Shocker: 72% of Catholics Don’t Go to Sunday Mass?

‘The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. ... Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.’ (CCC 2181)

‘Mass’ (photo: Gorodenkoff / Shutterstock)

I just read a jarring statistic that 72% of self-identified Catholics in the United States do not attend Mass every week.

That fact was reported in an April 12 “short read” from the Pew Research Center, “9 Facts About U.S. Catholics.” The article, based on data originally reported in 2018, summarizes other facts disclosed in the PEW Center’s National Public Opinion Reference Surveys (NPORS) and through the Center’s American Trends Panel regarding Catholics’ racial and ethnic distribution, educational background and support for Pope Francis.

But back to that shocking finding: Only 28% of Catholics attend Mass at least weekly, even though the Catholic Church clearly teaches that missing Sunday Mass (except for a good reason, such as illness or inability to get to a nearby parish) is a mortal sin.

To my way of thinking, the logic is straightforward:

  • The 72% of self-described Catholics who don’t attend the Sunday liturgy each week either don’t really believe in God, or they don’t think that belief in God warrants their attention every week.
  • The Church, of course, thinks otherwise — declaring it a mortal sin to miss Mass on a Sunday without a just reason.
  • So there is a reason to attend Mass: because it’s obligatory, and missing Mass endangers the soul.

But there is a better reason to attend, and not simply to fulfill an obligation. The mature Catholic (that is, the thoughtful Catholic who has considered arguments for the existence of God, and who appreciates the power and the presence of God in our lives) will choose to attend Mass each week for several reasons:

  • to worship God who was powerful enough and loving enough to create each of us, and who will someday judge the condition of our souls;
  • to receive teaching each week;
  • to receive the Eucharist;
  • to gradually become more and more like Christ; and
  • to reach the holiness to which we are called.

A Catholic who does not believe in God needs to do his homework — to read, to study, to pray — to find out that God truly does exist.

And a Catholic who truly believes that God exists, but who chooses to disregard the rules imposed by God’s church, should do his homework to discover what is expected of him as a Catholic, and why. The Catholic Church, speaking with the authority vested by God, calls on Catholics everywhere to keep the Lord’s Day holy in one specific way — by joining with their fellow Catholics around the world in the most perfect worship, the holy Mass.

There are many places in Scripture where God’s conferring of authority upon his Church is evident. In Titus 2:15, for example, God says, “Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.”

In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus gives the Great Commission and promises that he will support his Church until the end of time:

Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’

If you are among the majority of Catholics who don’t take seriously the command to worship each week by attending the Sacred Liturgy, please reconsider. Not simply a boring old obligation, the Mass — when prayed with humility and with sincere intent — offers many benefits: You can become holier, taking Jesus himself into your body in Holy Communion, thereby reducing the time you’ll be spending in Purgatory, getting ready for the beatific vision. And your children and loved ones, seeing the love and the happiness that you radiate, will be inspired to grow in holiness themselves.

In the local church, you’ll meet others who share your faith and your hope. These fellow travelers on your earthly journey will become your friends, enriching your life, praying for you, sharing your laughter and your burdens

Jesus waits.

Oscar Wergeland, “Service in a German Village Church,” ca. 1880

This Sunday, I’ll Be Going to Church. Will You Join Me?

“The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.” [CCC 2181]