In the unlikely event that you are looking for them, you’ll have no problem online finding reasons people give for not going to church.
I quickly found an article from 2022 entitled, “7 Interesting Reasons Why People Don’t Go to Church.” The first reason given: “They feel God is missing in church.”
I’ve seen this reason listed in other articles, and I acknowledge that if that is the perception, it doesn’t make sense to go to church. But is this perception the fault of the church or of the people who don’t go? I suspect both. I intend to cover this and other stated reasons in this and upcoming blogs.
(A caveat for my non-Catholic readers: This blog is mostly about the Catholic Mass and its meaning. You may not find it directly relevant, but I’m sure there are parallels in any church or synagogue service.)
First, my wife, Amparo, and I have found a wonderful Catholic parish near our house in our adopted state of Colorado. The parish is welcoming, very active, the homilies are thoughtful, well-prepared and sometimes funny, and the liturgies and sense of community make you feel closer to God. Weekend liturgies are well-attended, and a staff member said last week that the parish has over a thousand families and is adding 20 to 30 families a month.
But estimating the population of the surrounding communities and the proportion of people who identify as Catholic, the church should be bulging at every mass. I believe our parish, Pax Christi – Latin for Peace of Christ – is doing about everything it can to help people find God at church. But I know many parishes aren’t. I can’t do much about that, but I can help people understand better what happens at Mass and understanding can lead to embracing the Mass and finding God there.
Many people, I believe, are like people from other countries who go to an American baseball game and have little understanding of its purpose or process. Of course, even when they understand it, they still may or may not like it. But understanding the game, or the Mass, is the minimum requirement for getting something out of either, seems to me, and I wonder how many people go to the trouble.
First off, the word “mass” is a poor descriptive of a Catholic service. It comes from a phrase in the old Latin Mass, proclaimed by the priest at its end: “Ite missa est,” literally, “Go, It’s the Dismissal” with “missa” evolving into “Mass.” It’s as random as naming baseball, “Take Me Out,” because they are the first words of the song traditionally sung during the seventh inning stretch.
A much more descriptive word, in my opinion, is “Eucharist,” from the Greek word meaning “Thanksgiving.” That’s because that’s what is basically going on, evidenced by a key phrase in the middle of the Mass that is variously “We offer you in thanksgiving….”
Essentially, the Mass is a combination of the synagogue service popular at the time of Jesus and a re-enactment of Jesus’ Last Supper where Jesus said, “Do this in memory of me.”
As most people know, most Christians, including Catholics, believe in a God that is three persons in one. And it’s important to know that, after the part of the Mass that is mostly readings from the New and Old Testaments, most of it is a prayer directed to God, the Father. That part of the Mass is called the Eucharistic, or Thanksgiving, prayer of which there are various versions of various lengths.
Participants mentally unite with this prayer said by priest – joining in the offering of Jesus, in his death and resurrection – to the Father, an offering foretold and symbolized in his last supper.
It may seem complicated, but once you understand it – like when you understand baseball – it’s not so much complicated as fulfilling and peace-giving.
The Mass is THE common prayer of the ancient Christian church, the prayer that evolved through the centuries into what we have today. Ancient Christians believed the rite was the way Jesus wanted them to pray in common, a belief that Catholics still hold. But like baseball, it isn’t worthwhile unless you put your heart into it.