Bishop Ricken’s discussion was based on Blessed John Paul’s 1998 apostolic letter, “Dies Domini.” Using a PowerPoint presentation, he shared quotes from Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter and offered statistics from national surveys and insights from his own experiences.
During a question-and-answer period, Bishop Ricken recalled the enthusiasm of area residents after the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl in 2011. He wondered if that same enthusiasm is also being directed to their spiritual lives.
“I was astounded after the Packers won the Super Bowl, people were there for hours waiting for them to come back, to celebrate with them,” he said. “I went too and it was bloody cold. Now I’m not knocking that, but I ask myself, would people wait that long in church to celebrate Mass? So this is something we need to recognize, our priorities in life. Where are they? Do we have right things in the right order?”
Bishop Ricken noted that everyone has exactly 168 hours each week to honor God in some way. “Could we give God at least 10 percent of that time?” he asked, referring to the common tithing practice of giving 10 percent. “The average person spends 48 minutes per week engaging in spirituality. That would make about seven minutes a day in service to God and that’s not enough.”
He told the audience that the secular culture “idealizes the self, self-happiness and pleasuring yourself.”
“So Christianity is very counter-cultural,” said Bishop Ricken. “It’s tough to be a Catholic today because our Christian-Catholic culture is diminishing and we have to be aware of what are the trends working against us in order to be able to address them properly.”
At one time, keeping Sunday holy was a universal practice, said Bishop Ricken. “We are connected to 2,000 years of history with celebrating Sunday, going back all the way to apostolic tradition,” he said. “Sunday is the heart of the Christian life.”
But today, with the concept of a “weekend,” people see Sunday more as a time for recreation.
It was this cultural shift of Sunday being seen as a day of rest and thanksgiving to one of work and recreation that prompted Pope John Paul II to write “Dies Domini,” said Bishop Ricken. In his pastoral letter, John Paul “made a passionate plea for a revival of Sunday observance, especially attendance at Sunday Mass.”
According to Bishop Ricken, the pope was “keenly aware” that this change reflected a crisis in the church. A low Mass attendance meant a weak faith, wrote John Paul. “If this trend is not reversed, it can threaten the future of the Catholic Church.”
While Mass attendance in the Green Bay Diocese is higher than the national average, “we all have a long way to go with regard to fidelity to Sunday Mass attendance,” said Bishop Ricken.
Lecture participants were asked to reflect on several questions such as, “Can I prioritize my faith with the same commitment as keeping medical/dental appointments, haircuts and social outings?” “How much time do I give to the church?” “How much of my days are consumed with things that I want to do?”
The four-part lecture series, co-sponsored by the diocesan Department of Education and the Department of Evangelization, Living Justice and Worship, is being videotaped and will be made available on DVD at a future date.