“Drive-Through” Catholicism & The Virtue of Hope – A Spiritual Reflection
Fr. Michael White is the Pastor of Church of the Nativity, the Roman Catholic Parish in Timonium, Maryland. As they mention on their web-site: they “…are a growing group of disciples, orthodox in our Catholic faith, dynamic and creative in our commitment to the ‘New Evangelization.’ Specifically we are all about reaching out to ‘de-churched’ Catholics in our north Baltimore community with the life changing message of Jesus Christ.” Their motto is: “Awakening the Faithful – Reaching the Lost – Making Church Matter.”
Christmas Eve used to depress Fr. White. “It seemed like everyone left early. Anyway, I was talking about the problem with a friend, and I said, ‘It is so disappointing, we put so much effort and time into Christmas Eve and people just rush out after communion, what is that all about?’ And my friend, who runs a very expensive restaurant told me the same thing actually happens at his place. ‘People make reservations weeks in advance; they spend a lot of money. Early in the evening the place is packed, but then everybody rushes through his or her dinner and the place is deserted before you know it.’ Why? My friend said, ‘Michael, they just want to get it over with.’
Father White posted a blog about the above-mentioned phenomenon. Take a look at it here. He mentions that perhaps the reason people come to Mass late and leave early has to do with HOPE (or a perceived lack thereof). HOPE was an important aspect of the papacy of Benedict XVI, important enough for him to pen an encyclical about it (Spes Salvi, found here). Pope Francis also talked about HOPE during one of his Sunday Angelus addresses (See comments here)
Over a period of several weeks, I did my own, informal survey. According to our most recent “October count,” on average, about 200 people come to worship at St. Monica during each Mass. On average, I counted how many people arrive at St. Monica after the Lector finishes the announcements and we begin the Opening Hymn. The number: about 139 people (70%).
It is certainly easy to criticize people whose worship style seems to be a bit minimalist in practice, as Father White laments. But perhaps we need to look deeper and see that this might be a “symptom” instead of the actual “problem” and address the hunger for the hope.