Is there an overemphasis of community in our Worship

I see two camps on this Message board…I am interested in some of your thoughts…What do you all think?

Has the emphasis on community gone so far as to diminish the individual?

Has it eroded the personal culpablity of sin?

Can it be attributed to the non-existant confession lines?

(sits back with popcorn)

Christianity is nothing if not communal. In that sense it is almost impossible to overemphasize community in Christianity. However, be it noted that we did include the Gospel of John in the canon of scripture as a counterpoise to the almost exclusively communal tone of the synoptics.


While there is some truth to what you said, then-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger made some very strong statements eregarding the “overemphasis” of community in our liturgies. When we begin to “celebrate ourselves” instead of the sacred mysteries, when “we” becomes the focus of the Mass than the Holy Sacrifice, then we have strayed very far from the liturgy.

When we applaud the choir and lose sight of what the choir was meant to be and do, then we have celebrated ourselves. Many of the hymns composed over the last 40 years call for the celebration of the community. “Gather Us In” does not have any direct references to God.

While Catholics do not exist in a vaccuum (we are a community of believers), we cannot make the community more important than the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

I am eagerly awaiting what Pope Benedict will tell us when he arrives here next April. It should prove most interesting.

I’m not sure what Ben’s problem is. Presumably he prayed as did all priests to “participate in (God’s) divinity, as he condescended to participate in our humanity.” Go back to the Tridentine Mass that we celebrated daily prior to changing to the vernacular. That along with numerous scriptural references, citations from the Fathers, etc. on the church as the Body of Christ make it very hard for me to think that there is anything inherently wrong in celebrating the familial and corporate nature of Church.
Again, the celebration of a job well done by the choir is not a problem as we are thanking them for helping us to pray better after the admonition of Augustine of Hippo that one who sings prays twice.
The purpose of the Eucharist is to make us one in Christ, which is God’s work in us through the sacrament. Nothing which acknowledges this is wrong in itself. It is important for us to be reminded that we are to become Eucharist, the Body of Christ, broken for the salvation of the world.
What is in our hearts and on our minds is most important. Sing and pray with a full heart thanking the Father for His countless blessings.


I do agree community is part of Christianity. Wondering though…at the moment of death when we stand alone before the just judge at the particular judgement…Will that feel like a communal event?

I don’t think you got the point of my post nor of the Holy Father’s many statements. The Mass should not be reduced to a celebration of ourselves. Give me a chance and later on, this afternoon, I’ll pull up the exact quote and point the Holy Father made. I think my Spirit of the Liturgy is floating around in my Jeep. Because someone stole my Dad’s Jeep, we were sharing my vehicle, so I’ve got to figure out where he put my book (he says my car is either a mobile liturgical library or a sacristy). Now that he’s got his Jeep replaced, I’ll be able to get my books together. Long aside, but, I want to give you an accurate statement.

Interesting…is that the primary purpose of the Eucharist? the Mass also making present the sacrifice of Calvary?

With this in mind…during the Vatican II council each of Cardinals offered up the Sacrifice of the Mass individually and alone…also for over 1000 years many priests offered up the mass alone and some still do today…when they do this is it Less of a Mass as when 500 people attend?

I think I understand your point, benedictgal. Even a bar has a “community.” Remember Cheers, where “everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came!”

Or a sports team. Or a school. Or a workplace.

So Mass should not be going to a bar without drinks, or a game without a ball, or a school without a report card, or a workplace with no paycheck.

As an ex-Protestant, I feel safe saying that some Protestant churches are falling into the trap of trying to make their churches more like friendly bars or a trip to a football stadium (lots of cheering and entertainment), or a school (lots of classes and studies), or a workplace (lots of opportunities to serve).

But church is not any of these things. It is where we receive the Lord. We shouldn’t reduce Mass to a social gathering, or over-emphasize “community” that can also be found at any of these secular gathering places.

However, Mass is meant to be a communal presence at the Sacrifice of Our Lord. Remember that even the Blessed Virgin Mary stood with the beloved John (and possibly Mary Magdalene) at the foot of the cross. She was not there alone.

I think that during Mass, we always need to be aware that all of our Christian brothers and sisters are there with us, watching the Sacrifice.

We are all in different places on our Christian journey. Some are probably “disciples in hiding”, like all the disciples other than John who were possibly standing somewhere in the crowd watching Jesus die.

Others are scoffers, in church only out of obligation to some human agency (e.g., their mother).

Some are in a state of sin and they are either in denial, or they are struggling with the Holy Spirit.

Some are children who really have only a vague concept of what is happening.

And then there are those who are close to Jesus in their daily lives and on the path to sainthood. May we all get to this place!

But we’re all there, all gathered together, all witnesses to the Holy Sacrifice.

(BTW, I love the song Gather Us In! It describes what I am trying to say.)

Offering Mass alone is not “less of a Mass” but it is discouraged by Canon Law:

Can. 906 Except for a just and reasonable cause, a priest is not to celebrate the eucharistic sacrifice without the participation of at least some member of the faithful.

It happens at Daily Mass in some churches, but because those are open to the faithful (who just don’t come) I think that is in the spirit of the Canon.

I believe that the Extraordinary Form of the Mass can be offered alone. Now, the Church will make some exceptions to offering the Mass alone in times of persecution.

Anything good can be corrupted into sin.

Community is a good thing. However, if it is just people hanging out together, doing many of the same things, it’s not the same thing as the community we are called to be.

But to redefine “community” by the example of those who miss the point, and then pit it against the personal relationship we each have with God, well that does great disservice to God, the Christian Community, and oneself.

Kind of like divorcing your spouse because you each love God more than one another. Doesn’t make sense.

There should always be a sense of unity and community, but God comes first.

We should remember,
without God there is no community,
without community there is still God.

Community is very important but it isn’t the center, the center is God.

There is a movement right now that tries to elevate the image of God in man, to a kind of Real Presence of God in man, like the Eucharist. This changes everything about how we worship, act and treat God as we now see God in everyone. Not as an image but as a presence and it elevates man above or at least equal to God. Many who are infatuated with this belief, just see the niceness of this feeling, not the real evil in this thinking. Some will even say things like we are the Body of Christ, (but mean it differently than the traditional Catholic meaning) etc…
This is pretty common and should be identified so it can fixed.

God Bless

All liturgies should and do have both a vertical and horizontal dimension. The vertical expresses love for God and horizontal love for neighbor.

There was a general decline of faith in public life of the 19th and early 20th centuries–less and less Catholics were living their faith outside of the church building. Many Catholics had also complicitly or at best apathetically gone along with a lot of societal violations of human dignity–they were not living that love of neighbor in practice.

One of the main proposals to solve this problem was to increase the horizontal element at Mass, since it is the summit of our faith and where we primarily draw our spiritual vitality. At the Council, this is something that was unanimously agreed upon (how to do it was what was disputed), even Archbishop Lefebrve, who would later found the SSPX, argued that a renewal in the liturgy was necessary to end a sclerosis in the Church that confined the faith to sacred spaces and not action in the world.

The problem is, that at around the same time, Catholics began suffering from a deficiency in their love of God in truth as secularization was on the rise, it just had not manifested itself as clearly as the horizontal deficiency.

The faithful in the Catholic Church today are more generally concerned with unconditional charity in the world than at many times in history, a testament to the positive effects of the reform. However, now the situation is reversed–the vertical aspect is lacking in the lives of Catholics while the horizontal is relatively strong.

This is one reason we see Pope Benedict encouraging the use of the extraordinary form–it’s emphasis on the vertical is something Catholics really need in our time.

Yes. We need more vertical worship.

I think community can definitely be overused.

In the first RCIA class I tried to attend the teacher was much more concerned with making sure we all participated in the “community” then with teaching us correctly about the Church. She thought the good of the community was more important than worshiping God. She often complained about people who prayed during the Eucharist instead of singing, what an outrage! And very often complained about the TLM because there wasn’t enough community there! Not enough clapping and dancing around and holding hands. I left that RCIA class, I didn’t wanna enter the Church with that kinda group.

Sorry, but worshiping God is way more important to me than community and being friends with the people who sit near me. I don’t want to hold hands or talk to anyone during Mass. I’m there for one reason and one alone…to worship God with my fellow Christians. Hand holding, and swaying back and forth, and talking are nothing but distractions from that. Which is why so many parishes are beginning to be indistinguishable from Protestant churches. I guess though I am just of a more traditional mindset. I have all these thoughts about this, yet I’m not even Catholic yet!

When it comes to community, it is needed but socializing and such is for anytime but during mass. Thats the only thing that bothers me about some people’s idea of church community. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again; If I wanted to hold hands and all that during church instead of worshiping I’d have stayed Protestant!

Okay I’m done ranting.


This antidote was related to me by a Priest.

Back when, they decided to have a magazine, so they started Life. Nice title, encompasses all of life.

Then, they decided to come out with People. No longer focused on all life but only people.

Then they came out with Us. The magazine all about us. Not those other guys, but just us.

I am waiting to see Me magazine on the newsstand. A magazine all about me, and no one else. 100 pages devoted to me.


There is definitely too much focus on the community, and I think it is driven by many as a desire to have a celebration focused on oneself.

I remember a Priest telling me, why not install big mirrors where the communion rails used to be so the people can better marvel at themselves. People are so impressed by what they can do or accomplish, they forget that they are absolutely nothing without God.

The Mass is about God. And while we gather as a community, the primary focus of the Mass is and must be worship to God.

I think this quote is fitting in the thinking that community is overemphasized.

“That Jones shall worship the “god within him” turns out ultimately to mean that Jones shall worship Jones. Let Jones worship the sun or moon – anything rather than the Inner Light; let Jones worship cats or crocodiles, if he can find any in his street, but not the god within. Christianity came into the world firstly in order to assert with violence [passion] that a man had not only to look inwards, but to look outwards, to behold with astonishment and enthusiasm a divine company and a divine captain. The only fun of being a Christian was that a man was not left alone with the Inner Light, but definitely recognized an outer light, fair as the sun, clear as the moon, terrible as an army with banners” GK Chesterton

God Bless

It is not possible for the priest to offer the Mass “alone” because the angels are always with him, the Holy Souls are always with him, the Omnipresent God is always with him, and Our Lady is always with him. To think otherwise, opens the door to the slippery slope of Luther’s heresy that Jesus is only present in the Eucharist when the congregation is present. What was he thinking?

Evidently, not much. One of the posters in another thread indicated that the “community” was were Christ was present first and foremost.

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