Weekly attendance at Catholic Mass was certainly hurt by the pandemic, but now that we are over a year removed from isolation orders and social distancing, it is clear that the faithful are not coming back to the pews. A recent poll from Gallup highlighted this downward trend, finding that only about 31% of adult Catholics in the US attend Mass weekly. The continuing trend suggests many areas of the nation will continue to shutter doors and combine parishes in the years to come.
While there are many factors at work behind this faith crisis — from the rise of the “nones” to scandals within the Church — another problem is that young Catholics do not feel motivated to spend an hour of their Sunday at worship. To address this, we turn to the personable and relatable guidance of Fr. Mike Schmitz, who hosts the two most successful Catholic podcasts ever created: Bible in a Year, and Catechism in a Year.
Fr. Mike opens up his explanation of why Catholics should be motivated to attend Mass by acknowledging that he understands the way young people feel, as a “former young person” himself. He explained that young adults not wanting to go to Mass is nothing new and did not come in on the backs of the internet and electronic devices. Fr. Mike even admitted that he himself used to choose to pretend to be sick and stay home all day alone (before the days of the internet) rather than attend Mass when he was a kid.
He explained that this attitude toward the celebration of Mass left him when he realized the reality of what happens in the Mass, and most of all the reality of the Eucharist, which he said “blew my mind,” and made him realize there was nothing more important.
Fr. Mike noted that a lot of times he hears young people say “I don’t get anything out of going to Mass,” at which point he paused to apologize for “Father Sassy” coming out. He said:
“The Word of God, throughout time and space, across the world — long to hear it. Do we have any idea how grateful we should be to be able to hear God’s Word every time we go to Mass? There are people around the world who would give anything to know that God was speaking to them, and yet we’re like ‘I don’t get anything out of it.’ God spoke to you!”
He explained that this is a “hard-hearted” approach to worship and it is akin to children giving their parents a birthday gift that was more for the kids than for the parent. Fr. Mike explains that worship is not about what we get out of it, it is about what we are willing to give to God. It should first and foremost be our very best, but Fr. Mike noted two things that are expressly given through worship:
“In the Mass we offer up the sacrifice of the Son to the Father. The best thing we’ve ever been given is Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. He is the sacrifice, he is the victim, he is the paschal victim that was slain, that lives forever and he’s offered up to the glory of God the Father.
“We also give ourselves, the very best of ourselves … As we place the sacrifice on the altar we are also placing ourselves on the altar, asking God to receive us as well.”
The goal, Fr. Schmitz explains, is not really to get anything out of it at all, but rather to give ourselves over more fully to Jesus Christ.
He also noted that willfully missing Mass on Sunday without a valid excuse is a mortal sin, which requires the sacrament of Confession to absolve.