April 14, 2006

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Eastertide question: Why attend church?

In our heart of hearts, most adults could answer the above question quickly and easily. Yet, it pops up repeatedly in our lives, starting with early childhood and often increasing during the teen years.

When I was a child, I didn’t balk at going to church because the practice was so normal in our family. I took this for granted.

However, children—especially teens—often challenge parents about Mass, perhaps preferring to do something else. Some youngsters—perhaps even some adults—might even acquiesce to Mass attendance with a “let’s get it over with” attitude.

Recently, I received an e-mail from a Florida friend, Jack, who shared an anecdote about this very question, which I condense here:

Supposedly, someone who attended church regularly for decades finally questioned this practice with a letter to a newspaper editor. He suspected that he had heard at least 3,000 sermons, yet he could not recall one of them.

“I’m wasting my time and pastors are wasting theirs,” he wrote. This created a surge of mail both for and against attending church—until one reader wrote this:

“I’ve been married 30 years. In that time, my wife has cooked at least 32,000 meals, but, for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single meal. They all nourished me, giving me the strength needed to do my work. If my wife had not done this, I could have been dead long ago. Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today.”

This story might be apocryphal, but it is good, nonetheless. At least it urged me to ponder my own attendance at Mass.

True, sometimes my body is more in-the-moment than my mind or my spirit (especially when not feeling well), and sometimes I so diligently pray for something specific that I have trouble paying attention—or I am distracted for trite reasons.

However, I cannot recall any time I left church without feeling God’s presence, resolving a problem, being uplifted, appreciating community spirit or internalizing the priest’s homily. (Paul and I are blessed to have three excellent homilists at Christ the King Parish: our pastor, Father Tony Volz, as well as Father Tom Murphy and Father James Bonke.)

I am usually edified at church, whether in my parish or visiting another place of worship, Catholic or not. Recently, Paul and I attended Mass at St. Ann Parish in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. In the homily, the pastor, Father James E. Singler, explained four vertical Lenten-related script words on vertical sanctuary banners: spirituality, simplicity, service and solidarity.

May Christ in the Eucharist help us fulfill these goals in all seasons of the year, not just during Lent and the beautiful Eastertide.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


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