Dan Burke is an award-winning author, writer, and speaker on Catholic spirituality. He has written and/or edited nine books on faithful Catholic spirituality and is the Executive Director and writer for EWTN’s National Catholic Register. Dan is the president of the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, and the creator of Divine Intimacy Radio and SpiritualDirection.com.
Christmas and Easter — those beautiful holy days when regular Mass attendees are squashed by the masses into the middle of the pews. What an annoyance.
Really? More like, what an opportunity!
It’s an opportunity we get to reach out to those masses at the Masses. As Matthew Kelly has pointed out in both Rediscover Catholicism and his latest book, Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic: Almost all of our "clientele" are in one place at one time. People come to Mass for Christmas and Easter. It's an influx of people who may — or may not — be there for an encounter with Christ. So, how do we keep them coming? What are we doing that could be more appealing? How can we be more relevant to what they need?
These questions are important ones to ask. However, they can quickly lead down a slope toward sloppy standards and diluted doctrine. When we try new-fangled ideas to be “more” of something, it does not necessarily inspire people or lead them to Christ.
As a matter of fact, it can cause them to assume that, just as they always suspected, we are out of touch with culture. So out of touch that, to reach them, we'll have to soften the "hard edges" of our doctrine and "tone down" our distinctive Catholic heritage. The Church needs to "get with the times," after all, especially if we want Mass attendance to be higher, keep our young people involved, and be part of everyone's weekly regime. Right?
When we do any of these things — lower our standards, soften our doctrines, tone down who we are and what we stand for — we replace the sacred with the mundane. We bleed the mystery out of our faith…and there goes our relationship with God.
When we're just like everyone else, the special part of how we live out our faith is, well, nothing special.
Our goal isn't to be like everyone else. Not only would that be boring, but it's watering down something so essential, so critical, so much a part of who we are.
Boring is the real reason people leave the Catholic Church. Want proof? Look at an example of just the opposite being put into play in Omaha, Nebraska. When you're NOT boring — but instead celebrate Catholic traditions out loud —the glory, the mystery and the beauty naturally draw people to them.
How could they not?
This pastor took the sacred and made it the core part of his parish. He wasn't afraid to take hold of the traditions that are time-tested.
And the response of this parish (which had spent 40 years in decline) to the sacred, the beautiful, the mystery of our faith, is unusual, even surprising.
Maybe that's not because we've lost our taste for awe and wonder, but simply because we've settled for less. The sacred mystery of our faith is not old, not out of touch, not boring. May God lead more parishes to explore this beauty to the fullest — and may we see our churches filled to capacity every Sunday, in worship of our Risen Lord who inspires it all.
PS: We interviewed Don Carey, the CEO of Storytel about this documentary today on Register Radio. This documentary is also scheduled to air on EWTN on April 30th, 6:30 Eastern.