In a flip-flop from most parishes in the US, mine is looking forward to a surge in numbers next weekend – as students return for classes on the 11th. It’s been an adjustment to gear myself for smaller crowds at the Masses of the Christmas season. Christmas and Holy Family weekend are not heavy with pewfolk for us.
I was thinking to the crowds of thousands we handled at my old parish in Kansas City: seven Masses in twenty hours. I remarked to one of our pastors once, “What if all these people came back for Holy Family. Wouldn’t that be a Christmas miracle?” I didn’t get a positive reaction.
But, you know, why shouldn’t we Catholics think that way? Is the music we offer a cantor-n-organ sigh of relief after the big sounds of December 24 and 25? How much time goes into preparing a homily when the last Christmas Mass finishes up Friday midday? How many priests advise their Christmas congregations, “We’re sorry if you came too late to find a seat and were uncomfortable. If you come back this weekend, I guarantee we’ll have room for you.”
The only problem would be if the multitudes all responded to that invitation.
I was following a St Blog’s discussion on this theme. Zach seems convinced this is a question of knowledge and information. If only people knew their souls were in mortal danger from missing Mass on Sunday … they would show up. Count me a doubter on that score. I think people know what the Church’s position on Mass attendance is. The problem isn’t knowledge. The problem is that most inactive Catholics don’t care, don’t feel welcome, and have gotten out of a habit. Plus, having gone five, ten, or thirty years without getting hit by lightning, there is a credulity factor.
An objection to the notion that I promoted advertising–I don’t–I actually favor evangelization. Another objection was raised to the thought that we should encourage inactive Catholics to come back.
I don’t think Catholicism is going to recover its American Golden Age by retreating to the 1950′s in preaching, music, and liturgy. Let’s not forget this is the age that didn’t generate sticking power. People left the Church in the 60′s and early 70′s–an era where folk Masses were the distinct minority of offerings in parishes. So you can’t easily blame clowns, guitars, or sisters in polyester. I’d say that conservative Catholics have allowed their own expectations to be lowered: let’s score a few dozen Anglicans and hail the pope as a True Ecumenist Extraordinaire.
I do think Christmas and Easter are good times to encourage people to come and to return the next week. We can realistically promise less crowding. (Well, you can; but I can’t.) Can we maintain our liturgical stamina to make Holy Family Sunday and the Second Sunday of Easter even more sparkling to souls looking for meaning, purpose, and grace?
Speaking of which, this weekend, is a pretty big feast, no lower than number 4 for Western Christians, and at least top ten even if you include Super Bowl Sunday, Catechetical Weekend, and Ash Wednesday. Any of you clergy or pewfolk see returnees last weekend or this? I’d say if they make it a trifecta next Sunday, take ‘em out for brunch.
Or maybe you think the Church deserves full pews every Sunday and we don’t need or shouldn’t lift a finger to get them. Go ahead: make your case.