The Return Of 2021

national back to church sunday posterYou might think this poster, left, was part of some diocese’s effort to gather in the pandemic strays as the Sunday obligation returns in most places. But no, this was an effort begun well before recent lockdowns, and it looks ecumenical.

From the effort’s website:

Back to Church Sunday began in 2009 in response to a survey research that indicated 82% of people said they would attend church if someone they knew invited them, but only 2% of church members were inviting people to come with them to their church.

I suppose a good Catholic query  these days would be: Why are the bishops taking the lead, and why is the matter being framed in terms of obligation upon pain of sin? What I mean is this: wouldn’t millions of already-attending believers be at least as effective inviting their Catholic friends to return?

My family was on vacation last weekend. My wife and I went to Mass at a parish in my hometown once known for good music and liturgy. I don’t remember my beloved’s exact quote, but it was something along the lines of …

I think I’ll need to go to daily Mass this week to cleanse myself from this.

“Cleanse” was the actual verb used.

Granted, New York State isn’t “opening up for Sunday obligation” until the coming weekend. I fail to see the prudence of attaching an obligation to what was essentially a worship effort run like a daily Mass: no congregational singing, no lay readers–just a deacon, a rather unmemorable preaching, and a certain speed of praying a Eucharistic Prayer. All done in 45 minutes.

Mind you, some of these qualities are a regular Sunday practice in the northeastern US. I fail to see how such experiences can be attached to “obligation,” or a sense of opening up. It’s a set-up for failure.

Far better might be to take the summer to prepare. Engage returned parishioners to single out at least one friend–maybe as many as one each week–to invite their return. Then make a set of Sundays in September a target for return. Make sure there’s a real welcome in place with appropriate festivity.

I think I’ve mentioned my opinion that despite its mention in canon law, the Sunday obligation–not much more than a century old–might well be more of a hindrance to our efforts these days than a help. Maybe bishops would do well to omit the mention of a return of Sunday obligation, and just let parishes do their best to bring people back the Jesus way, by attracting them.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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1 Response to The Return Of 2021

  1. Liam says:

    I was at St Louis in Pittsford on Fathers Day. One side was for the vaccinated/non-immune compromised; the other for the others. The dispensation from the perceptual obligation was lifted before the first weekend of June. Church was about 30% full for the 730AM Mass on a hot/humid day when formerly it would have been somewhat fuller. The deacon’s homily started with a joke, unfortunately. There was music, though without the prelude recitals of non-sacred music that sometimes formerly manifested.

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