In a recent Religion Dispatches article (how come no one over there has written about Marek Bozek?) senior editor of Killing the Buddha, Nathan Schneider discusses an Irish woman’s movement to boycott Mass this Sunday (and by this Sunday I mean September 19th*). Jennifer Sleeman’s telling the Catholics of Ireland to “Stay at home and pray for changes, whatever you long for.” And like Schneider I was tempted to join her but what message if at all would our faith communities be sending to the hierarchy?
Schneider’s right. Attending Mass and more importantly, receiving The Eucharist, are for the lay person’s benefit. It’s not really productive to use denying yourself the Sacrament (one of the ways Catholic’s believe you can experience Grace) as a way to stick it the Vatican. You’d be missing out, priests and the rest of the hierarchy would still be saying Mass, and reaping the benefits.
I’m going to think twice about skipping Mass ever again because who am I helping by not going? Even if I have to sit there and be a little sad there’s still innumerable great things about attending. Take comfort in ritual, right? Take comfort in the Eucharist, the community, the music and good, kind priests with uplifting and thoughtful Homilies.
Schneider leaves progressive Catholics like myself and Sleeman this message:
*Author’s note: Due to my own inability to proofread (and fact check) the first time around there have been minor spelling and grammar changes to this post.
For those who want to make a difference in the Catholic Church, I have a simple piece of advice: don’t walk out — sit in.
The tradition, fortunately, offers lots of things people can do that honor God even while raising a bit of Cain for man. Form organizations and networks around your concerns. Hone your position in the academy. Hold vigils. Go to meetings, volunteer to help, and speak out when you do. Pray and fast. And repeat. If you have to, start praying in your church as a group and refuse to leave. (Sitting on top of pillars was a favorite attention-getter for ancient saints trying to lead worldly people out of their stupor; so, actually, was celibacy.) But then come to mass, together with the whole community again in peace, to show you are not against the church but for it. We need it, and it is us.
If we Catholics want to help make our church better reflect the hope and faith within us, the first step is to show up.