In the parishes of the diocese, we have been tracking Sunday Mass attendance during the month of November for the last 10 years or more. We notice there is a decline in the number of attendees at Sunday Masses in our parishes throughout the diocese. Frankly, this is of great concern to me. Unfortunately, it is a trend across the country, but I would hope that in this diocese we will do everything we can to reverse that trend by making sure that each and every one of us fulfills our Sunday Mass obligation and keeps holy the Lord’s day.
One priest I know always talks about Sunday obligation with the quote, “Remember how missing Mass used to be a serious sin? Well guess what, it still is!”
The church takes the obligation to attend Sunday Mass and to keep holy the Lord’s Day very seriously. Since this is rooted in one of the Ten Commandments, the church requires that every baptized Catholic attend Mass on Sundays, except for serious health reasons.
The American culture, unfortunately, is claiming more and more of our time for extra working hours, for entertainment, etc. There are many stores that are open 24 hours, seven days a week and this requires, of course, many of our people who are Catholics to work on Sunday, making it a very difficult situation. The culture is continuously eating away at our time. I think of the Wednesday evenings that were supposed to be reserved for religious education and how school programs often crowd this time out. Now, unfortunately, the same thing is happening to Sunday.
We, as Catholic people, have to start to reclaim our Sunday by making sure that we spend time with the Lord every Sunday morning (or Saturday Vigil Mass), and that we spend time together as families. This is so important that we spend family time together, to strengthen and bolster, and support one another in living a good strong Christian family life.
In the last few years, we have been also focusing on stewardship and the stewardship of time is such a critical value. We don’t give God the leftovers, that is the pocket change that we may have gathered or just a few dollars. We give God the very best of our time, our talent, and our treasure. There are countless stories in the Bible about this principle called the “First Fruits.”
For example, that is what angered the Lord about Cain and Abel’s gifts. Abel gave the very best and the first fruits of his crops and Cain gave a lesser quality from his herd for sacrifice to the Lord. We have to be careful that we are giving the best off the top, the very best to God. It is important, therefore, that we give the Lord the first hours of the first day of the week; that we come truly prepared for Mass; that our minds and our hearts are prepared; that we have been to the sacrament of reconciliation regularly so that there are no serious sins on our soul; we come truly disposed and prepared to hear the Word of God and receive Jesus in the precious gift of the holy Eucharist.
I know that many of you are very concerned about your children and grandchildren who have fallen away from the practice of the faith. This can be discouraging. But, that is something to offer at your Mass on Sunday: your worries, your concerns, your prayers for them that something will happen to bring them back into full practice and full union with the Catholic faith, especially during this Lenten season.
Church is not just there when there is an emergency. The church is there all of the time. She is not just there when we need her for a funeral or for a wedding, but she is there every Sunday. Those who go to Mass every Sunday miss the participation and the presence of other brothers and sisters who do not attend and are negligent in this area.
I encourage all of you to consider your attitude toward Sunday, to study it and to pray about it. You will hear more sermons from your priests about Sunday and its importance and the necessity to reclaim our Sunday.
Please know that you are in my constant thoughts and prayers, especially as I celebrate Sunday Mass in the Cathedral or many of the parishes in the diocese, and pray every Sunday morning for all the faithful of the Diocese of Green Bay.
May God bless you and help you to keep and to observe Sunday well.