These days we often hear people say something like: “I am a spiritual person, but I don’t associate with any particular religion or denomination” or “I don’t go to church, but I pray.” It seems as though certain people have given up on organized religion and no longer faithfully “practice” the faith that they may have been baptized into, or any organized faith for that matter. They may say that they are “Catholic” but it means no more to them than belonging to a club or organization. It is not a way of life and they certainly do not consider themselves primarily as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Some parents may rationalize or even justify this thinking for their teenage or adult children by saying things like: “Well at least they believe in God” or “I hope they come around someday because right now other things are more important to them. It’s probably just a phase that we all have gone through.”
What are we observing regarding certain formerly accepted Catholic Church practices are the following:
- Some parents are not necessary getting their Children baptized as the Church recommends. Canon (church) law actually states the following:
Parents are obliged to take care that infants are baptized in the first few weeks; as soon as possible after the birth or even before it, they are to go to the pastor to request the sacrament for their child and to be prepared properly for it. (Canon 867)
- Numerous marriages are not taking place according to Church requirements. Cannon 1108 reminds Catholics that:
Only those marriages are valid which are contracted before the local ordinary, pastor, or a priest or deacon delegated by either of them, who assist, and before two witnesses . . . .
Yes, there are times when certain permissions or dispensations are granted for specific circumstances, but a marriage is supposed to take place ordinarily within the church (a sacred place) before the properly authorized persons (usually a priest or deacon).
- Overall weekend Mass attendance is down below 25% of registered parishioners in our area. Besides the general interpretation of the Ten Commandments that the Lord’s Day is meant to be holy ["Remember the sabbath day—keep it holy" (Ex. 20: 8)], the Precepts of the Catholic Church (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2042) teach the following:
The first precept ("You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor") requires the faithful to sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord as well as the principal liturgical feasts honoring the mysteries of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the saints; in the first place, by participating in the Eucharistic celebration, in which the Christian community is gathered, and by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days.
- I add the absence of other important practices like receiving the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation regularly, because of the mentality that I don’t need to go a priest, but I can go directly to God. Jesus words to His disciples, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained,” (Jn. 20: 23) seem to be pretty clear to me.
The words of this week’s Gospel (Mt. 16: 13-20) remind us that Christ built a Church upon a weak, impetuous sinner named Simon whom he renamed Peter (the Rock). The Church consists not of the perfect or of the sinless, but rather of sinners in need of the mercy and love of God. I concur with the sentiment of Peter when He admitted to Jesus, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (Jn. 6: 68) The Catholic Church may not be perfect because it consists of imperfect sinners, but it is still has Christ as its Founder and Head, and I choose to go nowhere else to find spiritual nourishment.
Fr. Ed Namiotka