As a lifelong practicing Catholic, every time I read an article in The Record about how the archdiocese and the Catholic Education Foundation continue to raise large amounts of money for tuition assistance and other school expenses for catholic education, I become confused.
Recently, I read that six grade schools had increased their student body numbers. These news bits are exciting, but where are these Catholic kids on Sunday? Or better yet, where are their parents who are paying the tuition for these kids?
At any one time, our fields and gyms will be busy with children practicing and playing games every night and on weekends. Parents are dropping off and picking up their kids. Ask for one hour a week to practice our Catholic faith and we have many no shows.
I have a question, if your son or daughter missed basketball practice all the time, would he or she still be allowed to play on the team? Practicing our faith is much more important. You need to practice to be good at anything, musical instruments, soccer and your Catholic faith.
Have we forgotten that the reason we have these great facilities and the availability to attend wonderful schools, is due to our parish, our Catholic faith and the sacraments?
It is always exciting to see 30,000 fans for the Trinity vs. St. Xavier game, or DeSales building a new stadium or lunches downtown that raise over $200,000 for Catholic education. The Catholic population in Louisville is certainly holding its own. As a parent and grandparent, I am supportive of all these positive trends, but let me say what many of you are thinking:
If our families are not going to church, are we really educating our children into the Catholic faith? The numbers attending Mass say, “No we are not!”
Growing our faith in God is not about gyms or football or soccer fields. It is about church, the holy Eucharist, reading the Bible, our worship at Sunday Mass and praying the rosary. It is about receiving the sacraments as often as you can. Your school and its activities are tools to strengthen your faith.
How can we have our priorities so backward? As parents, we want our kids to practice their musical instruments and their basketball skills every day. That is how they will get better. But talk about practicing our faith and we fall very short.
Our churches do not exist so we can have schools and athletic programs. Our churches exist so that we can build our faith and love in our Lord Jesus Christ.
My dad used to say, “Character is what you stand for; reputation is what you fall for.” Could it be that we have forgotten how to build character? Virtue builds character and virtue comes from attending Mass, reading the Bible and receiving the sacraments.
If I had the answer to the question of better Mass attendance I’d be invited to Rome. But here are a few ideas to ponder:
- Look at your spouse and your kids the next time you are all together. Who do you have to thank for this blessing? God is only asking for one hour a week.
- Understand Mass is what you “put in,” not a matter of “what are they going to give me?” If you put it in, you will receive plenty. It must be in your heart.
- Read and re-educate yourself on the ultimate blessing of receiving the holy Eucharist. You will not do anything in your life as important as receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
- Talk to your parish about the importance of seeing your school teachers, administrators and parish coaches at church on Sunday. Your parish is a family and we need everyone together to celebrate.
- Pre-read the Sunday readings (they are online) before Mass. Be prepared. You expect the priest and the deacon to prepare. We should do the same.
- Regardless of how good your parish is at having a celebratory, uplifting attitude on Sunday, you can be the one that leads with a smile, a hug, a handshake and a real effort to see Jesus Christ in all the people at Mass.
Let’s make our Catholic education count for something.
Marty Carraro and his wife Mary Anne have been members of St. Raphael Church for 31 years. He has six children and 12 grandchildren.