Monday, November 21, 2011

Struggles, Piety, and The Church

What is causing the decline in church attendance while a majority of people say they believe in God? Father Ronald Rolheiser O.M.I. hypothesizes on this by saying "declining church attendance is paralleled everywhere:families and neighborhoods are dissipating and breaking down as people guard their privacy and individuality more and more. No wonder that our churches are struggling."

I definitely agree that privacy is one reason for the decline in church attendance. Individuality could be part of the reason, too. Most folks generations ago used to go to church for guidance. Do secular activities fill that vacuum today? Are people looking for guidance in the wrong places? Could part of the reason for the decrease in church attendance and the fact that it is so arduous for some people to come together in Church be that our society is so culturally divided in belief of values and worldviews today?

Has the Church ceded its influence over peoples' lives as it has become more indebted to the government? How often do you hear a sermon on abortion, contraception, sin and hell, or any of the tough or controversial issues from your parish priest today? Are priests worried about offending those who donate money? There are plenty of people who are yearning for a hard-hitting sermon and feel empty inside that may fill that monetary void if priests would just have more faith and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. With the priest sex abuse scandal and other issues involving the Church could it be that some people see the Church as having lost it's way and not leading by example, like it used to?

Some may see the Church as flawed but the Church that Christ founded is perfectly and wonderfully made. It is the fallen people within the Church who are fallible. Here is a most apropos ode to the Church from Carlo Carretto:

"How much I must criticize you, my church, and yet how much I love you! You have made me suffer more than anyone and yet I owe more to you than to anyone. I should like to see you destroyed and yet I need your presence. You have given me much scandal and yet you alone have made me understand holiness. Never in this world have I seen anything more compromised, more false, yet never have I touched anything more pure, more generous or more beautiful. Countless times I have felt like slamming the door of my soul in your face - and yet, every night, I have prayed that I might die in your sure arms! No, I cannot be free of you, for I am one with you, even if not completely you. Then too - where would I go? To build another church? But I could not build one without the same defects, for they are my defects. And again, if I were to build another church, it would be my church, not Christ's church. No, I am old enough, I know better."

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