Lent: A Mission or the Matrix
Parish success might come down to the answer to a simple question: Why aren't we growing? I am convinced that the next evangelization can start with this answer. Why? Because we listen with a mix of astonishment and disbelief to Easter stories of a powerful young church. Why aren't we just as Spirit-filled today? Because, many Catholics have been generously sacramentalized and some are even sufficiently catechized. But, too few are adequately evangelized.
Could it be that we have lost the capability to warm hearts that yearn for Christ? The urgency of that question is just as clear today as when Pope Francis asked it at World Youth Day 2013. All we need to do is observe the average age of Mass attendees this Easter season. Today, less than one-third of all Catholics attend Mass every Sunday, while over two-thirds spend more time each Sunday in various online pursuits. Perhaps the problem is that some Catholics still think that their faith is a "Sunday" activity.
Historically speaking we are victims of our own success. Some of us still recall a time when new churches were being built and we needed ushers to pack them in on Sunday. No more. Today, a couple of dozen hours of faith formation per year cannot substitute for the faith experience of the home in a culture desperate for meaning. And while Catholics represent the largest group using social media today, most are ill-equipped to share faith online. There is a hunger for meaning today as great as in the earliest days of the church. We should be growing again!
Pope Francis is right. We need parishes capable of warming hearts with a missionary faith at home and online, in the workplace and in the community. We need parishes that can equip people to connect with newcomers, welcome visitors and engage returning Catholics. We need parishes that are creative and entrepreneurial enough to inspire young Catholics with the joy of following Christ. Why isn't growth our goal?