Parish Growth Through Worship

Our separated brethren understand their churches grow the most through the way they worship, yet we seem to miss the boat on this one. Unlike our separated brethren, we alone have the actual presence of Jesus and the perpetuation of the fulfillment of the Old Covenant. Why are we missing out?
In our last installment of this series, we looked at parish growth through fellowship and discipleship. In this installment we'll look at growth through worship. Our separated brethren understand their churches grow the most through the way they worship, yet we seem to miss the boat on this one. Unlike our separated brethren, we alone have the actual presence of Jesus and the perpetuation of the fulfillment of the Old Covenant. Why are we missing out?

Growth through worship

Parishes grow stronger through worship. The problem in unhealthy parishes when it comes to growing stronger through worship goes right back to weak discipleship. Other Christian religions have their various forms of worship, but none of them have the worship instituted by Jesus Christ. We not only have the best, we’ve got the original…the only. But do you think our laity realize that? If you do, you’re fooling yourself. Apart from my Catholic friends who are movers and shakers on the Catholic scene and a few adult converts, I’ve never met a Catholic layman who knows what the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is. We could site literally a score of reasons for this, but I think I've adequately covered the most important reasons in previous posts. But since our people are ignorant of the Mass in its reality and meaning, we cannot ever expect our parishes to become healthy through worship unless that changes.

When the laity understand the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for what it really is, they cannot help but grow spiritually and morally. An unfortunate reality, though, is that the people seem to focus only on the homily and the community aspects of the liturgy. They fail to realize that the Mass is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant, that it is the perpetuation of Christ's sacrifice on the cross, and that Jesus is really and truly present with us during the Mass—just as present as He was in the upper room on Holy Saturday Night, on Calvary, and during and after the resurrection. And because they don't understand the Mass, the abuses unintentionally heaped upon the Holy Eucharist are legion. Therefore, the laity must be taught exactly what the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is and what it means.

It amazes me to see priests all over the country permitting the things they allow at Mass. They miss tremendous teaching moments every single day. The level of disrespect demonstrated against the Mass and our Eucharistic Lord is heartbreaking (although it is presumably unintentional), and priests could put a stop to every bit of it by taking time to teach what the Mass is and why the Mass and the Eucharist deserve our love and respect.

I see virtually everyone going to Communion at every Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, yet only a small percentage of them bother with confession—even for their Easter duty. While we can’t judge the state of their souls, it wouldn’t be a gross assumption to suspect that there are far more sacrileges committed against the Eucharist during Communion than we would like to think. Then there are those people who come into the church and genuflect without any understanding whatsoever as to why they are genuflecting. That becomes especially evident when the tabernacle is moved off to the side and people inevitably genuflect to the altar.

The abuses are amazing. As you know, Communion in the hand is technically legal, but it began as an abuse. By the time Rome found out about the abuse, it was too late to stop it without causing mass confusion and possible rebellion, which is why the practice was legitimized by the Vatican, albeit hesitantly. The reality is, only a priest's hands are worthy to hold the Body of Christ, and even then only because of the episcopal anointing of his hands at his sacerdotal ordination. It has been my experience that when people have the origins of Communion in the hand explained to them, followed by an explanation of priestly ordination, they tend to stop receiving Communion in the hand. Of course, this only happens when they actually have an understanding of the Church's teaching on the Most Holy Eucharist first. Whereas Communion in the hand is at the discretion of the celebrating priest, I've had the privilege to know some truly courageous priests who forbid Communion in the hand after making certain his parishioners are properly instructed in the orthodox teachings of the Eucharist.

Other terrible abuses and acts of disrespect are parishioners dressing like they’re going to a night club or picnic (especially women), the sign of peace turning the Mass into a social event while Our Lord is on the altar (talking and distracting others while doing so), parents who refuse to discipline their children, and people leaving immediately after Communion while Mass is still going on. These and all the other abuses come from Catholics not being properly instructed in the faith, an anomaly that began fifty years ago due to false interpretations of the work done at Vatican II—something that is not the fault of a single priest reading these words (thanks be to God). However, every single priest in the service of the Church today has a very grave obligation to see to it that his parishioners are properly catechized in the orthodox Magisterium of the Church.

If your parishioners know and understand the faith they will know and understand the Mass. However, every priest can at least curb the abuses right from the pulpit even without having to wait until the parishioners are adequately educated in the faith. Any priest could simply state before Mass or after his homily what the dos and don’ts are, then tell them to see him after Mass if they have any questions. After all, Father, you are the one with the legitimate authority in your parish. Until there is understanding of and respect for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass there can be no growing stronger through worship.

But what happens when the people do understand the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the celebrating priest perfectly obeys the rubrics of the Mass? This is when the Gospel message of Christ becomes something more than mere words on pages in the Bible. People begin to find themselves focusing on the Holy Eucharist instead of being distracted by thoughts or those around them. They start to recognize that when the priest or deacon read the Gospel that it is really Jesus speaking, and the topic of the homily becomes the words of Jesus Christ in their presence… especially if the priest or deacon avoid the same old tired "love everyone and try to be better" milquetoast homilies and instead preach with the authority, commitment and enthusiasm of the apostles. I know from personally witnessing what I'm writing about that over time the parish church becomes more silent, the respect level shoots through the roof, and confession lines grow longer. When this happens, true and sustained growth of the parish begins in earnest. You might even begin finding yourself hearing the confessions of a few saints in the making.

In the next post we'll focus on growth through ministry. Until then, please allow me to invite you to take a look at
What We Believe...Why We Believe It for your parish's growth in understanding of our holy and ancient faith.
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