The big news these day is a new study in the U.S. that shows that many Catholics are leaving the Church in favour of more evangelical or charismatic faith communities. Church numbers are actually being sustained by immigration of Catholics. There seems to be a thirst for a greater sense of community and more intensely personal experience of God that other faith groups seem better positioned to provide. It makes me wonder whether our Church’s recent debates about the liturgy and the multitude of “minor” changes to the mass in the next few years will impress the faithful as the kind of meaningful change they were hoping for. It’s not to say that we shouldn’t improve the liturgy. The question is whether it is really the key or one of the key issues we are facing. I don’t know about you but I would rather spend all of that energy and time on continuing education of the clergy on preaching! But then it’s not up to me.
I don’t think that this issue is contained to the U.S. It seems that in Canada the situation is a little bit different. Many, many Catholics here retain their identity as Catholic, but simply don’t go to any Church. They just stay home. Our Archbishop in Toronto, Tom Collins, speaks of the need to reach out not just to those in the pews… the gathered… but the many Catholics who are at home… the scattered. I think it is crucial. Reginald Bibby, a Canadian sociologist, has written quite a bit about this and calls us to reach out to the scattered as they are simply waiting to be invited home.
Such invitations cannot be just through formal programmes or events. It cannot come just from bishops and priests, religious or deacons. It’s got to come from the joy and enthusiasm of every Catholic! Take a look at the example and message of the new Bishop of Pittsburg, PA who challenged his diocese. It’s a 2o minute homily, but you can fast forward at times. It’s a great reflection on how the faith spread like fire after the Resurrection. It’s worth a listen.