Sunday, May 1, 2011

History in the Making: More on Cardinal Burke and Mass Attendance.

A Mass at St Mary's College, Notre Dame
a community known for its vibrant liturgies
this mass was during summer break 2010
 About a month (April 4) ago I did an entry on why people are failing to attend mass in the numbers they did thirty to sixty years ago.  I mentioned that Cardinal Raymond Burke, former Archbishop of Saint Louis and currently holding offices in the Vatican, claimed that the lack of reverence in the celebration of the mass is the reason for the decline in mass attendance.  I have received several communications since the original post that I would like to share with you.
I still go to mass every Sunday, but in all honesty I bring my ipod for during the sermon and use the time to listen to religious music or an inspirational podcast because the homilies are absolutely dreadful. 
Another writer made the same point—that they are being driven to distraction, if not away from the Church by the homilies.  They wrote: We used to attend mass at Creighton University and with the Jesuits you can count on a good homily.  My husband’s work has taken our family to the Washington DC area, and we now live in northern Virginia.  Fortunately we found a parish in Burke (a town in Fairfax County) where we are happy because in parish after parish that we had gone to the priests talked down to us as if we were not only uneducated but unintelligent people.  The priest in Burke is no Newman or Lacordaire, but at least he isn’t insulting us by his theo-bable.  My husband and I each have graduate degrees, we read, we keep our professional credentials up—we are not stupid people.  Why do these priests believe that we have to think as they tell us?   Don’t talk down to us.  Give us some credit for being able to make good decisions in life.  
A third person wrote from Northern Virginia:  We belonged to a wonderful parish and when our pastor was forced into retirement, the associate took over and changed everything. We were in the middle of a building campaign and had worked hard to design and raise money—almost four million dollars—for a beautiful church.  The new pastor didn’t like it.  It was “too modern.”  He put the building campaign on hold for eight years—eight years of being crowded into a parish center not half big enough for what we needed—until he thought we had forgotten about the church building we gave our money to build.  Then he—without consultation—met with an architect and designed something that looks like it is from 1942.  We told him that he might want to be Bing Crosby and the parish to be The Bells of Saint Mary’s, but we had survived the pre-Vatican II Church and we hadn’t given our money for a relic of it.  He told us that the Catholic Church is going back to the “traditional” liturgy and architecture.  So we told him, ok—go back but you’re going back without us.  We canceled our pledge and we cross the Potomac and drive a round trip of sixty-five miles to go to mass on Sundays at a parish that is committed to moving forward not backward.  But if he is right that the Catholic Church is going back to the pre-Vatican II days, we’re getting off the Catholic Bus.      
Finally, one more story.  A gentleman stopped me at a conference recently and told me that his wife is hearing impaired.  They are quite well-to-do and their parish is one of the wealthiest parishes in the Diocese.  He and his wife had offered to pay for hearing aids and earphones to be installed in the first two rows in a section of the Church immediately in front of the pulpit.  The combination of location and hearing aids would have facilitated ten “stations” at which hearing-impaired parishioners and guests could have maximized their participation in the liturgy.  The pastor wasn’t interested.  “Don’t see the need of it for two or three people who might need it.”  The family now attends a Bible “Mega-Church” that has an extensive ministry to the hearing impaired.  “What really got me,” the husband said, “was that he didn’t care that my wife couldn’t hear the Word of God.”  
So maybe the good Cardinal has a point.  I like reverence.  But maybe the problem is more systemic. 

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