November 11, 2011 – There’s No Place Like Home

First and foremost, on this Veterans Day I extend my heartfelt gratitude to all of those who have loyally served our country in the armed forces, and I pray for those who are currently in harm’s way defending our freedom.  As you probably know we have a page on our website which is dedicated to those who have served or are currently serving in the military.  If you or someone you know is a veteran or is currently serving in the armed forces, let me know their information and I would be honored to include them on the web page.  E-mail me at webmaster@maryhoc.org.  You can view our military page at www.maryhoc.org/Military.

Well, whether we are prepared for it or not, the holiday season is quickly approaching.  Though it is a couple of weeks away stores are already publishing their ads for the day after Thanksgiving sales.  There are radio stations who have already switched their format to all Christmas music.  Our school kids are working on their Christmas program.  The signs of the holidays are everywhere.  When we do think of the holidays one of the things we think about is being home.  The holidays are not the same unless we are able to be with our families in familiar surroundings.  In keeping with this theme, some Catholic churches have tried programs in the past such as “Come Home for Christmas” in hopes of bringing back into the fold those who have not attended Mass for some time.

It is no secret that one of the great challenges we face as a church is keeping people in the pews, and when they do leave for whatever reason, tying to bring at least some of those people back.  As has been said before in this forum, the largest religious group in our nation is Roman Catholic, and the second largest is ex-Roman Catholic.  During our evaluations for the Parish Renewal and Restructuring process, one of the concerns that was cited was the need for some type of program to try to persuade people who consider themselves former Catholics to return to church.

In theory this sounds great.  Put a committee together, make up a couple of pamphlets, put an ad in the paper and watch them come rolling back in.  Of course we know that this is not how it works.  We know that the process is much more challenging.  Those that leave the church have various reasons for doing so.  They may feel that God has short-changed them in some way, or they may disagree with what the church teaches regarding social issues.  Whatever the reason, when someone feels that the church has not provided them with what they expected, it is difficult to get that person to push those feelings aside and return to that place.  it definitely takes more than a letter in the mail or an ad in the paper.

It would seem to me that in order to persuade someone to come back to the church, they have to be reminded that they are not just returning to a building with pews in it.  When they return, they are truly returning to a home.  When I talk about the Catholic faith with my PSR class, I tell them that we should not think of ourselves as being “superior” to other forms of religion.  However, when Catholics attend Mass they gain an experience that they cannot get anywhere else.  What we do now as Catholics is based on what Jesus commissioned us to do 2000 years ago – to bring His message to others through words and action, and to remember Him through the celebration of the Eucharist.  No other religion can claim our history and our sacraments, which of course were established by Jesus himself.  Some will tell us that the church should chuck tradition out the window and “get with the times”, but in my mind our tradition and our ability to pass the faith on to future generations is something to be celebrated and to be proud of.  Also, no other religion can claim our presence and togetherness worldwide.  One of the positive aspects of the revised third edition of the Roman Missal which will guide our Mass in a couple of weeks is that all churches worldwide will be saying Mass based on the original Latin text that has been in place for about 1600 years.  We have a unique bond with our fellow Catholics that no other religion can claim.

In this vain, there are two things I would like to direct you to that celebrate our faith and our traditions.  One is a video produced by CatholicsComeHome.org.  this video does a great job in a short 2 minute time period explaining what our catholic religion is all about.  Here is the video below for you to view:

Also, you may have heard of the miniseries “Catholicism” produced by Fr. Robert Barron which is currently being aired on various media outlets.  Fr. Barron is a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago and founder of “Word on Fire” ministry.  He has written 10 books and is a professor at Mundelein Seminary.  His goal with this miniseries is to hopefully reach fallen-away Catholics to remind them of the truth and beauty of the Catholic faith, and to restore respect for a church still reeling from the sexual abuse crisis and suffers from an increasing secular culture.  Parts of the series are airing on PBS (Channel 9 KETC in St. Louis has not yet picked up the series) and parts will be on EWTN.  The link to the program schedule on EWTN is: www.ewtn.com/series/shows/catholicism/episodes.asp.  You can also go to www.catholicismseries.com for more information.

Of course, our continued personal invitations to wayward Catholics is so important.  Direct them to these videos and programs and let them know that they are always welcome back to experience what we know is a tradition-filled, satisfying faith experience.

Have a great week.  Peace.

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