Thursday, July 7, 2011

Selling God's House

 By Susan Miller

There’s something about driving on Denison Parkway and knowing that behind some barriers, mounds of dirt are being moved around where the beautiful St. Patrick’s Church and school no longer stand. There’s something about seeing a For Sale sign stuck in the earth at Immaculate Heart of Mary.

It’s ugly. It’s disturbing. And I wonder: Why are so many Catholics not upset by the sale and destruction of churches for money that is quickly spent and forgotten?

A Roman Catholic Church is sacred space. When it is consecrated by the bishop, he anoints it with holy chrism and “dedicates a building to the service of God, thereby raising it in perpetuum to a higher order, removing it from the malign influence of Satan, and rendering it a place in which favours are more graciously granted by God," (Pontificale Romanum). Furthermore, each church houses the actual presence of Christ, in the Eucharist, in the tabernacle. We are literally sharing the same space with God.

On this point, Catholics begin to fall away. Recent statistics show that 40%-50% of Catholics believe that the bread and wine are merely symbols of Christ.

For those of us that do believe in Christ’s presence, maybe we take it for granted. Over the past decade, there has been an increasing lack of reverence in a number of parishes/churches. Some people don’t genuflect or bow when they enter or exit the pews. There’s steady conversation before Mass and not in whispers. Bare skin is common in the summer months, even in air-conditioned churches.

Maybe parishioners are simply reflecting their surroundings. How many churches have been emptied of most, if not all, statues, flowers, and candles? How many resemble a meeting hall rather than a church? Are plays and other events held in church?

Is there time during the mass for silent prayer, or is it a show of music, skits, and other attention-grabbers? Are videos shown during mass? Do children sit around the altar? Do lay people give homilies?
We have lost the sacred. Unless and until we regain it, we will continue to lose our churches.


  1. Amen, Susan. A sad but true commentary.

  2. Susan, great post. With no disrespect meant to our Protestant brethren, I did not convert to Catholicism only to be 'forcibly' re-converted to Protestantism through the transformation being wrought in our parish and diocese.

    I spent several years being drawn to the Catholic Church through various ways (not the least of which was an attraction to sacramentals), which culminated in a study of the theological differences between the Catholic faith and the Protestant faith.

    The active suppression of the 'little' things, like candles, statues, prayer before and after mass, genuflecting, the use of sacramentals, and so forth, has eroded the active, visible expression of what sets Catholics apart. People forget the truths behind the little things. They lose the blessings of those things, too. And bit by bit, authentic Catholic devotion and faith is lost.

    It is no wonder that the Faithful have lost faith in the Eucharist. When the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is treated as a church service, and not a re-presentation of Christ's sacrifice, then the sheep will become lost. There is such a profound difference between a Catholic Mass and most Protestant services, I can hardly believe that more parishioners are not up in arms about the impositions being forced upon us.

    One's faith can become deadened and muted, I suppose, after a continual bombardment. There are many Protestant sects in this world. I don't understand the drive to remake the Catholic faith into another one.

  3. As an addendum to my comment, listen to BXVI's daily reflection today on the Sacraments:

    It is just a few minutes long, but its message is full of significance regarding the physical signs of the seven sacraments.

  4. good post, Susan. Gretchen, I am also a convert who completely agrees with your comment. I've also heard several others say about the same thing. "I converted to Catholicism because I believe Catholicism to be true. Now why are our Catholic churches trying so hard to be protestant?"

  5. Musicals and productions bring in people and their money. The altar becomes a stage where people are to be entertained. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not entertaining and was never intended to be. Do you thing dying on a cross was entertaining?..only to the non-believers. The deacon came here with an agenda which didn't include the parishioners..close churches, close the school, close the street and begin the mega complex at St. Mary's. Well, he's failing miserably but will stop at nothing to keep it all stirred up.

  6. For a true hallmark of a Catholic I often go to the Matt.25, when you did it to the least of the brethren. . . and John's Epistle, "See how they love one another. If the leadership truly believed in the Scripture, I wonder why they continue to exclude so many of us from participation in our, yes, our not theirs alone, church. Where are the opportunities for us to come together in community to know and accept and love each other. We have Sunday liturgy at which time most come then head for their cars with quick footedness immediately after Mass. There is more community at Wegman's after Mass than at the Church. How very sad.

  7. I went to St. Mary's a couple time in the last year. What's with singing all 5 verses of "Sing a New Church" rich in its diversity by the frustrated peformers in the front of church?? Thank goodness 99 Bottles of Beer isn't in the hymnal. While rather amusing the balance of the masses had the atmosphere of funerals.

    Vinnie's 69

  8. 12:01, something I notice often is that the same quick footed ones who leave directly after mass are the same ones who often complain about no opportunity to come together in the parish. It makes no sense to me. Sometimes you have to make your own opportunities or at least be more open. This is only my observation over time, I'm not trying to start an argument.

  9. 9:25 I disagree. My experience is that those who "eat and exit" don't give a darn about the rubrics or representation of the mass- they simply are fulfilling their obligation, as quickly as they can.

    Wegman's and Dunkin'Donuts await.

  10. 4:20. I disagree with you. My family leaves quickly because no one even cares or makes time to talk with us. We have tried and been blown off. We know it's extremely important to be there and we deeply respect the Mass, but we don't seem to fit in socially with the other Christians who are there.

  11. It's like we're in the parish, but not of the parish. ;-)

  12. I felt like that before too, but we purposely started staying and visiting with people esp. since they started up the coffee and donuts. All it takes is a bunch of people to do the same and you get to know your church community. Let's face it this is Corning, it's not the most inviting place I've ever been, no one's going to ask you to stay individually. Stay and chat, we have to build up a sense of community on our own if we have to.

  13. Other things you can do is get involved in activities like Knights of Columbus or one of the ministries in the parish. You have to reach out and not just expect to be invited.

  14. 9:08 Some parishioners use the time after mass for prayer. Chatting and socializing is disruptive, insensitive and irreverant to the Blessed Sacrament. Better to meet up with the Wegmans crowd for social connections.

  15. They pray outside on the lawn after mass?

  16. Chatting on the lawn is fine! Unfortunately, the Church is abuzz with conversation before and after the mass. Inside.

  17. It's sad to hear that Corning is not considered an inviting place, nor is the parish. I think things have changed quite a bit in the past 20 years or so. When I lived in the Albany and Syracuse areas, I didn't find them especially welcoming either.

    Regarding All Saints, it might have to do with the larger size of the parish. I have found St. Catherine's in Addison to be quite friendly.

    BTW, the Respect Life committee is always looking for new members. Next meeting is Thursday, Aug 18 at 7:30 at Rogers Hall ;-)

  18. 10:13
    I would add: during the mass as well, particularly when we are subjected to lay or poor preaching.

  19. I just don't get it, and I know I mayl be blasted for writing this but how does it make sense to save your parish if you've left it? In my view it seems contradictory and counterproductive. Susan in our last blog post you wrote, "And remember that you, the parishioner, matter. There is no parish without you. You pay the bills. You make the sacrifices. You will be attending mass here long after people step down from committees and new leadership arrives at All Saints. This is your parish. So tell leadership and committee members what you want and what you’re willing to contribute in time and money."

    You write this but at the same time you suggest going to St. Catherine"s in Addison. I'm sticking it out here in my home parish and miss all that have left very much. Maybe the admin will never ask people back but I will, come back!

  20. 10:38, I understand what you are saying. This is how I handle things. When I feel my faith is being affected by the issues in our parish, I take a break and attend Mass elsewhere for a bit. When I've gotten my peace back then I am able to return and participate with a good will.

    Everyone has a different way of handling things. Some must leave and not come back while the troubles remain. I understand that, too. Some are unaffected (God bless them!) and can stay through thick and thin, like you.

    I think this really comes down to one's spiritual health, and just like with physical health, different things work for different souls.

    And I also think that even though many have left, they still have love for ASP and care about what happens. They often have family and friends still attending here.

    It just goes to show how vitally important parish life is to Catholics, and when things are troubled as they are here the need for ongoing prayer is so important.

    There is really a great deal of good things going on. Parish life is alive and well, even if it isn't always apparent. There are Bible studies going on and new parish activities like the Women's Rosary Group and did you know a Mass in the Extraordinary Form will be said at St. Mary's on August 8? And also the nine-month prayer for the unborn with Friday adoration. All these things are organized by parishioners working with parish staff.

    Good is happening and it may be a way for some parishioners to keep in touch with the parish and participate, even if they aren't comfortable attending regularly right now.

  21. It's been said before and I'll say it again. It's nice that all of these things are going on, but not everyone is welcomed and accepted.

    The conditions for acceptance are something like this:
    1. We need people with proven worldly success. If you are a doctor or lawyer, we are especially interested.
    2. If we do not know your family or where you came from, we'd rather not take a chance.
    3. You must be young. We don't need any more old people in this parish. We need youthful energy.
    4. You must support the viewpoint of leadership. Toadies are especially welcome.
    5. In general, if the world views you as mediocre, so do we.

  22. 1:43, Lol! like my mom used to say 'like water off a duck's back' and of course 'consider the source' who really cares what a chosen few think, it's up to the majority of the mediocre parishioners to make this a better parish, and you can't do that without being present.

  23. 10:38, Gretchen explained it well. When your faith is damaged, when you are angry and frustrated in church, it's time for a break. A number of people have told me that they just ignore the music and the lay preaching and silliness (like the skit for the children's bible school). I can't ignore it. And I don't think a person should have to tune out large parts of the mass to tolerate it. A person's faith is more important than sticking it out.

    I would say too that attending mass at All Saints is not enough. The paragraph I wrote suggested playing a larger role in parish life. I am on a committee. I attend some events and masses at All Saints. I'm active in SOP.

    Bottom line - If more people do not speak up and take action, two more churches will be sold and this parish will continue to shrink. A few people speaking out on this board is not enough. At this time, I do not think that many people care. So be it.

  24. I feel like our pecentages here are pretty good, in the course of one year, only 3 lay preachings, about 5 or so less than great homilies. The rest of the time Fr. Brown and Fr. Breen are excellent. Fr. Brown really relates well to the young kids. As for Fr. Breen, I feel like his words are coming straight down from above to him then take a 90 degree turn and out to the parishioners. His words hit home and are like a weekly reality check when we are lucky enough to have him speak. You have to take the good with the bad. What makes me feel worse is when the back half of the church is empty after Communion.

  25. 10:23. I think over the last year or so it has been more than 3 instances of lay homilies/testimonies. I recall five off the top of my head (coming home testimony, stewardship, and healing testimonies). Add to that the CMA appeal film, the film that announced the sale of St. Vincent, the Vacation Bible School skits and so on...

    Agree that our priests are lovely. Fr. Breen's homily this morning was to-the-point and thought-provoking. It had substance.

    Those who leave right after Communion are missing the blessing! Who would want to forgo a blessing from the priest?!! Perhaps those who do not understand the singular nature of being blessed by a priest? That would make a great teaching moment for parish leadership, wouldn't it?

  26. Foregoing a blessing or avoiding the deacon..take your pick.

  27. 8:17, you had me laughing out loud!