Help! Spiritual enrichment despite ho-hum parish life

Hello CAF readers. I suspect this subject has been addressed elsewhere. If so, my apologies for duplicating forum topics.

Here’s our situation. My wife and were received into the CC 9 years ago. We had a wonderful priest who was a great teacher and shepherded throughout RCIA. For my part, becoming Catholic was inevitable. The better part of my scholarly life has me in continuous contact with classic Catholic sources. Indeed, reading and writing provides me with constant reminders of why I am Catholic. It also helps me endure the less than inspiring features of parish life.

My wife, however, is truly struggling. Rightly or wrongly, she followed me to the Church from a fairly dynamic tradition of worship and preaching. Its theological shortcomings aside, that tradition has (for her) set a precedent for what Christian worship should be. I empathize with her, although my vocation makes available to me resources that compensate for the conditions over which she mourns.

Please know that she understands fully that we are not passive vessels whose spiritual fulfillment depends solely on the quality of the Church services. Also, she has sought ways to get involved in the Church. Still, the platitudinous homilies, the awful music, and the spiritual nominalism that characterizes our parish life make it hard to appreciate the centrality of the sacraments, and forestalls the creation of a dynamic worship community she insists she needs. Of course, our deacons, priests, and parish musicians–God love them–no doubt abide in their vocations in earnest. But as a frustrated Catholic seeking spiritual community, there is (for her) little there to nourish the mind and heart. She is simply not the sort of person to take on a steady diet of Chesterton and Augustine. And while she does not look to the Church as a therapeutic venue for her own emotional fulfillment (she is not that sort of person), our parish (as opposed to the Church as a whole) is, she fears, failing to bring solid, dynamic, doctrinally sound teaching to compliment its sacramental practices. And as a mother, she worries that our young sons will grow to dislike or become uninterested in Mass.

This has been an ongoing conversation in our home for some time. I would very much like both your suggestions as to how I can help/encourage my wife and how we might address the ongoing “sociological” challenges of our parish life.

Have you considered becoming part of a Latin Mass community?

I was a bored young son until I discovered Mass in the extraordinary form.

You spoke of the priest who led you into the Church in past tense - it sounds like the relationship ties that were present when you and your wife entered are no longer there?

There are some options, though it sounds like you may have tried at least some: is there a solid charismatic prayer group at your parish? Perhaps a women’s Scripture study or some other forum where your wife could build relationships and grow in her faith? If not, would she be willing to prayerfully start one? Or perhaps a couples small group? Chances are good there are other women and/or couples who feel the same way.

If the problem runs deeper than that, and it sounds like it might (as you mentioned possible liturgical problems and issues with religious education and faith formation), is there another parish in the area that might be a better fit, community wise? For me, I tried a couple different parishes before feeling “at home” with where I am now.

I can say too that is it a transition from Evangelical Protestant and being used to a more charismatic style of worship to the Catholic Mass. While your wife might not care to read some of the more “heady” Catholic classics, supplementing with some reading on the Mass by Scott Hahn and like authors may help. What also helped me appreciate the Mass was what the previous poster suggested: try an Extraordinary Form Mass, or even Eastern Rite. It helped me understand and appreciate the Mass all that much more.

Finally, one thing I did when I converted was I sifted through my music library, culling many of the clearly Protestant songs and supplementing with music by contemporary Catholic musicians, like Matt Maher. While I prefer hymns and chant during the liturgy, I can still cut loose with my iPod praising God at home and in the car. :slight_smile:

AV: I neglected to mention that our former priest died 3-4 years ago. He was actually young, and we’re still grieved by his absence.

I appreciate your suggestions. In some ways we are wed to our current parish, not only by location, but obligation. We will be sending our sons to the (well regarded) parish school, and cannot afford the non-parishioner tuition. We are not suffering through the services and (you nailed it) poor faith-formation endeavors simply to provide our sons an education we can afford. For better or for worse, this is our parish, and we’ll keep our membership here. Sadly, the other area parishes are not much better in terms of providing quality, doctrinally sound faith formation. Again and again we find well-meaning directors and volunteers that love their parish but simply do not understand what faith formation requires and involves.

There is a nearby Eastern Rite Church, and I am considering what we can do to get a taste of that service without jettisoning current responsibilities to the current parish.

Someone has to start a Bible study, prayer group,etc. However, I have found when I suggest something like that I usually get nominated to do it. Maybe some who have done such things will offer suggestions if you start a thread requesting help.

Another option she/both of you might want to investigate is lay orders. There are several, but not all may have communities in your area, such as the Franciscans, the Carmelites, the Dominicans, etc. Each offers a way to live out one’s baptismal vows within the spirituality and structure of an order of the Church.

Also, there are the writings of the great Saints, such as St. Therese of Lisieux, or St. Teresa of Avila, St. Frances de Sales, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Alphonsus de Liguori, etc. In them she will find all the spiritual nourshment she could possibly wish for.

Another thing to remember is that the Mass is corporate worship. It’s not meant to be the sum total of our spiritual nourshment. Homilies are based on the readings of the day and so are not meant to be Bible studies or great works of oratorical brilliance. Parish priests are extremely busy people who cannot and do not spend great amounts of time preparing homilies. There are great homilies that can be read, though. At great periodical is Pastoral and Homilitical Review. You can subscribe and perhaps give a gift subscription to your priest(s) for their benefit, as well.

You could always push the envelope - three Sundays a month at Divine Liturgy, one at your home parish :slight_smile: I go to a Traditional Latin Mass almost exclusively, but I’m still techinically a parishioner at my old parish, and I do go to morning Mass occasionally. You can do this, just show your face a bit and keep in touch, you’ll still be a parishioner.

That being said I am very jealous (in a good way!) that you have the chance to go to a DL. I think your sons might stay involved this way, the theology of the Mass that applies to the TLM also applies to the DL.

Sometimes a strong family prayer life can change things. You can do the daily prayers (angelus at morning, noon and evening, Divine Mercy at 3, prayers before and after meals, and a rosary or two in there). then if you make it so that the Mass is the culmination of all of this, it can make it a lot more meaningful as a family event, despite the shortcomings of the externals. You can also keep lots of blessed items and sacred images around the house, take a monthly trip to confession together, and same with adoration. There’s so many things you can do to revamp your spiritual life regardless of distasteful liturgy!

Just a bit of advice: I’d stay away from a charismatic group. Many are wonderful, many are not, and through its ideology the movement pushes the envelope a lot of times about what the Church allows and what it doesn’t. (I mean it was almost copied from the Protestant fad of the same name… you can read more about it at Fisheaters, an awesome website you might find interesting!!)

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