I was enticed to read an article today entitled “Yes, millennials like brunch. But that’s not why they’re skipping Mass.” I clicked to read this two-year-old article (ancient in internet time) because I’m a millennial, I’m kind of a fan of brunch, and I go to Mass almost daily. The article was written by a young mother who brings her family to Mass a couple times a month. She was trying to drill down to what exactly was keeping her from coming weekly, but she doesn’t get to any serious answers. The truth for her, and for many, is that it’s just not a priority. Sometimes pancakes in pajamas wins out for her family.
Now I know we all have thoughts about this. I have many thoughts. As someone who was raised with no question about whether we would go to Sunday Mass or not, I can’t even imagine a world where I’m not there every week. I church hop a bit, and the last few weeks have required a vigil Mass because of plans I made for traveling on Sunday – but I’m always there. It’s a priority for me.
So back to the article … after reading it, I did something I should really stop doing – I open the comments and began to read. I know better – comment boxes are not the way to holiness – but I digress. One struck me pretty hard.
I shared this in a group chat with some co-workers and they had a similar reaction to me. Some of our thoughts are:
- Precepts of the Church, man. It’s pretty simple … Mother Church says so because she loves us.
- It must have had to do with a lack of understanding of the Eucharist.
- At least they’re going to Mass. Even if it’s just sometimes. May God’s grace work on them and we all remember to pray for them.
So where does this leave us? Am I suggesting we change the rules? No. Am I suggesting that missing Mass isn’t a big deal? No. Am I providing a missing perspective? Maybe, you be the judge.
The first comment from my co-worker is true. However, when you don’t trust or recognize the church as an authority on your life, then to say it’s because the Church says it’s good for us doesn’t have any meaning to you.
The second comment about the Eucharist feels more true – since most Catholics don’t believe that a firm belief in the true presence is required to be a good Catholic. However, I’m wondering if they can see the power of the Eucharist, but just don’t think they need to be present for it every week.
The third comment is the most emphatic, and also something we should be considering. Remember that everyone is in a different place on their own journey. This isn’t the end, it’s the beginning or the middle. I’m not exactly where I’d like to be spiritually – I don’t imagine you are either.
So what can we do as parish leaders and fellow parishioners to bring people back to weekly Mass attendance. I’d say, first off, don’t start with “you’ll go to Hell if you don’t.” Not a great motivator for developing a relationship with Jesus Christ. (Although some of you may be nodding your heads thinking that it’s true.)
- We can ensure we are doing our best to engage with families at Mass. I was with my best friend and her two boys (5 months and 2 1/2 years) for the last two Sunday Masses. Was that experience the same as when I’m alone? Nope, not even for a second – and I was in charge of the 5 month old, he’s the easy one! Is your parish family-friendly? Are your parishioners child-friendly? If not, make that a priority this year.
- We can create community within the pews. If someone isn’t a regular Mass attendee, then no one even notices they aren’t there every week. It’s not about taking attendance, it’s about knowing one another and saying, “It’s so good to see you, it’s been a while. How’s the family?” People say this to me all the time (well, not the family bit) because I church and Mass time hop quite a bit and travel a lot. This summer I’ve been at my parish at my Mass time 3 times, maybe…
- We can create an excellent Sunday Mass experience. What does this mean? It means you’re putting your best effort into your music, your lectors are trained and practiced, the homily is relevant and well-delivered, the altar servers are trained and paying attention (this is a point of distraction for a lot of people), parking is easy to navigate, parishioners ‘scoot in’ to the center of the pews prepared for newcomers, etc. We work to remove distractions when they are in our control.
What does your parish do to welcome those among us who aren’t among us every single week? The see of faith is there, what will we do to fertilize and nurture it?
Oh, if you want to read article, check it out here! I’d recommend skipping the comment box.