I don’t think this is a particular issue for young or older Catholics, but the temptation might be much greater among today’s youth and young adults. For the past few decades and with increasing intensity, the broad culture of North America encourages desires for instant gratification, image / video dependent, value assessment according to entertainment value, headline news and 140 character ‘get to the point’ expectations. Not to mention, in Campus Ministry, there is a tendency to cater to the students desires along these lines, which further distances them from having realistic expectations of the average North American Parish community. There just won’t be any 10 pm Masses on Sunday night and a team of people dedicated to making sure they stay engaged. Engagement that may or may not have at its center, meaningful, lasting, and life changing ‘encounters with Christ’.
I grew up in the ‘70s and it was a vastly different world than now, however, I was no, less than today’s youth / young adults, not interested in speeches that droned on, teachers that could never get to the point and preachers who seemed completely out of teach with reality. I also had an appreciation for being entertained, albeit with strong expectations for substance and quality content. In my years as an adult lay catholic, I’ll be honest, I experienced the temptation to walk out of the church during Mass more than once and on at least one occasion I fell to the temptation.
Reasons for walking out? They could be highly personal definitions of bad preaching, bad music, likability of the priest, the long announcements, the requests for money, the place of the tabernacle, the perceived ‘orthodoxy’ of the pastor / faith community… etc, etc, etc. A list as varied and many as the folks in the pews I’m sure. Some reasons might be objectively real and need to be addressed. Many, are likely borne of our cultural formation as consumers, who are always right and if our complaints or criticisms aren’t addressed to our satisfaction… we walk, in protest.
Why would anyone continue to attend unsatisfying liturgies? Why shouldn’t we walk out? Isn’t that better than mentally ‘checking out’ or grabbing the smart phone and checking facebook, pretending that my kids need my attention or…?
The answer, I think, rests upon the nature of the celebration and that which is at the center. In the section on the Eucharist in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, (sections 1324-25, 1409, 1413, 1416-1419) we are reminded of the answers.
In the section on the liturgy, the Eucharistic Celebration (1326, 1408, 1410) in particular, it says:
It seems that, being faithful disciples of Christ who believe that the Eucharist we receive during the celebration and that by our action affirms our communion, we would not ever ‘walk out’ of the Eucharistic Celebration for any other reason than an emergency of some sort.
If I don’t believe these things, then it’s all a matter of personal preference according to my own opinions. It would make sense to leave.
The truth of the matter is simple. Coming to know and understand that truth, not so simple. If it were, these words might not have been spoken (Of course, reading the whole of John 6 would be better than just reading the quotes below):
I pray that as more and more members of Christs Body the Church ‘become what we touch’, our Eucharistic Celebrations will become more perfectly what they ought to be. However, there should be no doubt among the faithful that neither bad preaching, uninspiring music, unenthusiastic reading, lack of communal participation or anything of the sort, will change what the Eucharist is or the grace received by a believer who says with Peter, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
Fr. Blair Gaynes has been in the Diocese since 2008.