Sunday Laments

28 people attended the 11 o’clock Mass this Sunday–and that was counting members of the choir, the Lector and Eucharistic Minister.
28?
And Father Elson (who would make 29 people in church on Sunday) made an announcement that every 5 years the Diocese of Norwich does an evaluation of churches to determine if there is enough attendance to warrant keeping them open. This year is the 5 year mark again for Our Lady of LaSalette. If we fail the evaluation, our doors may close forever.
What is wrong with this picture?
I remember as a little girl that St. Rita’s Catholic Church in Oakland Beach, Rhode Island would be full every Sunday morning. We’re only talking the mid-1970’s so what has happened in the last 40 years to take people away from church? Away from God? I am speaking, primarily, to Christians, because I do not know if attendance has fallen in the synagogues, mosques, or any other houses of worship. And, though I spoke of Catholicism, it does not matter the denomination. I have visited Baptist, Methodist and Episcopalian churches in recent years and their attendance is down, too. I think that it is truly sad that our modern-day society neglects Him so greatly–especially with all of the violence and degradation that seems so prevalent in this society.
Okay. Maybe it is not that folks are neglecting Him. Maybe the kids’ soccer/softball/badminton practice isn’t taking precedence over keeping the Sabbath Day holy. Maybe we’re not worshiping St. Mattress either. Maybe we’re not being influenced by all the anti-God media that laces our society. It could be that it is just the whole “organized religion” thing that has turned folks away. And I understand the myriad reasons that might happen.
Though this would fall under the category of “hearsay”, I have friends with parents who used God–or their religion–to punish their children when they did something wrong. I know of two such individuals who talk about having to kneel on popcorn kernels and pray the rosary for whatever offense they committed. Personally, I think this would be one of those individuals that Jesus said “woe unto them” for keeping the little children from coming to Him, not to mention a form of abuse. If a child associates the divine meditation of the rosary (or any other religious practice) with punishment, it is little wonder that their relationship with Him would be tainted from the very beginning. I know of one individual who was denied food for her children because she was not a regular member of the parish that she visited for help. Okay. I have visited the local food pantry in recent times and I know they have specific towns that they serve; their pantry is stocked only so full. So, on the one hand, I can understand this position, but children were starving. At the very least, a point in the direction of someone who could help might have been appreciated. Another refuses to attend because a beloved relative was denied a eulogy due to their civil union with a member of the same sex. Yes, I can pull Scripture that supports this stand. But I believe we are born with our orientation. I am hetero. If I were to date again, it would be as natural as breathing for me to date a man. It is not something I consciously think about and choose. And I have to believe it is the same for someone in a same sex relationship. If I am wrong, somehow I do not think continuing this modern-day witch hunt against the GLBT community is going to help the situation. The Bible also teaches us not to lie and to deny one’s orientation would be the same as lying. We do not know His plan for anyone else but we do know He also commands us to “love our neighbors as ourselves” and to “judge not lest ye be judged”. Sadly, in taking this stand, the loved ones who came to say their last goodbye were denied the healing closure of bereavement and worship. And, truly, a funeral or memorial service is for the loved ones left behind as much as for the soul of the departed.
Yes, someone (parents? grandparents?) rammed religion down your throat as a child. Perhaps they used a religious practice to punish you. But it was not God who used religion to punish you. Yes, you and your child were denied food but it was not God who denied you. It was a person. And it doesn’t matter if it was someone of the cloth. They may be a representative here on earth of our heavenly Father but they are still human, with all of the fallacies and short-comings of the human race. Yes, a loved one was denied a Sacrament. Again, it was a human being who denied it.
Something else I hear a lot of, too, is questioning. And the questions all boil down to the same thing: why does He let bad things happen? He gave us the Bible as a road map for living a good life here on earth. He also gave us the right to choose whether or not we will use that road map to continuously seek Him and to obey his commandments. He had to give us the right to choose or our faith would be meaningless if we did not seek Him for ourselves. I know it sounds like a platitude to say that others choose NOT to follow Him and so they commit these atrocities against the earth, it’s creatures and, most especially, our fellow Man. That doesn’t give much solace for the loved ones of victims from our fallen world, or even when illness takes those loved ones away. The truth is, I don’t have a better answer and I would to God I did. As a survivor of child molestation, there have been many times in my life that I have asked “Why?” myself, times when my anger has gripped me and left me railing at Him for forsaking me in my time of need, as I remember all the times as a little girl that I knelt beside my bed and prayed that the abuse–and the alcoholism that helped fuel it–would end. But it didn’t. However, I do believe that He has a plan even for that. And I do know that whenever I choose to follow Him, despite the loss, the horror, the pain of bad things happening–even to good and godly-people–that somewhere along the line, His grace does lead me through it and there is always that little nudge to take that pain and make something happy and positive from it. Maybe it’s a specific action to alleviate future sufferings. Maybe it’s simply a command to listen more to others, or to pray. Maybe it’s a command to listen more closely to Him…and to obey those instincts that alert us when something is wrong. Or perhaps it is simply a command to understand that in order to love my neighbor as myself, I have to learn to love myself enough to make that a valid command.
God commanded us to “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy”. A bad experience in one church or with an individual from a particular church or denomination–a bad experience, period–should not prevent us from coming to Him each week in worship and prayer. It should not deny us the fellowship and support of a worshiping community either. God simply is. God is enough. And that should be reason enough to keep that Sabbath Day holy.
May God bless you & keep you!

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