Overheard, as the tale goes, after church yesterday:
“Now I remember why I hardly ever come to church. Complete lack of variety and imagination.”
“What do you mean?” comes the reply.
“They only seem to know two songs here, ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ and ‘Jesus Christ Is Risen Today.’”
Some discussion at my parish over the weekend about the crowds we see at Easter and Christmas. Conventional wisdom has it that the throng appears twice a year and pretty much no more unless there’s a wedding or a death in the family. My pastor agrees. After fifteen years he not only knows practically every parishioner, but all their family connections, jobs, and odd facts. So that’s a testimony I’m inclined to take seriously.
On the other hand, I’ve read one or two places that maybe the Easter-n-Christmas Catholic phenomenon is overstated. Lots of parishioners go to Mass every month or so, but they all make a point of attending on the Big Days. So sure, my pastor saw lots of people unknown to him yesterday. Question is, are they the faces he scans over twice a year or once a month? Whose faces do you see?
I’d say this is an important question. If evangelization is to be fruitful with semi-churched believers we should know how often the message is getting through.
I notice that former blogger Fr Bryce Sibley gets in on the discussion at Homiletic and Pastoral Review. He spends a lot of words burning through the Catholic blogosphere’s favorites: clowns, meals, priest-as-performer. But he glosses over his first idea: Catholics just don’t believe missing Mass is a serious sin. They don’t care about the sobriety, solemnity, or the priest-as-center-of-all-things-holy.
The Salmagundi’s subtitle reads, “The priest must do everything in his power to directly instill an attitude of seriousness and reverence in the faithful.”
Good luck on this one. Last time I checked faith was a matter of God’s grace. The landscape has completely changed over the past fifty years. There’s no way priests are going to scare people back to church on Sunday. It’s a worthy challenge to get people back to church, no question. But we need to diagnose the problem before throwing our favorite solutions at the matter.