What follows, is a personal observation of why the church has lost some of the influence it once had. In every life’s endeavor, when you compromise, you often lose.
Recently, after a long absence, I returned to attending regular weekly church services at my neighborhood catholic church. Now, every Sunday morning after my early morning coffee ritual, I stroll down the street to attend mass at my local church. But unlike years past, today my church’s experience is a much different one.
Now that I am older, I find the entire church experience much different because the church itself has changed and, sorry to say, not for the better. In years past, being on time for the start of the mass was an absolute must. Today, people are always late and, adding to this, is the manner in which some of these people come to church. For instance, I see grown men and women wearing shorts, flip-flops, see-through tops, dirty-faced tee shirts and wrinkled jeans. This is not the way God would want us to meet him especially in the blessed event that is, the Holy Mass. The only people that seem to dress decently are the ushers. Parishioners now look like they are going to a country fair/club rather than to church.
Today, even the concept of mass has changed. I have always considered attending mass as a blessed event since the days when I attended my first service in Messina, Sicily, my place of birth. In those days, I remember people did not even contemplate entering the church without a head covering, let alone halter tops, short shorts or any other item of clothing that exposed a person’s body. My mother in particular, was always dressed in a skirt or dress with her arms covered. Proper apparel was all too important when one went to church so many years ago.
Even when I arrived in this country and began attending church and going to catholic schools, church always seemed a pious occasion. I remember the parish where I was confirmed, St. Donato’s in West Philadelphia; people were always properly dressed when they went to Sunday’s mass. As a student at St. Thomas More High School, I also experienced the same kind of religious reverence when one regular basis, the class attended mass service as part of a holiday or a special occasion when all the students would dress in the normal sport jacket and tie attire.
Today, how things have changed in our catholic churches. Too many people as a matter of routine consistently arrive late and once inside the church, they talk to each other as if they were on a picnic. We even see some mothers carrying what resembles lunch boxes to keep their children amused; little ones sit in the pews eating sandwiches and drinking juice. I find this practice a total disregard for the blessed event that is the holy mass and what it represents. I am sure anyone, even a child, if properly trained, could stay without eating or drinking for 30 minutes.
How things change. Today, even the church is unrecognizable from years past. Going to church today resembles more a trip to the local baseball field rather than a place of prayer and reverence. People of all ages and especially women are
not intimidated to enter the walls of the church with skimpy clothes, tight
pants and mini-skirts that would make even the dead rise from their grave. Just a week ago, at a 7:30 a.m. early Sunday mass, I noticed a middle-age woman with a pair of white pants so tight that it looked like as if they were painted on her.
Another area of concern is silence while in church. Silence, which was once considered the normal behavior while in church, has been replaced with constant talk. Sometimes, talk continues even during mass. I long for the days when going to mass on Sunday was a sacred occasion when you felt like you were in a
conversation with God.
One reason for this change that has in my opinion diluted the whole church experience is the fact that the church’s hierarchy is afraid to enforce a dress code and other behavior for fear of less attendance. But, doesn’t the church understand that when you lax the rules, you actually diminish your influence and in this case, the church’s influence over the parishioners.
Pope Benedict said it best not so long ago when he advocated that the church return to its original language of Latin. I do not see any harm in saying the gospel in the language of the people so that they can understand what Jesus said and its meaning but the mass should be performed in Latin as it was done for centuries.
I truly admire and respect Pope Benedict for this novel idea because the church in recent years in order to keep parishioners in the pews has compromised the sanctity of the mass and the entire church going experience. In some respects, when they decided to recite the mass in the country’s language, it sent a signal to the congregation that anything and everything was okay. That is when everything started to deteriorate.
There should be a certain reverence for tradition especially for going to church. The idea that anything goes has in my opinion diluted the entire church’s scene. Maybe, that is one reason I stopped attending mass so many years ago. Even today, as I make my way back, I feel like a stranger in the house of God when I see so many people attending mass as if they were going to the beach instead of attending a celebration of love in the company of other people and God watching over them.