Belonging Leads to Believing?

Based upon substantial statistical data, the Gallup organization suggests that one of the primary factors for understanding “disengaged” or “fallen away” Catholics is their feeling of disconnect with the life of the Church; particularly the life of their own parish community.

Our parish has undertaken a study to determine how correct this assumption may be in our particular case, and if so, what measures can be taken to reverse this trend.

The idea of “belonging leads to believing” has been discussed, but I am not sure if this is the correct paradigm. Personally, I feel it should be inverted; the believer seeks, in order to “belong more deeply” (as our bishop says).

If one’s connection to their faith is based upon their external connection (i.e., parish social ministry, choir, catechist, etc) to the Church/parish, then is that connection strong enough to withstand the human conflicts which inevitably occur? How often have we heard someone say, “…after that… I stopped going to church”.

I believe we need to focus our efforts on helping the “disengaged” develop their interior life first. With that, the participation in sacraments, devotions, ministries, etc will all follow.

But how??? Certainly, we must pray. But what tangible applications can we apply? I am interested in anyone’s thoughts &/or experiences in this matter. Thank you.

I don’t see why parish social life cannot be expanded. Pot luck suppers cost little.

I know parish personalities vary. But the general attitude I’ve seen here is, ‘Don’t talk to me, I’ve shown up for my hour, then I don’t want to know you exist.’

Are all Catholics unfriendly by nature? I’m seriously beginning to wonder.

First of all - God bless you and your parish for undertaking this task. It is a wonderful idea.

I understand your concern with the paradigm “belonging leads to believing”…but I also note in your post the desire to help people with their interior lives. This cannot be done if they do not first “belong” - that is - if they are not first “practicing” - at least on a minimal level. So in this sense…I agree with the paradigm.

I believe that the place to start is with those who are already attending church regularly. I’m sure that there are many among these who are little more than externally connected right now. Seek ways to help these to grow spiritually. There is nothing more attractive to outsiders than a spiritually vibrant community and learning in this are can then be extended to outreach programs.

Offer classes, mini-retreats, bible studies…educate people on the various ministries in the parish - as well as current outreach programs and efforts.
Perhaps include in the bulletin each week a brief article on a different devotion or spirituality. Perhaps the pastor can help with this by drawing attention to it and including it in his homilies. Also invite people to recommend books - and include one or two with perhaps a brief review - likewise in the bulletin.

There may also need to be some tough decisions made - if there are interpersonal problems going on in the various ministries. Nothing is more of a turn off than tolerating people in positions of authority who are not living up to their Christian duties. This is probably one of the major reasons one says, as you mention, “after that I stopped going”.

People in leadership positions may need extra training. In fact, good or bad, these are the people who you need to start with in deepening spiritual lives. If they are to promote this idea throughout the organization…they need to know what is going on, the goals and the methods. They need to be on board and practicing these things themselves.
If they are not - if there are problems - these need to be addressed or the program will ultimately fail. No amount of words will override what people see.
“Preach the Gospel always. When necessary use words”.
What Gospel are your leaders preaching by their actions and their lives?

Sorry to prattle on - - we really don’t know the particulars of your situation so I guess the best we can do is toss out some thoughts and see if anything seems good and useful.

Peace
James

Agreed :thumbsup:

I know parish personalities vary. But the general attitude I’ve seen here is, ‘Don’t talk to me, I’ve shown up for my hour, then I don’t want to know you exist.’

Are all Catholics unfriendly by nature? I’m seriously beginning to wonder.

Most parishes DO have other events. Does yours? Have you attended any? What was the experience?

No not all Catholics are unfriendly by nature. Certainly I am not, though I do tend to be a bit shy and I suppose that can come off as unfriendly.

For me - before and after mass are times of prayer, and I’m not generally looking for conversation. In this I may be a bit different as the “standing joke” is often abut how fast most people head for their cars and out of the parking lot. :smiley:
That said - I am often dismayed at my parish by the amount of noise after mass from people yacking it up while others (admittedly few) are trying to pray after mass.

I dunno - I hope that things improve for you.

Peace
James

The OP stated:

The idea of “belonging leads to believing” has been discussed, but I am not sure if this is the correct paradigm. Personally, I feel it should be inverted; the believer seeks, in order to “belong more deeply” (as our bishop says).

Absolutely belonging leads to believing! The proof lies in covenants.

God made covenants with:

Adam and his family
Noah and his family
Abraham and all this descendants
Joseph and his sons
Moses and the family of the 12 tribes

And of course the New Covenant through Jesus Christ is offered to the world - the family of man - Gentiles joining the Jews as not only His chosen people, but His Children, now co-heirs with Christ, having become his brothers and sisters!

God’s covenants are all offered to families. That is why we celebrate Mass as a community, and pray in unison each day, around the globe.

Yes, it is undeniable that belonging leads to belief, and inversely, belief leads to belonging!

It’s the will of the Father!

The hard part of trying to discern how to approach this issue is what do people feel disconnected from?**** Is it the people in the local parish or is it the teachings of the Church? Those are two main issues that require two different approaches. If someone feels disconnected because the average parishioner is perceived clique-ish, that involves a certain approach. If the disconnection because the person insists on being pro-choice, well… that requires a different level of catechesis.

I would also like to address a repeated theme in many threads that Catholics are unfriendly and non-welcoming, especially compared to some Protestant churches. This criticism usually comes from converts or people in RCIA. There has to be an understanding that for Catholics the focus of going to Mass is not socialization but the participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and Eucharist. Everything else is secondary. Our fellowship is in approaching communion and participating in the liturgy. Pot luck suppers can NEVER take the place of the Eucharistic banquet. Social events CAN flow out of the fellowship of communion (and most parishes don’t do as good a job as they could) , but are never front and center.

I believe this is a mindset that non and new Catholics need to understand.

Excellent points. :thumbsup:

I would also like to address a repeated theme in many threads that Catholics are unfriendly and non-welcoming, especially compared to some Protestant churches. This criticism usually comes from converts or people in RCIA. There has to be an understanding that for Catholics the focus of going to Mass is not socialization but the participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and Eucharist. Everything else is secondary. Our fellowship is in approaching communion and participating in the liturgy. Pot luck suppers can NEVER take the place of the Eucharistic banquet. Social events CAN flow out of the fellowship of communion (and most parishes don’t do as good a job as they could) , but are never front and center.

I believe this is a mindset that non and new Catholics need to understand.

I appreciate the points you make here - but consider…
If this were true…then wouldn’t the period before and after mass be one of relative silence and reflection? If “socialization is secondary”, then there would not be a rush to the exits - talking all the way.

At my home parish, mass is immediately followed by a quick exit by many / most. Likewise there is much “socializing” that takes place even within the Church itself…making it difficult sometimes for those of us who are trying to pray after mass.

So the person who says Catholics are “unfriendly” or “cliquish” may be seeing this same thing and wondering - if they talk to each other, why don’t they talk to me???

As I say - I understand the point you make about the focus of the mass…and certainly during mass this is very true…yet before - and especially after - mass things are quite different.

I actually have something of a different explanation for this seeming aloofness. This is the fact that many parishes are rather large, with multiple masses on a given weekend. Parishioners may attend different masses - so when seeing a “stranger” the person may assume they are just going to a different mass. They may not realize that this is a “newbie” who wants information or friendship.

In any event, we really should work on being more outgoing with strangers.

Peace
James

James,

I don’t think we are speaking from different points, but rather the complexity of reasons so both can be true at the same time. One of the things I have noticed in my parish is that there is “how are you?” stuff prior to Mass but one to t minutes before Mass starts the noise wanes. It’s like, shape us Mass is going to start!

I agree with you that since Catholics do not have the “tradition” of reaching to newbies on the spot at Sunday Mass this may not be on anyone’s radar screen. I know growing up Catholic I never heard anyone talk about the possibility of showing up at Catholic Mass just out of the blue – it was assumed you were Catholic and if someone was not, they were with someone who was Catholic.

Agreed - - the issue is rather complex.
I was simply trying to illustrate what things might “look like” to the visiting non-Catholic seeker.

Like you, I was raised Catholic and we never talked about these things either. I totally agree with your observation on this.

Peace
James

I’ve encountered some very pleasant people at Mass here in England, even though I have only been attending a short time and go alone. Even in Italy where I can’t speak the language (but spend a lot of the year), people at Mass have recently started acknowledging me, in their way!

Maybe it depends on the individual - I’m someone who always smiles and says hello to strangers, in all sorts of circumstances. If you make the first move, people tend to respond.

Or they glare at you as if you committed sacrilege. Depends.

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