A Boring Question

“Does this Mass ‘count’ for Sunday?” Every once in a while I am asked that about a Saturday afternoon wedding Mass, but those who would wonder about such a thing are becoming fewer and fewer. There was a time when Catholics were preoccupied with whether something “counted.” If you are late to Mass but arrive before the Gospel reading, people would ask priests, have you fulfilled your Sunday obligation? If you leave at Communion time, have you fulfilled it? Priests would render an opinion on these questions as though they had the official answer! Perhaps there was a great source of answers for these minutiae half a century ago, but there certainly is not today. Besides, asking about whether an act of worship “counts” seems to be asking the wrong question. We should be setting our sights just a little bit higher.

Some senior citizens once told me about a strict priest who used to be at their parish. He taught that if you planned to go to the early Mass on Sunday but woke up and decided not to go to Mass, and then changed your mind and went later that same morning, you had already committed a mortal sin. Now that is strict! Most people today would shudder at this approach to the life of faith. It also attempts to say what “counts” as a worthy
attempt to worship God. But doesn’t it seem to approach faith as though it were a series of boxes to be checked off?

I recently came across a quotation from historian and commentator George Weigel. About seven years ago, he said there are some in the Church who pose “an ultimately boring question: how little can I believe, and how little can I do, and still remain a Catholic?” I remain fascinated by that question. There are so many baptized members of our Church who, even if they don’t ask it out loud, indicate by their actions that they are exploring the very margins of Catholic life. “Can I get away with doing less? If my faith life barely has a pulse, it is still alive, isn’t it?” Well, what would it be like to do more?

The Easter Triduum is the three-day period in which we most solemnly commemorate the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. I hope that you have or will participate in the most important liturgical celebrations we have. You might experience a bit of inconvenience in worshiping God at these times, but it’s worth it because of the richness it brings into our lives. We open ourselves to receiving more of the grace God intends us to have when we seek out opportunities to worship him.

I want to propose that being involved in the life of your parish is an excellent way to reject the “boring question” that asks, “How little can I do and still remain a Catholic?” We would do far better to ask how much God wants us to do, rather than how little. We all have the same amount of time. Most of us are busy. But if we put other things ahead of Mass, devotions, serving the poor, being on committees at Church, teaching religious education, prayer, and learning about our faith, then we are saying those other things are more important than our life of faith is. I plead with you not to order your life in that way! Here at St. Peter’s we are embarking on new effort to revive hearts that have been sinking, to bring new vitality to our faith. You might scarcely notice it at first, except for that your newsletter will come more frequently. But soon I hope you will be able to tell that we on the parish staff and in parish leadership are doing our best to hold up for you the possibility of leading a more active spiritual life. I wish you all of God’s blessings in the Season of Easter and beyond.

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