masses.

That is so true. In reality we need both (assuming the programs are beneficial). The programs should flow from the liturgy for the most part, not vice versa.