Attend Mass or minister to the poor?

A fellow I know has left the CC. He said he didn’t feel like he was benefiting from attending Mass. He claimed he prayed for a long time, read scripture, attended different parishes but ultimately felt the Holy Spirit guiding him away from the CC and to a poor church in a poor part of town. He is now working with that pastor and having bible studies for kids. He has helped in building some low income houses, feeding the poorer people and he feels that’s the reason God called him away from the CC is because the CC has failed in those respects and none of the other parishes were offering anything for the poor, the teens, bible studies, etc. He says the Mass it not true worship because Catholics just attend and forget about the poor and about teaching the scriptures. He doesn’t believe the CC anymore because of all the scandal and that God is NOT looking for glorious buildings which Catholicism is full of. He believes that is the reason the western churches, be it CC or mainline denominations are loosing members by the millions.

Regrettably he is now full of anti-catholic rhetoric which I have heard time and time again. How would you reply? Not the anti-catholic rhetoric; that I can deal with.

Your friend seems to have erected the idol of ‘the poor’ and made that into his god. Regretably he also seems to think that he can’t attend Mass AND do all the other things he’s been doing (which is news to all the Catholic priests, religious, and laity who attend Mass regularly and probably do as much as your friend for the poor, if not more).

How charming of him to read the minds and hearts of people over 2000 years and to denigrate their worship --a worship which is composed of the greatest sacrifice a person ever made, the greatest gift humanity ever received, and the promise of eternity --which is what the Mass is, and more–and to repudiate it for a bunch of false strawmen ‘reasons’.

So he is now probably happy in his church o’ ME because he can convince himself that he is doing absolutely everything perfectly. He IS the ‘perfect church’ (or thinks he is). . . therefore he can judge everybody as ‘epic fail’ who doesn’t conform to his ‘perfections’ 24/7. I pity him on the day (and it will happen) that he doesn’t live up to his ‘perfection’ and can no longer hide from his failure, because then he’ll have nothing. What a tragic waste of a person, all because of ego. He had good intentions but instead of conforming them to God, he made himself god and is now having God ‘confirm’ to him.

Why MUST these otherwise intelligent and worthwhile and reasonable people get so tragically off the rails and think that everything is ‘either-or’. . .’ Either I help the poor OR I go to Mass, oh mercy me I can’t possibly do both because only ONE of them can be good and right, and that means the other MUST be evil and wrong’. . .It is really tragic.

And that ‘spirit’ guiding him away wasn’t the HOLY Spirit, that’s for darn sure.

Your friend has never understood the Mass, or at least lets hope he has not. If he does understand and still rejects it he is in serious spiritual peril. How anyone could claim that one must choose between the Mass and helping the poor is abosulutely beyond me. Actually this is probaby the lamest excuse I have ever heard for leaving the Church. The Catholic Church is by far the greatest provider of help to the poor in the world and, as Tantum Ergo has explained, those on the front lines attend Mass every day, for the most part.

As a convert, It always amazes me how anyone could or would reject Jesus every week, or day, in His precious gift to us in the Eucharist. Obviously this man did not understand in any fundamental way what he has rejected.
For me, it isn’t important how many noisy people are sitting behind me, or in front of me, or how many people are improperly dressed, or how the priests cracks jokes in his homily, or the choir sings songs from the 80’s or or or or…

Jesus, He is there on the altar. He is there, crying out to all of us. He is there, in his Body and his Blood. All we have to do is Love Him and Cry out to Him back. We need him!

I pray for this man, right now, that he returns with the clarity and reality of what he has missed.

The poor, we will always have with us. And yes, if Christ himself calls us to serve the poor, that is what we do. But NOT reject Christ and then serve. I know he had a few words about that for us.

My heart hurts for this man.

your friend’s issues have nothing whatever to do with serving the poor, they have to do with him putting his own mind and will above the authority of the Church founded by Jesus Christ. It is not even a matter of doctrine, it is a matter of pride.

Honestly, it seems perplexing to me that your friend could not find ways of service within the CC, which is perhaps the most active church in terms of caring for the least of God’s children.
Regarding the oft heard comment about Church wealth, one doesn’t have to attend mass (worship) in a tent in order to be effective in helping the poor.


He is missing the Marks of the Church which are (1) the Gospel of forgiveness in Christ that makes us right with God and the benefits of the Holy Eucharist where we receives the Body and Blood of Christ who carried our sins on Calvery and wahed them away.
How does he know that it isn’t the devil that is calling him?:shrug:

I find it disturbing that every single person responding to this has assumed that it’s all the guy’s fault. Perhaps the Catholic churches in his neck of the woods really deserve these criticisms.

Of course he’s being hopelessly unfair to the Catholic Church as a whole, but *his *experience may to some extent justify his conclusions. Maybe the Catholics he knows act as if it is an either/or.


Maybe, Edwin.

We aren’t necessarily though saying it’s the person’s fault. . .(well, okay, maybe I did, mea culpa). But the fact is, if he’s a baptized Catholic, he has the obligation as a Catholic to find out and understand the teachings of the Church. The fact that he has really misunderstood them might be due to his own lack of intellect (making him less culpable). It might be due to poor catechesis (again, less culpable). But it might just as much be due to him having a huge supply of ego and a burning desire to follow his own ideas and if they diverge from the Church, it’s the CHURCH’s ‘fault’. . .(which would sadly make him more culpable).

I believe I mentioned several times that I find this tragic, and that’s because it is tragic for somebody to turn their back on the Church, whether he had ‘help’ or not. . .

I think that when a person sees a church that is failing at something that it is supposed to be doing at a really fundamental level, he is likely to conclude that the church is missing something really fundamental.

And since the CC teaches that it isn’t missing something like that, one would conclude that it was quite mistaken about itself.

So I can’t imagine he thought he was leaving Christ in the sacrament every week. He thought he was leaving nothing but a bunch of deluded people.

Now, I can’t picture believing that about the Catholic Church, given that it has so many high profile missions to the poor, even if my local Catholic church was the pits. But if one didn’t realize that, I don’t think it would be an illogical conclusion.

I have never encountered a Catholic Church yet, that did not have an SSVP kitchen in its basement (even if it was just one shelf of non-perishable groceries), and a stash of cots in a side room, for the purpose of feeding and housing the homeless and the desperately poor.

Sorry, but there aren’t “Catholic churches” in his neck of the woods, there is the Catholic Church. I’m not trying to be cute here. Catholic doctrine concerning the Eucharist and concerning serving the poor is the same in his neck of the woods as it is in the rest of the world. If there are uncharitable members of his parish that fall short in giving to the poor that is no excuse to abandon the Church under the guise of doing something really Christian. This is nothing more than a red herring.

All I’m saying is that your experience, like that of the person referred to in the OP, is not universal.


Or maybe God was calling him to start up a chapter of the SSVP, and instead, he left the Church. :shrug:

Perhaps he needs to consider that what the Church may be missing, is his contribution. When you look through the gifts of the Church in I Corinthians 12, there is nothing about sitting on the sidelines, criticizing everyone else. If you see a lack in your local parish, this is a call from God to fill it.

Your point is valid from a Catholic point of view, but his concern isn’t a red herring. The disconnect between the universal ideal of Catholicism and the local reality makes many folks doubt the claims of Catholicism altogether. It’s neither reasonable nor effective to say simply that the local reality shouldn’t count. For many of us it does, and the fact that you and other conservative Catholics have an ecclesiology that says it shouldn’t is a reason to doubt your ecclesiology.

This was a major factor in my decision not to go through with becoming Catholic in 1999, although in my case the concern was the other way round. The local Catholic parish did an excellent job of caring for the poor (something I wish I had appreciated more at the time), but a very bad job of teaching Catholic doctrine and manifesting the beauty of holiness in the liturgy. The local Episcopal parish did a much better job of these things (yes, even of “teaching Catholic doctrine”–the priest at that parish was on the whole a more orthodox Catholic than the priests at the Catholic parish).


I think that is certainly something a person in that kind of situation should consider.

I don’t know about the person in the OP, but I think for a lot of people, rejecting a whole congregation comes down to seeing what seems to be an un-Christ-like attitude in a congregation rather than in just individuals. I think one has to be very careful making such a judgement, but OTOH I’ve seen some congregations where that is the strong impression one gets, even getting to know them well. You have to wonder if something is not seriously amiss in such a place, and it can go beyond what an individual in the congregation can address.

You make a good point. One of my pet peaves is poor catechesis in many of our parishes. Fortunately, that seems to be slowly turning in a good direction. The great majority of our new priests are very well educated and catechised. We went through a period from the 60’s through the 80’s that was a travesty in the area of catechesis.

Many smaller parishes who cannot afford to pay for a knowledgable Religious Education Director have to rely on basically whoever steps up to the plate. It seems that many priests place too much trust in lay persons and don’t bother to check into what is actually being taught. This is especially true in RCIA classes, but extends also to teaching our Catholic youth. It is why I have been involved in teaching teens for the past twelve years and why I regularly invite our priest to come and give his two cents. It is my firm belief that if a person hears the truth of the Catholic faith it becomes irresistable.

I don’t see why he can’t do both. I converted to Catholicism and I love the mass, it’s the most important part of my faith, but I’m still involved with the Baptist Student Ministry on campus doing ministries like teaching conversational English for international students, simply because these sorts of ministries aren’t offered by my parish. I am still involved with ministries within my parish too. If this guy thinks he can help the kids by doing Bible studies with them, he should be able to do them while attending mass as well. It’s not like the two are mutually exclusive.

:clapping: True. One of the last times I attended a Mass at the territorial parish for Catholics in my neck of the woods, the priest said something about the poor which turned me off from attending there. I’ve been to a Mass there once since. But I called ahead to get the celebrant schedule for that day. But since then I discovered the Baptismal policy of the parish and now both are issues for me and I can’t bring myself to attend there at all.

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