The Better, The More?

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.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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3 Responses to The Better, The More?

  1. Liam says:

    I was visiting my parents’ parish of the past 3 years, St James in Setauket, NY (which also serves the SUNY Stony Brook community). We went to the 11:30 AM Mass on Christmas morning; it was SRO, packed to the gills.

    Unfortunately, I had to make a 7AM departure this morning to beat the blizzard home, so I don’t know what attendance was like today.

  2. I think we finally got it honed out here, Todd. Two 4pm Vigils I’m glad the local FD marshalls ignored, a 6pm and 8pm of which I’ve yet to hear of attendance, and Midnight which was SRO, 950 seating and counting.
    Wendy and I did a morning Mass at our middle sized parish cluster of three which was maybe 175 or so, nice though.
    But Midnight, with our pre-concert, was a beautiful liturgy. Pastor chanted most orations. He even took my hint from the previous week’s concert where our “encore” was the corporate chanting of the Snow “Our Father” and we chanted the prayer at midnight! He’s one of those who thinks someone’s gonna be left out if it’s sung….
    Check out Alesis VideoTrack, $179. Opened it up before midnight, no instructions and let ‘er rip, way cool, way easy and digitally faithful. Software/USB will get your stuff straight to YouTube no muss, no fuss.
    Now that I’ve actually used the bad boy, I may start that chant/guitar thingy project for Cafe that some, even Jeffrey, want me to tackle.
    Have a great New Year and Epiphany. Thanks for the salutation to Wendy and I. We’re off (not walkin’) to New Orleans after Masses next Sunday for CMAA Chant Intensive.

  3. FrMichael says:

    My parish has a surge of people, maybe 1/3 more than an average Sunday. Not excessive compared to other local parishes. SRO for the Vigil Masses but good attendance (maybe 2/3 to 3/4 weekly Sunday average) for Christmas Day. I was pleasantly surprised.

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