Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Has Mass Lost Its Appeal?

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Has Mass Lost Its Appeal?

Article excerpt

Generalizations about U.S. catholic parishes, and what goes on in them, are awfully risky. After all, there are almost 20,000 of them, and even anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that there are apples, oranges, kumquats, and perhaps lemons among them.

The liturgy, to begin at the beginning: In a perceptive recent interview with Arthur Jones in the National Catholic Reporter, Father James Moroney, executive director of the U.S. bishops' Committee on the Liturgy, painted this picture: "When you think of someone whose primary liturgical experience on Sunday is with the Tridentine rite, where it's legally permitted, and then you think of a Catholic who every week sits under a tree, or in a nonconventional sort of setting while working for the poor in Nicaragua, someone who celebrates the Eucharist in a totally different cultural milieu, and that both of them, liturgically, legally, and in spirit and in truth are full-fledged Catholics celebrating Catholic rites--wonderful."

Writing in that estimable and always interesting Irish magazine, The Furrow, a teacher, Joe Coy, speaks so clearly on the subject here that the temptation to quote him extensively is impossible to resist: "My three children go to Mass with me every weekend. The two boys say nothing, but my younger daughter tells me, quite often, that Mass is boring and asks when it will be over. `When you're 18,' I feel like saying.

"Sometimes it occurs to me that not only has Mass, as currently celebrated, little to offer children, it doesn't appear to do much for adults either. A look around most churches reveals vacant focus and quiet indifference. And I wonder what motivates me to go there. Habit perhaps, continuing a tradition inherited from my parents? A desire to identify with something outside myself? Some vague religious sense? A need to believe in a life after death? I'm really not sure."

Some Catholics, clerical and lay, while continuing to thank God for the window-opening of the Second Vatican Council, sometimes wonder if, in the liturgy, we may have thrown out both the baby and the bathwater.

One of our most progressive leaders, Bishop Kenneth Untener of Saginaw, Michigan, recently shared his doubts with a large convocation of religious educators. He outlined the way in which the participation of the congregation has, in many ways, actually declined because of tasks left incomplete after the reforms of Vatican II. …

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