Killing the Fatted Calf

All anecdotal evidence points to a resurgence in Mass attendance during these early days of the pontificate of Pope Francis.

People who have been swayed by media coverage against the Church are now being captured by the pro-Francis media slant. People who are genuinely interested in a Church of love, a Church that helps the poor–which we have always been–are beginning to believe that this is what we are, and are returning.

This is the news on the ground.

What should be our response? I have several suggestions:

  1. Increase the quality of music. Use the best music, the most Catholic forms, and dazzle them with brilliant execution.
  2. Increase the quality of preaching. If it’s been ok, turn it up. If it’s already great, make it a little more scriptural, a lot more attentive to the best sources, including Scriptures, the Fathers, and the Saints.
  3. Adult Education. This summer I’ve been giving Adult Ed classes at my parish. The best feedback I received from one of the young adults was make it harder. Classes have been very well-attended, and the more challenging, the more rich the content, the better received.
  4. Offer Fellowship outside of Mass. New people will need to meet old-time parish people. Make sure there are opportunities to do this. This is not expensive or rocket science. There are dozens of people in every parish able to do coffee and bagels. Ask them.
  5. Make a brochure that lists ways to get involved. People who are returning to the Sacraments because the Holy Father visited a favela are going to be willing to roll up their own sleeves. Make it easy for folks to find service opportunities.

Having walked past the hype and into Mass, people are going to be looking around. They will want to see that there is some there, there, some level of spirituality that they can aspire towards. Now is not the time to be falsely informal or undignified at Mass. Genuineness will be absolutely key. It’s time to give it all we’ve got, and as Catholics, what we have is the best of all possible worlds.

 ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his  feet.
  Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.
  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’

14 Replies to “Killing the Fatted Calf”

  1. Absolutely. All these suggestions fit well with the "new evangelism," which must be a movement of substance, not just technology.

  2. Offer Fellowship outside of Mass.

    There was a study a while back that I can't find that concluded that a letter to new visitors rarely gets them to join, a visit from the minister works better, but what overwhelmingly works best of all is when regular parishioners visit.

  3. Right. The new evangelism shouldn't be an imitation of what Protestant mega-churches do. In my discussions with former mega-church goers I learned that while you see those churches packed to the gills, what you don't see is that they are constantly shuffling new people in to replace the enormous numbers that stop going after a time. This is probably in part due to the false doctrine of "once saved, always saved" but I also think that it is also due to emptiness after the emotional high passes. It is like the seed falling on rocky ground.

  4. Absolutely, I had the same experience when (years ago) I had a Protestant girlfriend who attended such a church. My take on why the people shuffled out is a little different. When I would be with her in public she would say "hi" to someone and I would ask who it was. She would say, "Oh, that's x, x used to go to my church, but now x has gone back to the Lutheran church (Methodist church, etc.)" This happened quite a bit. I got the impression that these people enjoyed the high of the mega-church for awhile, but in the end what people want is some sort of stability and regularity.

  5. Great suggestions – and now is the time to implement them. Not the time to form a committee overseen by the pastor that will consider making some improvements. As the saying goes, "Just do it!" Or an older saying, "Carpe diem."

    On ways to get involved, make sure that there's some substance there as well. Many parishes I know have a plethora of "mini-ministries" that are just fluff (or actually have been non-existent for several years – like those courses in the college catalogue that are never offered).

  6. As usual, Kathleen, another excellent post from you. I thank you very much. There is one point, however, which I must take serious exception to. Coffee and bagels? Really? Total HERESY! It must be coffee and Doooooonuts!

  7. Precisely! The categories are all important. Love your posts, Kathleen! (We have maple glazed doughnuts, CG).

  8. Dagnabit (Latin pronunciation) Chuck! Now you got me thinking of that pastry chef in NYC who invented the Cronut hybrid for which thousands queue up daily for two total @$14, ala the Soup Nazi of Seinfeld. No cronuts for YOU!
    I'm a bagel guy, preferably with the whole lox schmeer. Alas, Weight Watchers sit on my right shoulder, but I've lost 17 in 3.5 weeks. NO FELLOWSHIP FOR ME!

  9. Yeah, but I know one church that had real French hor's d'ouvres (pronounced "orr-derves"). Let's get up to speed! Mmmm, smoked salmon and capers!

  10. I can't help but notice that most of the comments so far are about food–in honor of the feast!

  11. I think we should make available free copies of Pope Emeritus Benedict 16's "Spirit of the Liturgy" for all to read!

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