I had a nice chat with a parishioner after 10:30 Mass this morning. Her dad came up from the Des Moines area for Christmas, and the family attended Midnight Mass with Lessons and Carols here. (I wish I could have had it captured on video to throw up on the parish’s liturgy Facebook page.) My friend related that her father, widowed just about a year ago, really found the half-hour before Mass edifying. Or enjoyable. Or spiritually fruitful–how do you capture the sentiment when our vocabulary fails?
Anyway, her dad wondered about the sparse crowd. Did people know, he asked, what they were missing?
To give my faith community its due, practically every college student is gone. Like them, many of our resident parishioners also leave to celebrate at parental homes elsewhere. You wouldn’t have known it at 5:30 Friday night. We had nearly 700 packed into the church for it. The “family” Christmas Eve was one of the best, quality-wise, I’ve ever been associated with. I really enjoyed playing with the kids. They did a nice job singing–we had about fifteen voices. I was also pleased to see some real talent in the orchestra: violin, two violas, bass, trumpet, clarinet, and two flutes. The middle school kids were all competent enough to be playing more regularly at weekend Masses–and I told them so. And the younger instrumentalists played quite well.
How did your parish’s attendance fare this weekend? We had about 140 for Midnight Mass. 200 for Christmas morning. 80 last night for Saturday night Mass. Then about 150 and 220 for our Sunday morning Masses today.
Isn’t it curious how our labors and expectations don’t usually translate into big crowds? We’d like to think that if we put tens of hours of rehearsal time and personal prep efforts into a big Mass that people will reward us and show up. In reality, many fine efforts in the Church go barely noticed. I find I’m really okay with that. In the present age, we really seem to be less in the excitement of a full flowering, and more in the stage of planting and nurturing a few seeds.
I used to worry a bit more about that, especially with maintaining energy and motivation for our college students. But I think there’s value in striving for the “better” and letting the “more” take care of itself. To a large part, I thinkn young people get it. They don’t see themselves as “entitled” to the adoring crowds. They know our efforts are about attracting people to Christ and to the Gospel. We attend to what is in our control: the quality of our own efforts, and the sincerity behind that.