Pope St. John Paul II provided Holy Mother Church with a great corpus that inspired, reaffirmed and evangelized Catholics in an era when everything seemed up for revision. Since then, the Church has moved forward with the New Evangelization, which isn’t so different from the first. Essentially, the Church must do what she does best — preach the gospel to all nations until the end of time using all the great resources she has at her disposal.
A well-known Catholic blogger often states, “Save the Liturgy — Save the World.” Indeed, ne’er a truer word be spoken. In liturgical celebrations where the focus is taken away from God, where we applaud each other and tell each other how great we are, something demonic is taking place. Authentic worship is distorted into something else, something banal and uninspiring.
Inevitably, people simply stop coming to Mass when they are no longer entertained or don’t feel the need for validation. Any deformation of the liturgy deforms the content of faith.
When the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is done well-meaning that Father and his servers allow their personalities to fade into the background and each carries out his responsibilities well — the Mass draws people into the mystery of our salvation. Beautiful ceremonies lift man to higher things, impelling him to be more than he is. Heavenly mysteries, truly unable to be fully understood, never fail to fascinate the believer and gently draw the unbeliever to Christ’s Church.
Once drawn into the heart of the Church, the process of unpacking what the Church prays generates a conversion of living in earnest. While she has many well-established methodologies of doing this through her schools, CCD programs, RCIA programs, adult faith formation, and so on, the unfortunate reality is that most Catholics go through life with a sixth-grade education in the Faith. The majority tend to drop out after receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation. Statistically, barely 20 percent attend Holy Mass every Sunday and on holy days.
So where do most Catholics learn what they believe about God and the sacraments? Seemingly, significant numbers learn what they think they know through the mainstream media, which does a woefully poor job of explaining Church teaching, usually reporting doctrine incorrectly and almost always without the nuances that are important for understanding them.
True evangelization begins and is nourished within the family. Without the father, it is unlikely that a family will practice the Faith. As head of the household, the father sets the priorities of the household. Even if the father does not impede his wife, the heart of the household, in her own expression of the Faith, his children will take note that their father does not bow his head to God. For children, there is no more powerful witness than to see their father humbly kneel in the confessional or pray before St. Joseph.
In his catechesis on the Creed, Pope St. John Paul II stated that “Jesus is the only model of filial life directed toward, and united with, the Father.” Fathers model this for their children. It is through the silent example of their father and the loving encouragement of their mother that children learn the Faith and receive their understanding of who God is.
The Church needs to continue to turn her creativity to supporting Catholic families, and thereby to creating more deeply committed Catholics. She will keep them by offering a beautiful and worthy celebration of the divine mysteries. Ultimately, it is not a matter of programs; rather, it is the Church simply being faithful to who she is, and to him who is her head and bridegroom.
FATHER HAROLD McKALE, a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, is parochial vicar to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Doylestown, PA, and works with the Philadelphia Latin Mass community. He holds a B.S. in business from Millersville University, and M.Div. and M.A. degrees from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia.