I saw your letter a few weeks ago. I wasn’t exactly planning on responding to it, but it’s been sitting in the back of my mind ever since and this feels like something that I should write back to.
The reason why I wasn’t planning on responding is that I don’t exactly see what the problem is. I don’t want to say that in a dismissive way – I am not in your shoes, in your parish. I am sure that the culture surrounding the church is different than what you have grown in. I do not see all the things that the priest is or isn’t doing. So please, do not think that I am trying to minimize your feelings.
You can go to a church anywhere in the world and experience the same mass in community.
The word “Catholic” means universal. Its one of the things I love most about our faith. You can go to a church anywhere in the world and experience the same mass in community. Now, that community is very important. We are a part of the body of Christ – one body, universal, one in love and one in community. I can imagine that that becomes even more important in places where Catholics are a minority, such as this bible belt region you are speaking of. So gathering together to, say, sing Happy Birthday and celebrate life as a community… I think that’s a joyful, wonderful thing. The parish in my parents hometown, the one I grew up in – we would sing Happy Birthdays. We would also have people come up for blessings depending on the occasion – students for the beginning of school, couples celebrating anniversaries, and others – and we would bless them as a community. I thought it was awesome as a teenager – I was participating in sharing the bounty of God’s Grace with others.
Now, you say that this parish focuses more on fellowship than it does on Christ. However, the Catholic faith finds God in fellowship. There is a reason we all gather together to hear the readings of the mass instead of reading on our own. There is a reason why we have the Sign of Peace. Our mass is all about fellowship in Christ.
Now, that being said I don’t believe there should be fellowship instead of Christ. If the priest spent every homily social planning instead of sharing the fruits of the liturgy, or if he has the congregation sing before Communion, then I can see why you would have a problem. The mass is for celebrating Christ. You say that the Priest is faithful, and available for the sacraments so I am assuming that he treats the Liturgy of the Word and the Sacrament of Communion with reverence and grace. However, you also said you feel as if you have been eating badly cooked spiritual food, so I could be wrong.
If these moments of fellowship are occurring after communion, during the time that announcements would normally commence – I think you should try and appreciate that you are in a beautiful, tight knit community that loves each other as brothers and sisters in Christ and celebrates them as such. You have celebrated God – now it’s time to celebrate his children.
Now, however, if that is not the case, and he is incorporating it throughout the celebration before the Liturgy and Communion, perhaps you can suggest that the announcements is a more appropriate time and space for such celebrations. I would also suggest organizing adoration or other opportunities to spend time with Christ in contemplative prayer. It could also be the mass you are attending – if there are multiple masses there may be an earlier one that is more solemn and less community driven.
I hope this helps. I know it can be incredibly frustrating to not feel that your spiritual needs are being met. Everyone needs to be fed, and people get fed in different ways. Just think to what it is that you are not exactly getting – is the homily poorly formed? Is the liturgy rushed? Has the Sacrament of Communion been dumbed down in any way? Or is it simply… the parish chooses to infuse joy and laughter into their mass? Joy which is of God and because of God? Then maybe find other ways to get the solemnity you seem to crave.
Prayers to you, and good luck!
Kyla is a young liberal Catholic always looking to dive deeper into her faith and learn more about what it means to be a Catholic in today’s world.
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