I make it a point not to be critical of my own parish when I write my blog posts. And this post is consistent with that policy, because my experience at Sunday Mass yesterday showed me how committed my parish is to the faith development of families and the young.
One Sunday per month, at the 9:30 Mass in the church, we have a more family focused Mass (we have two 9:30 Masses, one in the main church and one in the lower hall; both are absolutely packed) . The children's choir sings. Sometimes children, well trained as readers, proclaim the scriptures. Yesterday, the second graders preparing for their First Holy Communion, were in attendance at this family-focused Mass, with their parents, siblings, and as far as I could see, with other members of their extended families. Two adults, parents of two of these second graders, were the lectors, and they were quite fine. The child stood next to them at the ambo. The adult proclaimed the reading and the child leaned into the microphone at its conclusion and said "The word of the Lord." It was cute and appropriate at the same time. The intercessions were proclaimed strongly and beautifully by one of the dads and at the conclusion of each one, the young second grade son leaned into the microphone with his "We pray to the Lord."
There were three families that were in the sanctuary, behind the altar, for the entire Mass. The entire large group of second-graders joined them for the Eucharistic Prayer. Since these people were behind the altar for the entire Mass, I couldn't help but notice how disinterested they seemed. With the exception of one young man, and the catechist who was with the group, not one of these people ever opened their mouth to sing or pray aloud. And this is a community that sings and prays quite well; it was just a strange juxtaposition. There was a young family seated in front of me. Their son was the second-grader preparing for First Communion. His sister, probably a year younger, kept turning around and staring at me every time I sang with the rest of the community. The two children seemed to be in their own little worlds the entire time. Their parents hardly responded to any of the prayers and none of them sang a note.
I know that what I was experiencing yesterday is the reality in all of our parishes. We have parents who "enroll" their children in sacramental preparation programs, but do not come to Mass regularly, if at all. And I ask myself, "What is the point?" Then I remember that the point is that it is our hope that somehow these programs reach these parents and are tools of evangelization to help transform them into people who see the value of the Mass, of being part of the Catholic community that gathers each week.
For me, it was jarring to see inactive Catholics being so inactive at Sunday Mass, and right in my face and in the pew in front of me. It was a wake-up call, but also made me pray for all who, for whatever reason, do not taste and see the Lord's goodness regularly with other Christians. I am glad that my parish hosts this family-focused Mass each month. This is a parish with a liturgical life that is alive, with music that is accessible and beautiful, with preaching that reaches into peoples' hearts on all kinds of levels. I guess I just have to let God be God, and remember that I am not God. God is somehow at work in all of this.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.