“I’m Catholic but I don’t go to church.” To regular Aquinas and More visitors, that statement probably makes as much sense as, “I’m human but I don’t breathe,” still people say it all the time.
Parish catechists have a particularly hard time with that perspective. They spend an hour or so a week telling kids how important it is to observe their Catholic faith, only to have those lessons denied by family schedules that don’t make time for Mass.
Every year, at Easter Vigil, people make a conscious choice to profess the Catholic faith and become part of the Church. Before that, they make time to go to classes and attend Mass, even though they can’t fully participate. So what’s their problem? It must be a rule for new people. They have to go to Mass just to get the hang of it. After the first year, they can start skipping too.
Or maybe it’s something else. Something people born into the Catholic Church lose sight of over time. Those people have looked at Catholicism from the outside and realized, “I want what THEY have!”
So how do we get native Catholics to want what they ALREADY have?
Here’s something to try.
We don’t recommend hanging out at soccer fields and coffee shops on Sundays, asking people if they’ve made it to Mass yet this weekend, but if there is someone you know well who identifies as Catholic and doesn’t go to Mass, here are a few ideas:
Step 1: Ask a direct question.
Whether the answer is, “I just don’t want to,” “Weekends are too busy,” “Mass is boring,” “I don’t get anything out of it,” or something else entirely, there’s a basic reason lurking somewhere. It may not seem like a reason to you, but something has your friend or family member convinced that it’s valid. Find out what it is and don’t scoff at it.
Step 2: Offer some answers
There are many, many resources available for helping Catholics understand the importance of practicing the faith they claim to profess. Does the person have a long commute? Offer something to listen to in the car. Is he or she a voracious reader? There are plenty of accessible books and article on the subject. Maybe you’re speaking with a person who loves discovering things online. Recommend some websites; whyimcatholic.com and catholicconvert.com are two great places to find the stories of people who can no longer fathom the idea of NOT going to Mass.
Step 3: Be there.
Make it clear that you not only feel that getting yourself to Mass is worth time and effort but that getting THEM to Mass is also worth your time and effort. If you’re talking to a single person who feels conspicuous at Mass, offer to go to Mass with them. I you’re a family person who wants to help another family person build a better family faith life, you might try making a get-together out of Sunday. Go to Mass as a big group and then go grab some breakfast or lunch afterward. Let people see that your concern for them is genuine and that you’re not simple trying to get them to “toe the line.”
Now, there’s no guarantee with this three-step program, so don’t be discouraged if all you get for your efforts is a subtle or not-so-subtle, “Mind your own business.” You will have made a sincere attempt to live the spiritual works of mercy and you may just have planted the seed of a flourishing future faith life.
Do you have children who have left the Church? We recommend Brandon Vogt's Return project.
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