In a word – COMMUNITY.
I’ve been listening to people that keep espousing tripe like:
- Better Bands
- Hipper Priests/Married Priests
- Nicer buildings
- Women Priests
- Openly Gay Married Priests
- Drop the teachings on… Matrimonial Indissolubility, Artificial Contraception, Fornication, Homosexual Copulation, Homosexual Marriage, Murder and Abortion, Papal Infallibility, The Eucharist, Relic Veneration, Marian Devotion
I’m going to stop there for a reason. For the church to do ANYTHING past #3 it would cease to be the Catholic Church. In essence, most of the proposals I am hearing are superficial or simply out of the question.
Now for a dose of honesty in this conversation. The church teachings are used as an excuse not to come back – but the real reason in my humble opinion is a lack of connection to the Church. The Church is no longer an integral part of the family or the community. Without it families and communities have fallen apart. The Church is wounded even more deeply by two generations of the poorest quality of catechesis, or lack thereof, in history. We have too many who claim a lack of participation because they want to rule or govern some aspect of the church rather than humbly submit to her as willing servants and the current structure excludes them from doctrine and policy decisions. The sense of community has been lost. How long has it been since you had a social hour after church before people left? How long has it been since you shared a meal after mass with complete strangers in community (and not as a fundraiser – but one where not a penny was collected nor expected)? When was the last time you performed some act of service for your Church or Parish that involved real work from you – like cleaning the church, mowing the grass, moving things, repairing something — while working as part of a larger group of volunteers. The community must be made of people, not their cheques.
Just as fatherhood in this country has been erroneously abrogated to a monthly support check, so religion seems to have been abrogated to a tithing cheque or pledge. We have allowed both of these to happen. Worse still is a sense of entitlement that has accompanied this change. We have become arrogant and impetuous. Some have decided that because they write a cheque that suddenly they should have a say in Church policy and doctrine. It gets better still when people outside the church think that they too have a say. Acting as if the Church of Christ were a democracy. This represents nothing less than a confederacy of dunces in rebellion against God himself. God who personally founded the Church and set Peter at its helm. At some point it is my hope that we will see though it. Though it will not cure all ills, putting the church back at the center of the community is the surest way to bring people back. We need to have them fully personally invested, and teach the next generation the joys of serving lovingly without expectation or direct remuneration. All while notwithstanding the need for teaching them the faith.
You see the mass isn’t the problem, the doctrine and teaching of the Catholic Church is not the problem, faithful communities disappearing – that is the problem. Without those communities we are left standing alone, against a world which seeks to consume our very souls. With strong communities we become a rock and the world an ocean, it can dash against us, and cover us, but we remain firm and faithful. Without those communities we are but gravel on a beach at the mercy of waves and tides.
To paraphrase JFK (our only Catholic President), ask not what the Church can do to serve you, but instead what you can do to serve the Church.