One of our regulars came in today and told us about a new Christian store that had opened in town so after work I went down to take a look.
The store is about 30,000 square feet (the size of a Hobby Lobby) and has sections for gifts, books and Bibles, education, music and t-shirts and kids' stuff.
Apart from this store there are already about five other Christian (non-Catholic) retail stores, a used Christian bookstore and Focus on the Family's massive retail center.
In comparison, there are three Catholic stores in town. All three are between 1200 and 2000 square feet. There are about 80,000 Catholics in our city so you would think that our town could support more and larger stores but you would be wrong.
The problem is, that in general, non-Catholic Christians seem to be a lot more interested in their faith than Catholics are. I would estimate that less than 10% of the local church-going Catholics have ever set foot in one.
The local churches need to understand that if they are ever going to get Catholics interested in their Faith, they need to take a couple of business principles to heart.
First, it is far easier to work with customers you have than to acquire new ones. A parish needs to first focus on those people who actually show up to church. Each week the priest or deacon has between 10 and 15 minutes to engage his congregation and challenge them to take their Faith seriously. Every week that a homily consists of platitudes and be nice to your neighbor is an opportunity lost to expose people to the richness of the Faith.
The Faith is challenging. The Faith is dangerous. The Faith is exciting. If the homily doesn't kick people out of their Sunday delirium, the congregation will just coast through another hour of Mass and go back home to do the more important things for the week until the inconvenience of Sunday Mass comes around again.
Second, parishes need to realize that people need something out of the ordinary at Mass. Mass is like looking through the keyhole at Heaven's gate and seeing what goes on inside. Do your Masses give this impression? Or has your pastor tried to make things so "relevant" that you leave Mass wondering why you even bothered showing up? If the Mass isn't beautiful, if the Mass doesn't raise people above the pedestrian, you can't really expect the people to treat their Faith as the most important aspect of their lives. In fact, if it doesn't lift them up, it will quickly fall lower in priority than sports, television and just about anything else that grabs people's attention today.
Okay Father, you have 15 minutes. What are you going to do this Sunday to get people excited about their Faith?
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