Sunday, December 23, 2012

"If You Don't Stop Going to That Parish, You Will Lose Your Faith."

"If you don't stop going to that parish, you will lose your faith."

So said my friend in seminary after this morning's Mass.  He was referring to a different parish than the one we were at of course, unfortunately the parish nearest to my home.  Stark words, but I think they're true.  Allow me to explain:

Beforehand on this blog, I have spoken of my experiences at a parish nearest me that have been, frankly, downright horrendous.  Though the Mass is (barely, in my unprofessional opinion) valid, the parish itself is literally crawling with error - from the ad-libbed "Behold the Lamb of God" after the consecration, to the priest's homilies that are rife with veiled attacks on the Church, to the makeshift and random structuring of the Mass that features everything from children showing off arts and crafts to halting the Mass in order to focus on a particular painting or writing he found, to getting the entire congregation to raise their hands in blessing a newly-baptized child, this parish has all the worst that the "spirit of Vatican II" movement has to offer. 

Hence why my seminarian friend told me the above quote today.  Though I vowed to never go again, I have found myself going to this parish a couple of times either due to exhaustion from the week and not wanting to drive the near-hour trek into town to go to my home parish, a beautiful cathedral, or because I had to go to the Saturday evening Mass after a day's hard work and had no energy to drive into town.

My friend told me that he knew it was miserable to have to drive all the way into town after a long day's work, but that it was necessary if I wanted to keep my faith.  I think he has a point.  The times I have gone to this particularly awful parish, I have left simultaneously embarassed, shocked, dismayed, frustrated, and angry.  This is not because I am trying my best to be a judgmental prude taking notes on everyone's mistakes and errors - no, it is because I love the faith, and I hate seeing the faith I spent so many years learning about and studying and immersing myself in being gutted by all kinds of bizarre dissidence, strange New Age-infected spiritualities, and all the rest.  I did not become Catholic to fight the Church and attack my own professed religion. 

But you can see, with all these reactions of mine, how damaging it is for someone to go to a parish like this - especially, when one is new in the Church and still a bit dreamy about it all.  When one looks at the rich beauty of the Church over the past two millenia, to walk into a parish like this one is to literally take a wrecking ball to one's edifice of faith.  I have been told, in fact, that considering the effects of visiting a parish like this, it is actually a sin.

Parishes like this, I hope, are on their way out.  In the meantime, someone smack me if I ever visit that parish again. 

God bless my friend too for admonishing me and placing me back on the straight and narrow. 


  1. The parish I attend recently got a new priest. I hate it when he inserts things into the "Lamb of God" prayer. His heart is in the right place, he never attacks the church and is always positive but I feel like he's inserting too much of his personality into the Mass. He always has new visitors stand up and we (not me) clap for them. I wish it would stop.

  2. Good for you and good for your friend! This is a characteristic of converts - and reverts like me - to be very conscious of abuses and errors, especially if you spend the time to LEARN about the faith.

    I come from a diocese that tolerated all kinds of abuses. My parish was ministered to by a rather 'by the book' pastor, so we were safe (until he retired), but one parish was so bad someone sent a video of a "mass" there and sent it to Rome. The bishop had his rear end handed to him when he went for his ad lumina visit and came back a "changed man" according to members of the problem parish. Now he HAS to crack down on them and the news covered their tears and raging and grief that "all of a sudden, Bishop is against us. He used to be for us." and on and on they went. The pastor and pastoral administrator went and formed their OWN church, the administrator (a woman) getting herself "ordained." Adding to the tragedy, they took a number of parishioners with them, among them one of my cousins. As you can imagine, it was a mess. Where I live now, I went to confession at a nearby shrine and talking to the priest there, I told him where I was from and he said "oh yes, Bishop !" "You've heard of him!"

    Avoid those parishes like the plague, especially those that build up a cult of personality around the pastor. At the very least, when you have concerns about a parish, you should write the bishop and let him know what's going on. If he doesn't know (and approve), he will have the chance to investigate and put a stop to it.

    1. At least that Bishop is now retired. Please God that his successor, and that of the bishop in the diocese of the capital of that state, will be "Benedict" bishops!

  3. I sought another church because each Sunday the priest would omit the Confiteor, Nicene Creed, change the responsorial psalm, produce banal music, conduct an open-forum homily and pound us with the constant mantra of professing Jesus as Our Personal Lord and Savior. Now one may take exception to the last item, but the Catholic Church is a sacramental one in which one is in constant need of reconciliation and strength through the Sacraments. It's not a one-shot proposition as this beautiful thought tends to convey. The abuses in some other churches are too numerous to mention. The Mass should not be reduced to a social justice, agenda-ridden, back-slapping Woodstock but should lift one's heart, mind and soul to Heaven. Yes, a badly-conducted Mass can wreck one's faith. Absolutely.

  4. I had to go to another Parish as well. I am so happy I did because I used to leave Mass feeling very upset at the abuses. The Mass was more about the Pastor and the people in the pews then it was about the Mass. I am all for fellowship but when fellowship trumps the real reason we are gathered together it's time to look else where. The Parish I am part of now is very Orthodox the sermons are full of truths about our faith with no sugar coating and the people are very reverent there. A lot has to with the Pastor of the Church, the people will follow the Pastor. If he is devout the people will follow his lead. I would say that this is a very good reason to go back or offer more of the Extraordinary form of the Mass, takes the personality out of the priest and all of the adlibbing.

  5. Lex orandi, lex credendi. As we pray, so we believe. If the Mass is offered (not celebrated) in a shoddy, sloppy manner with all kinds of innovations then it will be reduced to self-worship as evidenced by the attitude of many churchgoers today. The Mass is transcendent because it is primarily Jesus' action of coming down to lift us up to Him. Anything less than this will detrimentally impact one's faith.

  6. It sounds to me like you found the right church and had a less than great formation. We are no longer the church of the pre-VII. Our Pope through open the windows and let in fresh air. Do some parishes go overboard, yes, but be careful what you wish for. The old church was all about the hiarchy, not God or the people.

  7. Our diocese is very liberal, and every new idea that came down the pike was tried on us as children.

    Living in other states for the next 25 years, I came to live the beauty of genuine Catholic worship! The Catholic Church has become the center of my life.

    Now I find myself back home in the errant diocese. The parishes around me abound with aging priests who do their own thing. Own own rather new priest does all the right things at Mass. But he plays with people as though they were puppets, bestowing and denying Sacraments, telling tales, letting a few of us in on secrets (such as the Bishop's called him do an exorcism and how unnerving it was), accusing penitents of further sun and sacrilege in Confession, … several people have written the Bishop.

    I very happily and with no complaint attend Mass elsewhere. It no longer bothers me one whit when the priest skips prayers or adds his own. He serves his parish with great love, and he's not playing gunslinger with my spiritual life.

    My point is sometimes a priest bringing error into the celebration of the Mass isn't the worst thing.

  8. I share your pain, brother. But, I am reminded of two things: (1) my own failings; and, (2) the call to evangelize always and use words only when necessary.

    At our parish, it started with one person receiving the Eucharist on his knees. A few years later, while most still receive standing, there is an increased sense of genuine and divine atmosphere during reception. I don't offer this anecdote as a call to receive the Eucharist on the knees (although I do encourage all to discern whether they should), but as an example of one person's devotion serving as a catalyst to start a discussion or to bring things back in-line with the rubrics.

    God bless you all!

  9. It is very sad to read these comments. It is so unfortunate that this is happening. The Holy Father has said that the Church will get smaller and I do believe it will, but also it will be more fervent and faithful. All these abuses will eventually die out but we must pray for our Priests no matter what.