Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Favorite QuickTake- Why Gather at a Big Church?

This was published October 21, 2011- as I am out of ideas, but also planning for a very special Divine Liturgy and lunch celebrating priest-husband's 10th anniversary....this is where my head is now:

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.


  1. I guess I'm not introverted enough. I like the sense of belonging in our local Melkite parish where everyone knows us and we know everyone else.

  2. Thanks. I wonder if there are any tiny Catholic churches where I live. All the ones I have been to are big enough that I went to Mass for two years without anyone ever saying hi, except for Father. He said hi to my son and asked for a hug in a way that was so lonely it made me want to cry. I ended up going back to a tiny Protestant church where the sunday school teachers like my kids, don't charge to tell them Bible stories, and it's not an issue that they can't receive the sacraments right now because I'm a recent convert and my husband despises Catholicism.

    1. Oh, Rachel, this makes me so sad. I will pray for you and your family. I am horrified that Catholic churches charge for religious education. I've heard of some who charge $75 per child. That is scandalous! In which diocese do you live? Maybe we can help you find a more intimate Catholic church.

  3. Rachel- please come back! I bet if you went to daily Mass once a week it will be a smaller group- and then be brave and ask a mom when she goes to church on Sundays and then find her! We have to be proactive (or you could go alone to the earliest mass and have your husband watch the kids)

  4. love this blog! I'm also a Catholic Priest's wife!

  5. Enjoyed reading this! Adding you to my blog's feed. Will be checking in.


thanks for commenting! (comments on old posts are moderated)