A Sign From the Lord

Thanks, Lord. Just when I thought I might be overdoing it, you gave me a sign that I was on the right track.

The last six weeks or so, as you know, Catholic New York has been running enlightening articles on Sunday Mass, not afraid to admit the somber fact that only about one-third of Catholics in the United States faithfully attend Sunday Mass.

My recent columns have been devoted to this pastoral challenge as well. Actually, it began with my pastoral letter on the Lord’s Day issued on St. Patrick’s Day. (Keeping the Lord’s Day Holy,  http://blog.archny.org

Anyway, I was beginning to wonder if we were overdoing it and driving you all nuts about it.

But, last week the Lord gave me a sign to keep at it.

The occasion was an all-day meeting of the National Jewish-Catholic dialogue. The topic was the common lessons we Jewish and Catholic leaders could learn from recent scholarly research on practices of the faith in America conducted by the Pew Center and the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA).

I’ll be…both Catholic and Jewish leaders had to admit that, while there was good news in the research findings, there was also sober stuff. And the most somber news was about the Sabbath. Our Jewish colleagues let us know that they, too, face a challenge because their faithful are no longer as loyal to Sabbath prayer as they once were.

Well, if misery loves company, the day was a success! But the fruits of the dialogue were even more obvious as we digested the data from the studies that showed the dramatically high value of consistent worship at a synagogue or church on the Sabbath.

Let me dwell on the findings about Catholics—although they are similar to the data about our Jewish neighbors.

Simply put, a Catholic faithful to Sunday Mass has a happier, holier, healthier life! A Catholic consistent in worship at Sunday Mass, the research shows:

  • prays more often and more fruitfully;
  • has a happier marriage;
  • has a family more unified;
  • is more generous to the Church and to charity;
  • is more likely to consider a vocation as a priest, sister, brother, deacon or lay ecclesial minister;
  • is much more knowledgeable about the teachings of the faith, and more accepting of them;
  • is more solicitous of the poor, sick, and elders;
  • is more concerned about civic affairs, issues of pro-life, peace and justice, and votes more often;
  • volunteers more often for community service;
  • is much more successful in handing on the faith to the next generation, especially through support of Catholic schools;
  • is dramatically less likely to leave the Church.

When we discuss problems in the Church, we often conclude, "There are no easy answers."

Well, there is one rather easy answer: all the problems in the Church can be improved if we encourage and invite people to faithful Sunday Mass attendance. Have we found the "silver bullet"?

Marketers tell us that nothing is more successful than success. Maybe it’s time to broadcast the "success of Sunday Mass": you want to be happier, holier, healthier? See you at Mass!

So, we are faithful to Sunday Mass, yes, because it is a religious duty; yes, because we were raised to take it very seriously; yes, because I need the prayer, grace, mercy; yes, because I savor community.

But I also am faithful to Sunday Mass because it is good for me. That’s why God instructs us to "Keep Holy the Sabbath!": because He wants what is best for His family and children.