This input has been sitting on my desk for some weeks and Fr Bede Rowe's "Do we still believe in going to Mass on Sunday ?" in Mass of Ages, Issue 180, Summer 2014 prompted me to post it.
We often hear people, usually lapsed catholics or non-practising "christians", say "I believe in God or Jesus, but not in Religion!" or "I am a "christian" (notice small c in all cases) and brought my children up as "christians" but none of us go to church and this is ok", or "I was born a "catholic", married in the CofE, sent our children to a "catholic" school, but none of us go to church", or "I know "catholics" who only go to church once a year at Christmas". This is often their response when they learn that I go to Mass on Sundays and other days. I have pondered for some time on what my honest response should be rather than a practised silence, "on your head be it".
So why do I go to Mass on Sunday when they don't or think they don't have to? Why, since the age of 5, then walking alone a mile or so there and back, never missing a Sunday unless ill, in spite of my family being one of those "catholics" that rarely went and made this a priority throughout my life, in all weathers, at home or abroad, in spite of poor priests, some shockingly profane Masses, boredom, and icy cold or unbearably hot churches? Why on earth did I and these people think they don't have to?
Was it to be involved within a community? Maybe but I have seen other communities who are much better.
To be entertained? I rarely found it entertaining and then only when observing the behaviour of others.
To experience a feel-good factor? Possibly but this is not often reflected on the faces of those after Mass.
Because I liked the church's atmosphere? Perhaps, but many left much to be desired.
I liked the form of Mass and homilies which I found stimulating and stretching? Rarely and often the exact opposite.
I enjoyed the singing and the up-lift it gave me? Sometimes but some have been just awful.
I need to chat with my friends and catch up with the latest goings-on? Some certainly think so, but not me.
So why do I get up on a cold winter morning when I'd rather stay in bed or on a lovely day go off fishing or enjoy a dinghy racing match or some other sparkling event, even maybe a car boot sale or browsing around a supermarket, God forbid! I too often reflect on how in my formative years I had to attend Solemn High Latin Masses: Latin I never understood and to have endured an hour-long bishop's homily in a language foreign to me (Spanish) was beyond my endurance, especially when the Mass took three hours; still it had just to be endured. Since then I have never favoured High Traditional Masses, which I always found distracting, disharmonious, more so because I never have been able to learn Latin because of dyslexia; I prefer the silences of the Low Traditional Mass. But every Sunday I went to Mass and I have no choice, except that I am obliged to do so, or in fact I must go: why?
The answer is so simple that in the past forty years we have apparently overlooked it: by the First and Third Commandments we are ordered by Almighty God (I cannot put it more strongly) to worship the one true and living God, by Faith, Hope, Charity and Religion, CCC 2086-2095. We as His creatures must render to Him what in all justice is His due: to adore Him and by this acknowledge Him as our God, as our Creator and that of the cosmos, and as our Saviour, our Lord and Master of everything that exists as Infinite and Merciful Love. By adoring God we acknowledge, in respect and absolute submission, the nothingness of us as creatures who would not exist but for God. The supreme prayer and sacrifice which we offer up to our God in adoration and acknowledgement of His Glory is the Mass and nothing less and no other service will do in its place. We have been ordered by God to put Him above all our other gods and allow none of these to be put in place of Him.
I re-emphasize that I have gone and keep going to Mass on Sunday, irrespective of the obstacles placed in my way, because it is my overwhelming duty as His creature to give Him, my God, due honour and glory in strict obedience to the First and Third Commandments laid down by Him, my God. Whether I receive any benefit is irrelevant and if I do then thanks be to God. From my view there are no ifs or buts about going to Mass on Sunday and there never have been.
Why do so-called "christians" think that they should be considered different to our orthodox Jewish brethren and Muslims who, without fail, give honour and glory to God in their Synagogues, Mosques or even in the street? Who do we think we creatures are to be above all this giving due worship and honour to God our creator? How arrogant can we be?
Reviewing the excuses given by "catholics" who don't consider going to church is important in their lives, perhaps they should be reminded of what defines those who belong to the Catholic Church:
"Fully incorporated into the Catholic Church are those who, possessing the Spirit of Christ, are joined by bonds of profession of Faith, the Sacraments, ecclesiastical government and communion", CCC 837. Going to Mass once a year or not at all leaves them outside the Catholic Church and therefore they are really merely sort of "catholics" by accident of birth, as some have been known to say.
So all creatures owe it in obedience to God's Commandments as a duty to give Him honour and adoration and to keep Sunday holy; failure in obedience to this command renders judgement on ourselves. I for one have always been taught this and understood it. That is why I do my utmost, even at great cost, to attend Mass and worship my God as His adopted son on a Sunday: never any ifs or buts.
"Give the Lord, O Sons of God
Give the Lord glory and strength,
Give the Lord the glory due his name,
Worship the Lord in great Liturgy."
Psalm 29(28) (Catholic Pastoral Edition 2002)
A Life-long Catholic