Thursday, February 16, 2012

What do people believe, anyway?

As a parish priest, I have had the opportunity to observe the practices of various ministers and of the faithful at Mass, Benediction, Funeral Vigil services and other liturgical events in the life of the parish, or Catholic school.

There are times when I wonder if those participating even know what it is that they are doing, or why they are doing it. I've also asked myself if they know what the priest is doing, or why the priest is doing things at different points of the celebration?

I have a feeling that many of those in the pews, or surrounding the altar (some priests included) lack belief in many of the basics truths we hold as Catholics.

I've noticed ministers who look like they are tolerating the Eucharistic Prayer. I've noticed sacristans, EMHC's and altar servers who treat the corporal more like a table cloth, scattering crumbs around the altar. I've noticed when I've tried to mention some of these issues in homilies, the ones most likely to be the offenders appear to be ignoring what is being said.

While the liturgical elements are sometimes more obvious, the signs of unbelief are not limited to strictly liturgical issues. Where are the majority of Catholics when we have our "40 Days for Life" each year? Are they praying for an end to abortion at the abortion clinic or at home, or are they not praying for the end to abortion? Where are Catholics when we are talking about a push to recognize gay relationships as marriages? Are they standing strong for the true meaning of marriage as a covenant relationship between one man and one woman? Have a lot of Catholics fallen away from a true understanding of marriage as a sacramental covenant? What about the whole issue of contraception that seems to be in the news today? I keep hearing that 98% of all Catholic women are using contraception. That statistic is not accurate as can be seen in this article, but it raises another question. Are Catholics striving to understand what the Church teaches and are they willing to stand up for those teachings? Are they willing to live out those teachings?

Will there come a day when all those who claim to be Catholic will actually practice what the faith of the Church professes? I think Francis Cardinal George makes a good point as it relates to what is happening on the political stage today.

"This is the first time in the history of the United States that a presidential administration has purposely tried to interfere in the internal working of the Catholic Church, playing one group off against another for political gain. What isn’t always understood is that the Bishops of the Church make no attempt to speak for all Catholics; they never have. The Bishops speak for the Catholic and apostolic faith, and those who hold that faith gather around them. Others disperse."-Francis Cardinal George, Archdiocese of Chicago

I guess a question I have is really this, when it comes to the end, will we be believers in the Church established by Christ, or in ourselves and our favorite cause? If we are not believers in the teachings of the Church, why do we stay?

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