Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Sunday 26 September |
Saint of the Day: Sts Cosmas and Damian
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

On the Baptism of the Lord


Canonry of St. Leopold - published on 01/10/15

When we declare that we are Catholics, we tread the same path as Christ.

A couple of weeks ago at Christmas – particularly on Christmas Eve – our church was full; yours was probably, too. We had over four hundred people at the 4 pm Mass; at this one Mass we had more than half of the attendance we usually have for all five Masses on a regular weekend during the school year (attendance is lower in the summer, as might be the case by you too).  At Christmas, many people come who otherwise have little to do with our parish.  They still feel a sense of belonging, even if it is highly attenuated.

But this sense of belonging, or rather this weak sense of belonging, is not unique to our parish: it is symptomatic of larger social trends.  Our society is experiencing a fraying and withering away of many kinds of belonging.  Communities of all sorts are dying.  Families are under enormous stress. Affiliations with political parties, churches, all sorts of voluntary organizations and groups are down.  What can account for this?  After all, this is not new and not unique to our time.

Affiliations – the decision to belong to groups – waxes and wanes historically.  The question for us is why is it waning now?

Certainly, one cause is the frenetic pace of life which characterizes American life in general, which we can say has become “New York-ized”: our whole 24-7 society has become “the city that never sleeps”.  Sleep deprivation, as we have recently come to recognize, is a serious public health hazard because it diminishes our overall state of well-being, may shorten our life span and leads to tragic accidents.  This frenzy no doubt helps to account for the widespread and trendy interest in yoga, meditation and other pursuits of well-being, deracinated from their original religious contexts and adapted and repackaged to prop up sagging (and tired) American egos.

Rather than strengthening the “religion of me” – the Moralistic Therapeutic Deism  that passes for what many Americans erroneously consider to be Christianity – it would be beneficial for us to take a first step away from this addiction to speed and velocity – click, click, click – and slow down, pause, breathe, think, pay attention, reflect, meditate and contemplate.

“Paying attention” would be a very good resolution for 2015: “Do what you are doing,” as the traditional Latin maxim "agequod agis” encourages.  This is certainly good advice for participation in the Mass and a remedy to those who find it boring.

 “Paying attention” is probably a better translation of “participato acutosa” than “active participation” since it places the correct emphasis on attention and intention and not on activity (which tends to detract from both).  Pay attention to what you say and do – yes – but even more so to what you hear and whom you receive. Our age pays too much attention to activity and too little to receptivity.  If we come to Mass, we come to receive the Word of God in the Scriptures and, especially, in the Blessed Sacrament. Our activity ought to be a preparation for this receiving. Otherwise, we will leave the church empty because we have placed our activity and ourselves in the center of the Mass rather than God.  Couldn’t this be part of the reason why people don’t come back?  

Another reason – the more seductive and compelling one – for the decline in belonging is the fact that all groups have shortcomings, mean members, a history of mistakes and errors, even bad deeds and sins. Today, there is an opportunity to feast on self-righteousness as never before because these stories and examples are so easily accessible.  Tailor-made scapegoats are on offer just a click away, whereby we can focus our gaze on their sins, thus averting it from our own and our complicity with the structures of sin that shape our world – not because they must be, but because ultimately we believe – thereby excusing ourselves – we have no choice. We have to be practical.  We have to do what works.

  • 1
  • 2
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
J-P Mauro
Chicago architect models Vatican City from 67,000 LEGO bricks
Cecilia Pigg
7 Ways the saints can help you sleep better at night
Philip Kosloski
Why J.R.R. Tolkien loved to attend daily Mass
The Sinai Peninsula and the Dead Sea Rift
J-P Mauro
Experts now believe Sodom was destroyed by a meteor
Bret Thoman, OFS
Exclusive photos: Meet Padre Pio and the place he lived
Philip Kosloski
How Our Lady saved Padre Pio from a violent demonic attack
Cerith Gardiner
9 Padre Pio quotes for when you’re feeling scared or uncertain
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.