Have We Starved Our People?

We hear more and more about Catholics neglecting to attend Mass each Sunday, and we ask, “Why?” Why is it that for generations, Catholics in this country showed up in high proportions to attend Sunday Mass each week? I am told that my grandmother Helen literally walked the four miles to the church each Sunday to attend.

What brought them?

In that generation, it was that Catholic identity that demanded it of them. They couldn’t see themselves as “good Catholics” unless they were there. Their parents did it, and so would they. Besides, they were there to witness a miracle at the altar… God would be made present. They believed that without question.

Times have changed. Catholic identity has weakened and is ill-defined in many people’s minds. Catholicism has been personalized in the sense that individuals customize their definition and their identities. I heard recently, for example, a man say that the priest assigned to his parish needed to meet their (the man’s and others’) “expectations.” Somehow the faith becomes a set of personal or communal expectations to which the Church need to adapt.

It really doesn’t work that way. We need form ourselves to that which God, speaking through His Church, asks of us.

But I think one thing that the ordained have failed to do uniformly well since is preach the Word with unabashed vigor and conviction. We have been wary of speaking the truth boldly for fear, perhaps, of alienating those who listen. When I say “truth” I am referring to the Gospel proclamation, to the kerygma┬áthat Jesus is the Messiah, the Risen One who leads us to the Father and has commissioned us to carry on his work.

Our preaching has not been manly preaching.

People respond to manly preaching, i.e., the kind of preaching we read about in the Acts of the Apostles. An evangelistic preaching intent on winning souls and converts.

I think people are starving for bold proclamation of the Word of God within our parishes. Just look at the crowds that gather in places to hear men reknown for their preaching and catechizing. Our young especially long for this.

Each cleric has his own gifts and talents in this area. But gifted more or less, people pay attention to the deacon, priest or bishop when the Word is spoken from conviction and faith. It is contagious and attractive.

I think perhaps more and more Catholics fail to attend Sunday Mass because they aren’t fed adequately with God’s Word when they come. They arrive hungry and leave hungry.

Got to feed them.

About Deacon Bob

Moderator: Deacon Bob Yerhot of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota.
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