People in my parish, especially parents of parochial school students, might wonder why I am so very insistent about Mass attendance and worship on Sundays.
I am to where I have contemplated putting on my tombstone, “Please be sure to to worship every Sunday at Mass.”
I know so many have adopted a secular way of viewing Mass as something nice if you do it, but not entirely necessary to one’s identity. I know some are bored out of their minds at Mass.
I know some have to wrestle with toddlers throughout Mass and feel like they have gotten nothing out of it. I know some people are so self absorbed as to have a distaste to worship anything other than their own desires.
I know some have been hurt rather badly by life, a cleric, or a layperson in a Church.
To those who think it’s nice but not necessary:
It is necessary! The Church refers to the Eucharist as the source and summit of our faith. Jesus, at the Last Supper, said “Do this in memory of me.”
The Eucharist is our direct participation in the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross; we receive the needed benefits of this sacrifice through the reception of the Eucharist. Pair this with the commandment to keep holy the Sabbath (part of which is the worship of God) and Mass is very necessary to who we are as Catholics.
Sometimes we fall into the mistake that I don’t feel I should have to do something, then it is valid. When the God whose eternal home you want entrance into tells us that this is part of the road there, then we do it.
We aren’t there primarily to get something (although we do in the reception of the Eucharist). We are there to give worship to God in the way He has told us to do.
Since I care about your eternal salvation, I am going to challenge you to come to Mass for your salvation and the salvation of those entrusted to your care…especially the dads!
To those bored out their minds:
Not everything in the world is there to entertain us. Although many clergy do act as if Mass is supposed to entertain you, it isn’t.
I know sometimes it can be boring. Sometimes the priest or deacon doesn’t preach coherently or well. Sometimes the music is dreadful or non-existent.
Many times it just seems like a poor production that doesn’t speak to the majesty or mystery of what is actually taking place. I get that. I wish more priests and ministries understood that.
However, what you bring of who you are before God is of greater importance. That doesn’t let clergy off of the hook for engendering the sense of mystery and majesty that should be present at Mass.
However, sometimes we have work beyond those shortcomings and do our best to worship God nonetheless. Again, since I care about your eternal salvation, I will challenge you.
To those wrestling with toddlers and children:
I get the struggle.
Sometimes it can feel like herding cats in getting your child or children to behave (or at least not be a distraction) during Mass. But the only real way to teach children appropriate behavior at Mass is to engage at Mass.
Yes, people might look at you. Sometimes their looks might be ugly. Yes, I know you want to hide under your pew at times.
First, shame on those shooting the ugly looks. You needed patience when it was you, you should extend patience. Sometimes that child is ADD/ADHD or on the autism spectrum and just requires more. Give the patience you yourself would want.
Parents, you are not going to get that look from me. I am happy you are there. If it does seem a bit much, especially if the behaviors are more profound, you might split-shift Mass attendance if absolutely necessary for a while. But job as a parish is to share the struggle, not judge you for it.
To those so self-absorbed as to see Mass as irrelevant:
The world is not about you. It isn’t. The world won’t conform to your desires. God doesn’t become what you want Him to be. Being self-absorbed not only makes a person miserable in this life, but surrenders heaven to boot.
Life is more about how you give of yourself than what you can take. Mass ideally makes you step away from yourself and focus on God.
Again, since I care about your your eternal salvation, I will challenge you.
To those who have been hurt:
I was in this category at one time. I left the Church and quit believing in a personal God because of the damage I received at the hands of those in the Church. I know the pain and the reservation, in the name of self-protection, that you might have in going back.
I know the resentment of feeling like you were forced out. I get that.
For me, after a few years, it became a desire to come back and not be what drove me out. I wanted to be the priest and Catholic who reached out, who cared, who took care of those struggling…not be the cause of that struggling.
Everything that drove away me still exists in the Church, but I am determined to be the difference needed.
That is my challenge to you. It is hard. I know that. But, it is worth it.
I know that Christ and His Church are not represented by the ugliness of others, but by His love most perfectly expressed by the Cross.
Again, since I care about your eternal salvation and have been in this particular hole, I know the way out and will challenge you.
Fr. Bill Peckman is a priest in the Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri. He is the pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Macon, St. Mary Parish in Shelbina, St. Patrick Parish in Clarence, Sacred Heart Parish in Bevier.
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