I'm on vacation and will be away from the parish for two delicious Sundays! Suddenly, with party plans and lots to do, it's tricky to decide where to go to Mass. How about that? We live in a neighborhood that is equidistant to/from two churches. But their Mass times are either too early or too late for us this Sunday. That is, too late because we have family coming, and too early because we are that kinda lazy.
So we dialed up MassTimes.org and found a bunch of nicely-timed Masses nearby and chose one, based on timing and on the parish (because we know the Mass there will be well done).
Which leads me to think about how the not-employed-by-a-parish Catholic designs their Massgoing life. We in the Church sometimes whine about the inconsistent attendance of the crowds, lightly-attended holiday weekends, and (most of all) parents who present their kids for sacraments while we rarely see them in the pews (not that we're keeping track).
But the world is not set up for easy consistent Mass attendance- especially for parents of kids. We all know that more happens on Sundays now than when we were kids, and that means rehearsals, practices, games, etc... and that our families are more mobile than ever before in history. Stop me if you've read this here before, but have you noticed that the main doors of churches go mostly unused now? Now the busy entrance is the one that leads to the parking lot. In fact some church renovations are turning in that direction, sprucing up the parking lot entrances as the main entry points and putting much less emphasis on the front doors. Almost no one walks to Mass anymore, like they did when those churches were first designed.
I think the mobility of Catholics is a significant fact that needs to be considered. How are we to respond? Should we look at our Mass schedules and see if they're impossible for those parents to attend? Do we know what kinds of things are happening in the community that might conflict with our set schedules?
There's not a whole lot we can do to attack this scheduling problem- we can't go about changing our Mass schedule with each new sports season. But two things we can do: We can make sure that when people come, they feel welcomed and important. And we can do Mass really, really well. If time is hard to find for people to squeeze in Mass on weekends, then we'd better offer them something worth that sliver of time. Homilies that will carry them out into the world beyond the parking lot, music that they can sing and which helps them ingest the readings, and a feeling of joy in the Good News that is as much theirs as the person who makes it to every 7AM Mass, every week, on time.
PS, as a Church Geek I'm excited to attend Mass in a new place, I will be spying to be sure, and ready to steal anything good (practices, I mean, not... statues or anything...).