Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

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A Scattered Flock

June 21st, 2010, Promulgated by Nerina

At my local church Sunday morning, I looked around to see which of my friends were present.  Sadly, many were not.  Some have gone to other Catholic churches (St. John’s of Rochester, St. Catherine’s in Mendon, St. Bridget’s in Bloomfield, St. Mary’s in Canandaigua, Church of the Assumption, OLV, St. Stan’s) others have gone to non-Catholic churches and some simply stay home.

My church has seen a steady decline in attendance since a peak right after 9/11.  Of course, summer time is not the best time to survey the pews since many people “take the summer off from church” (yes, they really say that and see no problem with it).  Our church leadership has tried many things to re-engage people – among them Stewardship, TIES (a “ministry” modeled after the presbyterian church’s use of  “deacons” to maintain connections between parishioners),  and “whole-community” catechesis.  Our numbers continue to drop, people continue to leave and no one bothers to ask the question “WHY?”

My friends will tell you they have left for many reasons, but primarily because they worry about the impressions made (or rather, NOT made) on their children.  They lament the poor liturgy, the lack of teaching and the trivialization of Catholic identity.  As one woman, who remains a parishioner in my church says, “we do nothing to protect our treasures – the things that mark us as Catholic.”  I fear that we are embarrassed by our “treasures” –  that some view them as “old-fashioned” or quaint, at best, and unnecessarily divisive at worst.  I, and my friends, have been accused of being nostalgic without really knowing what it is that we long for.  I don’t find this charge accurate.  Rather, I think we long for those things to which our hearts are naturally drawn – beauty (a subject which Bernie has eloquently explored here), truth, reverence and mystery.

As a mother of five children, I desperately hope to raise them in a way so that they will know, love and serve God in this life.  I’m afraid most of our churches are not equipped to help parents accomplish this goal.  Instead, they are places of watered down teaching, false ecumenism (hint: it is not about letting the Masons use your facilities, but about joining together in the hundreds of thousands to protest Roe v. Wade), and spiritually bereft worship.  There is little to identify us as “Catholic.”  Gone are the days of meat-free Fridays,  few go to individual Confession, most kids wouldn’t recognize a Rosary much less be able to pray it (and would find priests actually frowning upon the practice), and saying the Confiteor at the beginning of Mass is verboten.  I do what I can to teach my children about the rich spiritual heritage of our Faith, but it would be nice to have our churches promoting it too.  Instead, we are given “youth groups” which perpetuate an all too familiar narcissism in our young people while ignoring their spiritual development.  We talk about “social justice” but we don’t talk about individual responsibility and a true relationship with our Lord and Savior.  We value each other, but do we value Christ?  Our worship has become what we would like, but does it meet God’s demands?

“Lex orandi, lex credendi” is a Latin maxim that speaks to the centrality of worship in the life, identity and mission of the Church.  Literally translated it means, “the law of prayer,” “the law of belief.”  Or more simply put, “how we pray is what we believe.”  Based on the state of liturgy in many of our churches I’m worried we don’t believe much of anything.

My family and I are at a crossroads.  I see the chance to really influence my children’s beliefs quickly fading and also realize that,  barring a miracle, the situation at my local church is not likely to improve anytime soon.  I fear we may end up scattered too.

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13 Responses to “A Scattered Flock”

  1. avatar Bernie says:

    “Our church leadership has tried many things to re-engage people…” For years every parish we tried could have been named St. Gimmick’s. But one thing they never tried was orthodoxy/tradition.

    “…we are given ‘youth groups’ which perpetuate an all too familiar narcissism in our young people while ignoring their spiritual development.” True, very true; very, very true.

    “Based on the state of liturgy in many of our churches I’m worried we don’t believe much of anything.” BINGO

  2. avatar Dr. K says:

    saying the Confiteor at the beginning of Mass is verboten

    Glad to see that I’m not the only one to notice this trend. I’m not sure if the priests out there are opting for the other options for the penitential rite because they get the Mass done quicker, or if the Confiteor, even in its modified and much simpler form, is too “Pre-Vatican II”.

    Excellent article, you’re right about everything.

  3. avatar Anonymous says:

    I am very worried about the many parishioners of St. Thomas the Apostle who will walk away from the Catholic Church when our parish is closed. Nothing is being said from the pulpit to address their concerns. We just pray for the health of the Irondequoit community in our Prayers of the Faithful. No shepherding. No compassion. No pastor. Ignore the elephant in the living room. And I am sick of being told that Christ the King parish is welcoming us!

  4. avatar Mike says:

    Excellent points, Nerina.

    We have far too many quasi-Catholic parishes out there who have been losing parishioners at a significant rate for years, despite all the liturgical shenanigans, homiletic banality and catechetical mumbo-jumbo they have been throwing at them.

    Then they simply amp up what they’ve been doing all along and wonder why it has no effect.

    Isn’t that a definition of insanity?

  5. avatar Gretchen says:

    Fr. Sam Batsa, who brings a breath of fresh orthodox air to the DOR, always begins Mass with the Confiteor, as does Fr. Win Kellner. Fr. Sam is at MOS for another week, then he’ll head to St. Rita’s for a year and a half.

  6. avatar Ink says:

    Nerina,
    Your longing for that truth is something written about in quite some detail by C.S. Lewis. He described the longing as Sehnsucht, a German term for longing for something but not quite knowing the object of the longing (someone check my spelling?) and for him, the object of the longing eventually made itself known–what he refers to as Joy, or the Truth revealed to us through God.
    …funnily enough, his wife’s name was Joy. I’m pretty sure the two aren’t related though.

  7. avatar Nerina says:

    Dr. K,

    I think you’re right about the Confiteor and the way it is perceived by some. I also notice that they don’t teach the kids the traditional “Act of Contrition.” Instead they call it a “Prayer of Sorrow.”

  8. avatar Susan Mary says:

    As a mother of four (living over the line in the Buffalo diocese), we travel to the traditional Latin Mass held each Sunday at 12:15 at St. Patrick’s (Merton Street) in Belfast, NY. The orthodox pastor is bi-ritual, ordained in both the Latin and Ukrainian Catholic rites. Folks commute to this Mass even from the diocese of Erie, PA!

    For those of you too far away, I suggest you explore http://www.byzcath.org, the website for the Eastern Rite Catholic churches. One does not need to officially “change rites” in order to attend their beautiful Divine Liturgies. In most Eastern Catholic churches, the preaching is most orthodox. When infants are baptized, they also receive Holy Eucharist and Confirmation at the same time. It is beautiful to visit Eastern parishes and see very small children walking up very reverently to receive the Holy Eucharist. Women dress modestly and some still wear hats or the traditional chapel veils. There are many Eastern Catholic churches in the Rochester diocese, please go to the website to see locations and times of the Divine Liturgy. Don’t risk your children’s souls in a heretical or lukewarm parish, the damage is difficult to undo. God bless.

    (From another Mother)

  9. avatar benanderson says:

    Susan Mary,
    Thanks for the info. Belfast is a little far for us. I just looked up that site, but don’t see one listed in the Rochester area:
    http://www.byzcath.org/index.php/find-a-parish-mainmenu-111?catid=81
    What am I missing here?

  10. avatar Susan Mary says:

    Please go to the website for the Ukrainian diocese of Stamford (Connecticut). New York State is under their jurisdiction. It is: http://www.stamfordio.org/. On the home page, on the top gold bar, click on “Parishes.” On the next page that comes up, on the left is a list of states under that Eparchy’s supervision. Under New York, click on Rochester, and you will see Epiphany parish at 202 Carter Street and St. Josaphat at 940 Ridge Road East. When you next click on the website for the individual parishes, you will see the times for the Divine Liturgy posted.

    For those in the southern part of the Rochester Diocese, there is also a Ukrainian Rite church in the Elmira Heights area.

    There is also a Melkite Rite Catholic church, St. Nicholas, at 1492 Spencerport Road.

    Hope this all helps.

    I recall once listening to a tape by the late Father Malachi Martin in which he acknowledged the difficult situation of the Catholic laity, especially those with young children, who are “trapped in geographic locations by their jobs, ownership of homes, the need to be close to help elderly relatives,” etc. The greatest difficulty lies in the sacramental preparation programs for the children. Our young ones often cannot make their First Penance and First Eucharist without first going through modernist indoctrination programs that can seriously damage their Faith. In my previous parish (in the Buffalo diocese) I literally had to “deprogram” the kids from these programs. My eldest was going to refuse to make her First Penance because she the kids were initially being forced to go to “face-to-face” confession and not permitted to make the sacrament behind the screen. One nun, now retired, actually told the kids that “you don’t want to go in the room with the screen. It’s dark and scary and spooky in there.” The complaint of another mother, fortunately, corrected that situation, and these second-graders were later given the option of confidentiality.

  11. avatar benanderson says:

    Susan Mary,
    Thanks for the link. I’ll have to check that out. I believe you got the url a little bit wrong though. I believe it should be http://www.stamforddio.org/

    I won’t be trusting my children to any non-orthodox parish programs. My wife taught at one and it was a joke. The 6th graders had no idea about anything. I have no idea what the teachers taught them prior to my wife. And everyone thinks it’s only Christian to just go with the flow and not criticize the coordinators and instructors.

  12. avatar Nerina says:

    Ben,

    I taught 6th grade religious ed (the people in charge don’t like it when you say CCD) for 4 years and while it was a frustrating experience, I found it invaluable too. I learned what was going on there and also what passed for “formation.” I decided then that I wouldn’t trust anyone to really form my kids except for me and my husband. The sad part is that many of the kids were really interested in learning the Gospel message. I used Scott Hahn’s book, “A Father Who Keeps His Promises” as my text and taught them about covenants and their role in salvation history. I learned a lot and I had several parents tell me things like, “my son talked all the way home after leaving religion class about the Old Testament. I didn’t think he even knew what that was” or “my daughter asked if we could go to confession. Something has happened to her.” I think the only thing that “happened” was they were exposed to the Truth (often for the first time) and given credit for being able to understand that God wants more from us then just begrudgingly attending Mass. He wants to be in a relationship – a covenant – with us!

  13. avatar benanderson says:

    Nerina,
    Kudos to you for your stamina of 4 years. My wife’s experience was similar in that the kids were thirsting for knowledge about their faith. The questions they asked were remarkable. Sometimes they were silly, but even then they were still good.


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