Praising And Worshiping The Church Back To Life

Praise the LORD!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty firmament!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
    praise him according to his mighty greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound;
    praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with timbrel and dance;
     praise him with strings and pipe.
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
     praise him with loud, crashing cymbals!
Let everything that breathes praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD!    -Psalm 150
Take heed often to come together to give thanks to God and show forth His praise. For when you assemble frequently in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed, and the destruction at which he aims is prevented by the unity of your faith. Nothing is more precious than peace, by which all war, in heaven and earth, is brought to an end.
                                                 – St. Ignatius of Antioch, The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. 1
"Those, who are closed in a formality of a prayer that is cold, stingy, might end up as Michal, in the sterility of her formality."    -Pope Francis
The sterility of the formality of many, maybe most, Catholic parishes within the United States was the subject of the conversation between a very beautiful friend of mine and me over the weekend. We discussed how Catholic parishes seem to be plagued with a cold, alienating, inappropriately rigid, and elitist mindset that is slowing rotting parishes to death from the inside out. For example, how often did we hear about the JPII generation and how on fire with the Holy Spirit they were, but where is that generation now? Pastors who have spoken to me have made it clear that they would never hire any of them, because they are "more Catholic than the Pope." Parishes, so opposed to change they won't change the tempo of the songs they sing at Mass, refused to embrace them. From all accounts, many of them and their younger siblings in Christ are down the street at the local non-Catholic Christian megachurch or its reasonable facsimile, where they have the opportunity to be an active Christian.  If things don't change very drastically very soon, the Catholic Church in the United States will share the fate of the Churches in the Book of Revelation.

Was that just shallow, alarmist rhetoric?

According to a Pew Research Center study completed two years ago, there are 75 million Catholics in the United States, making up 7% of all Catholics in the world. Brazil, Mexico, and the Philippines have larger populations of Catholics. Of the Catholics in the United States, 58% either do not attend Mass at all or go once a month or even less frequently. Fifty percent of Catholics voted for Barak Obama. In a 2010 Pew Research Center study, 45% of Catholics in the United States did not know the Church's teaching on the Real Presence. In that same study, more than half of the Catholics surveyed did not know their Bible, scoring an average of 3.4 correct answers out of 7. To be fair, in answering nine questions testing general knowledge, Catholics scored an average of 5.0 correct. For more information about the state of Catholics in the United States, listen to this homily at Romans 10:17.

As these statistics indicate, today's Catholics know neither their faith nor their Bible. Why, then, does anybody expect them to come to Mass or to participate in parish activities? They have lost the foundation and the justification for even being a Catholic.  To make the situation worse for those who do come to Mass, parishes allow Masses "coordinated" by liturgy committees or professional liturgists, who have yet to make it out of the 1970's. There is nothing there appealing to me, let alone anyone born in the past 30 years. Don't get me wrong. I'm sticking it out and will never leave the Church, but my arguments against anyone else going four miles down the road to a church with clear, concise messages pulled straight out of the Sacred Scriptures, praise and worship services that are of this century, and specific, concrete, hugely successful outreach and evangelization opportunities in which the majority of members participate fall short.

For example, the Bandera Road CityChurch (BRCC) in San Antonio, TX, sponsored a one-day food drive last year. They had one semi-tractor trailer waiting to take away whatever they collected. By the end of that one day, BRCC had collected four times their goal and had to bring in three more rigs to haul away all of that food. This year BRCC collected 400,000 pounds of food.

The pastoral team of Faith Apostolic Church (FAC) in Carmel, IN, scouts out where large concentrations of the homeless are living at a particular time, then the members of the church bring boxes of appropriate clothing, a large meal catered by church members, and spend a Sunday afternoon simply loving the invisible. If any express an interest in attending their church, they arrange for transportation. FAC does this a few times a year.

In your experience, what Catholic parish or collective of parishes has ever done such ministry? I don't know of any. In fact, when suggesting that a parish to which I once belonged undertake some very basic and simple evangelization within the parish boundaries, one member remarked that I was wanting to make all of them Protestant, then the deacon definitively stated that the idea would never work. The meeting closed almost immediately after his remark.

The Catholic Church offers the sacraments, but fewer and fewer Catholics know what they are or believe in their efficacy. If the sacraments are not a factor, then the local non-denominational megachurch wins hands down. What data there is shows these non-denominational churches are a mile wide and an inch deep. To more and more Catholics ignorant of their faith, though, that inch is more than they're getting from their local parishes. How then does the Church regain these people?

There are many changes that parishes need to undertake to make it possible for their parishioners to live authentically Christian lives, none of which have anything to do with changing doctrine or the teaching of the Church. The changes need to be made in the way that these parishes respond to the teaching of Christ. The most immediate need may be engaging those under 40, who are not coming to Mass any more, by providing them with a moving evangelization filled and directed by the Holy Spirit and a cogent catechesis. For these youngest generations the most effective way of doing this may very well be by adapting the example of the megachurches to Catholic parishes by instituting weekly praise and worship services.

Now the prattle from many Catholics is that this type of worship does not belong in the Mass. I agree to a point. While the ordinary form of the liturgy needs a ton of work, the Mass is not and cannot become a praise and worship service. To Catholics, Masses and services are different. A praise and worship service would be distinct and separate from the Mass, although holding a praise and worship service before one or more of the Sunday Masses might prove even more effective in getting the young back to the Mass. The praise and worship service would include great Christian contemporary music (CCM) interspersed with very upbeat and uplifting, yet orthodox, teaching on the very core of the Catholic faith. Make this one simple change and the younger members of the Church, the members upon which the future of the Catholic Church in the United States stands or fall, will return in droves. The success our Christian brothers are experiencing is hard evidence that this approach will not miss, if done right. If you don't know how to do it right, visit the fastest growing and largest non-Catholic congregations in your area over a number of Sundays and find out. If you can't do it right at the present time, don't do it until you can. This is too important to mess up.

If you don't like praise and worship or you don't agree with the Charismatic experience or you are otherwise prejudiced, listen to Fr. John Ricardo, a priest in the Archdiocese Detroit, discuss the worth and importance of praise and worship for Catholics, then consider these words of Pope Francis in his homily from January 28, 2014:
"'But, Father! This is for the Renewal in the Spirit folks, not for all Christians.' No: prayer of praise is a Christian prayer, for all of us. In the Mass every day, when we sing the Holy, Holy, Holy...This is a prayer of praise: we praise God for His greatness. We say beautiful things to Him, because we are happy for His greatness. ‘But, Father! I am not able...I have to...’ Well, you’re able to shout when your team scores a goal, and you are not able to sing praises to the Lord? To come out of your shell ever so slightly to sing [His praise]? Praising God is completely gratis. [In it] we do not ask [Him to give us anything]: we do not express gratitude for anything [He has given]; we praise [Him]! It is also an act of justice, because He is great! He is our God.
"I wonder sometimes how many times we despise good people in our hearts, good people who praise the Lord as it comes to them, so spontaneously, because they are not cultured, because they do not follow the formalities? [I mean really] despise [them]? The Bible says that, because of this, Michal remained sterile for the rest of her life.
"The prayer of praise makes us fruitful!"

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!


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