I thought about going down to stand and watch the motorcade as President Obama made his way to talk to workers specifically about the state of the economy–in particular as it refers to small businesses.
It’s raining here today and I figured I wouldn’t get too close, so instead I decided to travel to another church in the diocese for mass on this Ascension Thursday (just to get a feel for the rest of the diocese) and then I listened to President Obama’s talk and Q&A on NPR later at my desk.
So off I went to a packed house at St. Greg’s where we worshipped together, meditating on the readings for Ascension. It was an ordinary experience of mass, as if the changing of bread and wine into the living Jesus could ever be “ordinary.”
But there were very few of those “spiritual aids” that help us to pray today over there. There was no music, a short and simple homily and decor that was relatively uninspiring. Let me be clear though, it wasn’t an awful experience by any means. It was inspiring to see a large crowd for the Holy Day–albeit most people were well over the age of 50. I also saw one of the students, Marie, who went on our alternative break trip. It was a noontime mass after all, so i didn’t expect many young people.
I would think however, many churches won’t see a large group of young people today. And I think that’s so because simply put, most places don’t go the extra yard to inspire the hearts and minds of young people to attend. Fr. J. Glen Murray, a noted liturgist, once said (and I’ll parphrase, that when people say mass is boring, I think they may be talking about how we “perform” the liturgy. I get upset when I hear people say that because how can you say mass is boring. Especially when priests can be very enthusiastic and the congregation is barely responsive! I don’t think mass is boring, I think most of the time, WE are boring! We are less than intentionally engaged with hurling ourselves into the mystery and bringing our own gifts to the celebration of worship.
When we compare our engagement at mass with other “exciting” ventures. Like say a Presidential visit, what kind of engagement do we bring in comparision?
Now all of that being said, we also might want to admit something when it comes to younger people….
They live in a world of instant gratification and if that is so then it may be particularly difficult to gain their attention and thus their unyielding support. We have to think deeply about how to engage their interest so that they indeed can and will meet the living Jesus, not just at mass, but also in the rest of their more mundane activities.
I think President Obama has some words that we might be able to use for our own purposes:
“I know Buffalo is a big hockey town and while Wayne Gretsky may not be your guy, something great was said about him. He never thought about where the puck was he thought about where the puck should be. The same is true with the economy. What are the needs of our future? We want to have the most efficient private sector along with a government that is lean and mean, but working.”
I would say that we want an engaged future in the Catholic Church and we are far from engaging people’s hearts for Christ in most places. How do we do ritual? Are we even engaged with what WE are doing if we are the presider or lector or musician? Does our enthusiasm lead people to Christ or are we just “ordinary?”
Our President won’t stand for ordinary and neither should we.
And with that salvo, I offer the following reflections about being Catholic today:
1) Do we come to mass with enthusiasm and stand fully engaged with all that we celebrate in the mass?
2) Do we take our faith seriously as Americans and do we bring that into our experience of citizenship? Do we show concern for the least in our society and do we call our leaders to care for the unborn, the elderly, the infirm and the poor–and do we do that with a HEALTHY enthusiasm that respects those who disagree with us as human beings loved by our same creator?
3) Does our enthusiasm for justice and charity reach beyond our parishes (heck, does it even reach most of those in our parish?!) to let them see Christ working through us?
4) Are our eucharistic celebrations truly a celebration? Do they mix the contemplative with the communal to bring people into liminal space where they can more easily feel God’s presence amongst them?
5) Are we honest about ourselves? Are we really doing fine as a parish community or can we do a whole lot better?
What can we do? We can choose to show our enthusiasm for Jesus at least one hour a week at our Sunday or Holy Day celebrations and thus let people see that God makes a difference for us.
That kind of faith is what moves mountains.
And it is there where we always meet the living God.