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A lengthy report was recently submitted to the Australian bishops on why people no longer attend Mass.
Many of the reasons given in that report by individual Catholics suggested they either had a 'chip on the shoulder' regarding the Church or little idea of what the Mass actually means.
If Church authorities simply try to adapt Mass celebrations to the wishes of those in the survey they would be going the wrong way since those surveyed seemed to be rating Masses on how community-centred they were - with no awareness of the essential sacrificial character of the Mass.
A personable priest, friendly congregation and catchy hymns are all well and good, but not the essential reasons for attending Mass. Emphasising these aspects alone will have no lasting effect on attendances.
Why not conduct another survey of those who go to Mass daily. It is common in sporting and other circles to survey 'success stories'. A study of daily Mass-goers would, I am sure, show a common thread. Top of the list would be love of God and His Son Jesus Christ, not so much whether those in the pews like the priest, how Mass is celebrated, or the level of community acceptance, etc.
In the days of outright persecution, Catholics attended Mass 'In spite of dungeon, fire and sword'. Why? Because they loved God.
Inadequate RE over much of the past 30 years has a lot to answer for, even if this is not the sole cause of non-attendance - wilful turning away from God can happen to the best educated in their faith.
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 20 No 9 (October 2007), p. 15
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