I am now closing in on fifty, but I still remember my grandparents’ sense of loyalty and allegiance to their parish. Even when they complained about “Father so and so’s” boring “sermon” or how money was being wasted, it was their parish and that was that.
Like it or not, those days are gone. Our current culture is one which has not only become complacent with faith community commitment, but very picky to boot.
I guess there are a few ways we can go when contemplating our current condition as a Church. We can say, “It’s their loss, God bless and forgive those who have walked away and given up on their faith,” or we can say, “What can we do differently or better to entice folks back to practicing their faith?”
I have found from experience, both personal and professional, that parishes which offer opportunities for people to practice their faith, to get involved, and have a welcoming and hospitable atmosphere, are much more full than parishes that just offer Mass and not much more.
People want to belong and they are very hungry for an active and lively faith life. I think people have become “picky” for good and bad reasons. One reason is that they expect homilies that are intelligent and informative, engaging and enticing. We have to remember that we live in a new age of multi-media mass communication and, although it is not easy, we need to try to keep up as best as we can.
We have become minimalists in so many ways. In some parishes music, if offered at all, can often be perfunctory and boring, and liturgies quite often simply lack life. There is no sense of community, just an individualized group of people attending Mass.
We can change this when we see it taking place; in fact, we have an obligation to do so.
People are looking for a place where they feel welcomed, where they belong. Quite often our churches can feel like cold sepulchers devoid of life and love. I don’t think our Lord founded a Church intended for the sole purpose of providing a place for people to stop by for Mass, but rather a living, breathing, peopled entity that is called to be, meant to be, so much more. Simple things, like having greeters at our doors or offering hospitality after Masses, can have amazing evangelizing affects. I do not think when we do this it is a gimmick, but rather a reflection of what, and who, we are called to be.
Like Lazarus, our parishes are being called back to life. We can all work together to make this happen, and happen it must!
Father Kevin Keelen is pastor of St. Barnabas Parish, Bayville[[In-content Ad]]