Yesterday, while meeting with a group of parish leaders from St. Paul in Pine Bluff, a woman asked: “How do I get my kids to go to Church? They think it is boring.” I believe she said her kids were 10, 6, and 4. I responded, “First of all, we must be realistic; Mass for most kids today is boring.” Please read on. Obviously, I and the Church do not believe the Mass is boring. We believe the Mass is a rich expression of the life and love that are ours in the Risen Christ!
For not only kids today, but for many, Mass is boring. I think this is for two primary reasons. First, people today live in a world that is constantly stimulating our appetites and senses. There is music, video games, cell phones, texting, tweeting, computers, ipods, television and movies. None of these things in and of themselves are bad, but they cause us to live at a sensory level, and train us to be constantly searching for “something new”; the next bit of information, the latest news, etc.
In many ways, we live at a very superficial level, the level of the senses, and we find it very difficulty to sit still, and simply be quiet in the presence of God. The remedy for this mass communication world we live in is “Mass Communication”. (I did not think that one up, but rather it was shared with me through this blog in feedback on the column “Keeping Sunday Holy“. One of the challenges facing the Church today is to help the people of our times be prepared to encounter the rich tradition of the Church embodied in the Eucharist and the Mass.
The second reason many find Mass boring is because there is need for greater understanding of all that is happening when we gather to celebrate the Eucharist. There is need for more catechesis (teaching) around the theological beliefs and aspects of the Eucharist. If Catholics really understood the deep reality of the Eucharist, our churches would be packed every Sunday, and far better attended even during weekday Mass. The Mass is always the work of God, but it requires our active participation.
I told this woman that numerous parishioners while I was a pastor told me: “Father, please don’t ask us to bring our kids to church on Sunday, because it only leads to a fight every weekend!” But I am convinced, this is a “fight” (engagement) worth having, and the home front is a critical “battleground” for this vital life of the Church. We cannot give up on our children, and we cannot give up on those who have fallen away from the Church and the practice of the sacraments. We must prepare them to understand and to receive the rich “food” that is waiting for them at the “Banquet”.
I mentioned earlier how we live at a “surface level” in so much of our culture and society. We are constantly stimulated from so many different directions. Is it any wonder then that we find it difficult to slow down and enter into the Mass, which is more concerned about cultivating the “interior life”? I will concede, we as Church can probably do better in enhancing the celebration of the Eucharist, and we need to give serious consideration to doing just that. Obviously, I am not talking about changing any part of the Mass, but making sure that every detail of the celebration receives the proper attention and reverence it deserves.
The Mass, the Eucharist is all about God sharing His divine life with us. He speaks to us at every Mass in the Sacred Scriptures. Do we read these scriptures ahead of time to prepare our selves? Do we try to make an active application of the Scriptures to my day-to-day life? Sure, Father is required to give a homily every weekend, but how engaged are you in trying to live these scriptures in your life? Do the demands and priorities of the Gospel form your priorities?
God shares His very life and person with us in the Eucharist, through the Precious Body and Blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. How well do we understand and believe the reality of “transubstantiation”? When was the last time you took up the Catechism or some other book to help you grow in your faith, in your knowledge of the faith? This is critical for us as Church. What people do not understand, they do not appreciate. This is a part of our challenge, to help people understand that they may appreciate and love the Eucharist at a deeper and more meaningful level.
Well, I’m starting to get a little “preachy”. My heart as a priest and bishop longs for a renewed Church. I believe with all my heart that God is at work even now renewing His Church. But I’m also convinced, it starts with each person. We must always pray for this renewal, but it will require each of us taking practical steps to begin to make a difference. This renewal requires each person, each home, each parish, to take simple, practical steps to grow in faith, hope and love. It requires all of us to really make Christ our first priority, in the great and small realities of each day.
The Church continues to teach that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our life. Let’s make Christ, let’s make the Eucharist THE priority of our life!