Friday, October 21, 2011

Why GATHER at a Big Church?- 7 QuickTakes

1. Introverts unite! In a large parish, you can be at Mass and never have to look at anyone. No one will notice if you don't go to coffee and donuts. No one needs to know your name. No one will know if you are a little late or leave early (at least they won't be able to identify you). The 'kiss of peace' is the one difficulty here for the truly introverted; you could look in your purse for a tissue or be flipping through the songbook so you can avoid making eye contact with a fellow parishioner.

2. Choose your own adventure! Do you like 'folk' music (meaning music written in the 70s and 80s by Dan Schutte)? The 9 o'clock is for you! Or perhaps you would like a real four-part choir with a smattering of Latin. Try the 11 o'clock. Maybe you just want some peace and quiet. The 6:30 AM is just right. No choir is going to get ready to sing at that time! Or if you are really particular, find the next nearest large parish and you might find the music/priest/people/statues more to your liking.

3. Don't see Father sweat. A family, having been visitors/parishioners weekly for over a year, decided to go back to their large parish with the words, "I want to be at a church where I'm not close enough to see Father sweat." So now they are one family out of 15,000 and the pastor doesn't know if they are there or not. See #1.

4. Get really involved. Don't step on anyone's toes and take over 'their' job, but you can volunteer to be a part of many, many activities. You might even get paid.

5. Don't be involved at all. Don't worry, if you don't volunteer to help or be in charge of the youth group or catechism or coffee hour or sewing circle or bell ringers or altar society or financial advisory committee, someone else will. And, sorry to say, even if you have been choir director or flower arranger or sacristan for years, in a large parish they can find someone to take over those roles as well. Perhaps this is sad, but it gives freedom knowing you don't have to do anything for the parish to survive.  If it is big enough, enough people will be interested and able to pick up the slack if you don't want to.

6. Come to a Third Place- there are enough activities besides Liturgy at a large parish to rival a Protestant 'Mega-Church'

7. Last Chance Mass. A large parish usually has a seven o'clock Mass on Sunday evening. Yes, maybe it is in Spanish or Vietnamese or Tagalog, but it will fulfill your obligation. Just remember to set your alarm next Sunday.

For the sake of this blog post, I am generalizing that a 'large Catholic parish' has at least 200 families attending Sunday Mass weekly and this hypothetical parish is no more than a thirty- minute drive to another Catholic church. 200 is probably small for most Catholic readers. The Roman-rite parish closest to me has 15,000 registered families; it is what it is...this post is just my opinion & yes, I know I am generalizing...

Dear reader, you probably have surmised that you will receive none of these benefits if you visit or are a parishioner at one of our Byzantine Catholic missions. You will, however, have a priest who will drive six hours after hospital work on Friday to perform an out-of-town baptism early Saturday morning and be home in time for Saturday Vigil. He will bring some of his kids, though, so that they won't lose too much family-time.

edit: here's a link from another Byzantine Catholic mom you might enjoy- she's an iconographer

find many more 'quick takes' at


  1. #1 is one of the reasons my husband is a convert. Seriously.

  2. The phrase "Last chance Mass" always makes me giggle. And it's saved my eternal soul more than once (the late Sunday Mass, I mean, not the phrase)- even if at our large parish, it also means "Happy Clappy Mass". *sigh*

  3. We had a "last chance Mass" in college, at 10:30 PM. It was the most popular, but not just because of the time. The entire chapel was candle-lit, and it was always celebrated by the College Chaplain (although this is funny given that I went to a college run by Dominicans and priests were everywhere!), who used incense and gave the BEST homilies. (Oh and used our names when receiving communion) A very homey and warm way to close the weekend and welcome in another week of being far from family and burdened with lessons.

    But yes, so true that you won't find these things at a ByzCath church. This is hitting home today; another job change for DH might mean no more Sundays at our parish. (I owe my few readers an update, I know!)

  4. Thanks for your statement regarding "generalizing". Some people feel that they have no choice but to go to a large parish. We don't participate in the "soft and cuddly" Dan Schutte songs. I sure wish they weren't included in our hymnal. And sincere thanks to your good husband and family.

  5. Really interesting things to think about!! :o)

    For Love of Cupcakes

  6. I love the last little paragraph about the priest driving six hours. Which is so wonderfully true. We are so grateful for this. The priest who celebrated Annie's rites of initiation had exactly this scenario going on. He came for Annie, then moved on the celebrate Saturday evening and Sunday morning at two different missions. The rest of the month was more of the same for him.

  7. Have pity on us who belong to that 1,500-family "Mega-Church" because it pleased the Lord to give my husband a talent for playing the pipe organ in an age when an organist has to have a church job to survive because civic organs have gone by the wayside.

    We don't all get a choice of where to go to church. Sometimes we go where the Lord sends us even if we don't like it. I wish He would send us back to the Russian Catholic parish in Los Angeles, but it doesn't look like it's going to happen any time soon.

  8. Jane- I hear you! You are a lot like clergy- no choice

    but I hope you try and visit Fr Alexei and the crew as much as possible

  9. Belonging to a mega-church has it's crosses. This Sunday my husband waved at a "nice" Catholic family-- they totally ignored him (they have so many friends to choose from!) so he said, "Hey! I waved! I waved!" They dutifully gave weak waves and we laughed all the way home. (That doesn't mean it felt good...) We miss a small, friendly community. -F

  10. You have a lovely blog, and I enjoy reading it from time to time. I am disappointed, however, to see your comments on some blogs (I think you know the ones I mean), that participate in malicious gossip. Perhaps you should read Timothy: 5:12–13 or Proverbs 20:19.

    I think you are a very nice woman, and I feel sad to see you -- or anyone -- participating in those ugly, derogatory blogs.

  11. Anonymous at 10:11-

    I'm not sure I know what blogs you are referring to- usually I comment on Fr Z's, sometimes Simple Mom- do you consider Simcha Fisher to be a 'bad blog'?

    Feel free to write me an email if you don't want to be totally open here- because I do want my 'internet presence' to be good even if people disagree with my position on some things.

  12. Anonymous at 10:11- maybe you meant the anti-Pioneer Women blogs? yes- I looked at them and decided they weren't for me- I thought linking my 'funny' posts would be ok- but to tell you the truth, I wanted to up my traffic a little bit- I won't do it again

  13. Hello again. :-) I am referring to the blogs that post nasty and malicious things about the Pioneer Woman. I am not a particular fan of the Pioneer Woman's style of blog, but the blogs that are antagonistic towards her are just awful. I have read them calling her the "C" word, the "W" word and much worse. And their tweets about her are beyond disgusting, and they're out in the open for her children to read too. I would hope that people would stop commenting on them, and that they die on the vine. They're horrible.

    I like you, and your blog, and I was disappointed to see you commenting there. In fact, I am disappointed to see anyone commenting there.

  14. I just read your comment. I'm very glad. Those blogs are beyond disgusting.

    Have a wonderful day...! :-)

  15. anonymous- thanks for 'calling me on'- I didn't write anything'bad' there- but just posting back a link to try and get traffic wasn't right- and you are right. We have to employ 'custody of the eyes' and make sure we aren't encouraging others to do evil. You won't find me back there!

  16. I'm very happy. I think you are above that. In fact, I think many (most?) of the people there are actually above it. I'm hoping those blogs will die a natural death, which they actually seem to be doing.

    Cheers! :-)

  17. Parishioners at a large parish like mine are fairly anonymous. This leads to silly requests from the deacon or choir director prior to Mass. "Everyone greet the people near you so that no one is a stranger." We still don't know these people at all but somehow they are supposed to become close acquaintances in the 15 seconds before Mass.

  18. You know, I go to a fairly large parish of about 1500 people(not through choice, but I don't drive so there you go). Despite the size, I would estimate that fewer than 15/week go to Confession so by virtue of being pretty much the only person under 40 at Confession, all the priests recognize me (even with proper confessionals!). I know the seal is involiable, but I do wish that the confessional was a bit more anonymous (gotta get some value from being a large parish, right?)! It's always a lot more stressful knowing that Father is going to know exactly who you are when confessing!

  19. Elizabteh- it's too bad that more people aren't taking advantage of the sacrament of confession...

    the seal of the confessional (and the sacrament itself) was a big reason why my parents and us 5 kids became Catholic when I was 12- it can be embarrassing knowing that a priest knows our sins- but he probably has forgotten and anyway- he has heard FAR FAR worse


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