To start, I’ve been Catholic since I was born, so 18 years. And for those 18 years, I’ve gone to mass every Sunday. But something just isn’t right to me… As I read more into scripture and about the early church, it just seems there is a huge gap between what it was like then and now.
A lot of my friends are Protestant and go to non-denominational churches with bands, flashing lights, and pastors that are awesome at preaching the word. I leave these places and I feel so energized and ready to be a good follower of Jesus, but I feel the opposite when I leave mass. Maybe it’s just my parish, but everyone seems like they’re there because they have to be, and don’t really believe what they’re hearing at all. I just don’t feel that awesome ENERGY that I spiritually thrive on!
So I’m at a crossroads. I know the Catholic Church was original and I want to keep going, but these more modern churches just motivate me so much. Does anyone else have this problem? Do I just go to both? :shrug:
Hey, I’m 20, a convert. I was baptized and confirmed when I was 17, and my conversion began due to some intellectual arguments made by a good friend of mine that I just couldn’t logically refute. The number one thing that made me convert, in the end, was authority, specifically that of the Papacy. I simply could not accept some silly mythology made up in the last millennium by some people in the middle part of Europe about this magnificent thing, called Catholicism, any longer.
When I was a Protestant before, I had no ill will to my faith (if you can call it that), but my experience of religion in general was… antiseptic, suburban, and boring. You see, I attended a rather large megachurch-type Baptist church somewhere in the Great Lakes region, and the thing is, the very things you are talking about is what I was, honestly, kind of disgusted by. Bands, flashing lights, and “pastors that are awesome at preaching the word” make me recoil. It’s kind of like I am temperamentally allergic to that kind of stuff, because I necessarily perceive it as fake and grabby. I can become extremely uncharitable, to say the least, if I am made to put up with that.
Now, the people themselves, I had and continue to have no complaints about. But it was the content of the belief and the manner in which it was communicated–gimmicky, commercialized goofiness–that left me wanting.
My grandmother, a German immigrant, was/is Catholic, so I always had that in the back of my mind, and Catholicism to me in general was this sort of mysterious, fair city in the mists that always interested me. The idea of there being an “original Church” was extremely fascinating to me and it was a delicious thing to savor in my mind. So when this friend of mine who I mentioned earlier began talking to me, I had a way, and a prompting, to begin to research Catholicism in earnest. With hindsight, I can thank God for my friend inadvertently evangelizing me.
You might say I was already intellectually converted by the time I began my research, and the research and the RCIA process was simply a formality.
I guess the biggest thing you have to grapple with is, are these churches legitimate? I can state unequivocally that they are not. They have no authority, no legitimate history, no Sacraments, usually a very flawed interpretation of Scripture, absolutely no Tradition to speak of, and no claim to being anything except a community of self-starting, ultimately misguided, historical accidents that were never intended by Christ. You and I are clearly quite opposite in temperament, and I guess that’s fine. Anyway, you might want to do some good research on the early Church. You know, “non-denominational” communities weren’t even there.
Now, I have my own gripes about the Church. But for me it would simply be unthinkable to extend these to heresy or apostasy. I would be a traitor of God.
I don’t look for an experience, as such, when I go to church. I want things to be truly beautiful, but I don’t want or expect that it be like a movie theater or a theme park ride. I can go elsewhere for that.
Remember that you can be a good Christian only when you’re actually seeking to love and serve God.
Please be very, very careful about equating emotions with faith and spiritual food. While it’s not a bad thing to feel energy and pleasant emotions, be aware that feelings can also be easily manipulated and shouldn’t be used to evaluate something’s (or someone’s) value. Remember, love is not about how you feel–it’s what you do, sometimes in spite of how you feel.
Mass is not about how others in your parish “seem” to you. Firstly, you can’t often tell by appearances. Second, your faith shouldn’t be based on what other human beings do–it should be based on what God has done for you (Jn 3:16)! It can be hard to remember that, but really, I’ve learned that if I’m noticing that others aren’t paying enough attention, it must be because* I’m not paying enough attention.*
The hardest part about relationships is giving of oneself when it’s difficult, uncomfortable and/or unpleasant, and when it seems to go unnoticed by others. But it’s also a sign of spiritual and emotional maturity to be able to give when we don’t “feel” like it.
You said that when you leave the Protestant services, you “feel so energized and ready to be a good follower of Jesus,” so what happens then? What do you do with that feeling? And what do you do when you don’t “feel so energized and ready to be a good follower of Jesus”?
Perhaps it would help to ask: what does being a good follower of Jesus mean to you?
Is it about feeling compassion… or being compassionate? Is it about warm, fuzzy feelings for your neighbor… or actually helping your neighbor?
I’m guessing you haven’t studied the Catholic faith in much depth. I really suggest you try learning more about it–see if Catholics are welcome to sit in on RCIA classes, or if there is a Bible Study, Men’s group (if you’re male), Apologetics class, etc. Try reading some stuff by Scott Hahn, Steve Ray, and other converts. Check out videos of Matthew Kelly or other popular Catholic speakers. I think you’ll find that there are plenty of “on fire” Catholics out there–you just have to look a little deeper than the flashing lights on the surface.
I would recommend reading “A Biblical Walk Through The Mass: Understanding What We Say And Do In The Liturgy” by Edward Sri. I found it very helpful in explaining the mass and it still continues to give me much food for thought. After reading his book, just making the sign of the cross became very meaningful for me as I understood the origins and reasons. This book made me realise where each element of the mass came from i.e. the particular Bible verse and helped me to concentrate as much as I can on every word of the mass.
As a previous person said, the mass is not about feeling good, it is about receiving spiritual nourishment and we can’t do that if we have our spiritual mouths closed. Try looking into the mass prayerfully e.g. praying for guidance and slowly read a few lines or the mass, look for the source in the Bible and have a mini meditation. If you get stuck, I am sure your parish priest will be only too happy to help. Another treasure is the Catechism of the Catholic Church which is available for free online. It is laid out in bit-sized chunks, so it is easy to dip in and out of.
Have prayed that you will discover the fulness, richness and truth of your Catholic faith.
I say that you do not believe that Christ is present in the Holy Eucharist. If you truly believed that Christ is there, why would you not pay rapt attention? Christ is not bored with you - He shed His Blood for you, even if you were the only one on earth. So, something is clearly needed in your spiritual life. It is often said that you get out of mass what you put into it. So, make an investment.
Get to know Christ better. Your parish has a Tabernacle; they probably offer adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Go there and spend time with your Lord. In the silence of your heart, tell Him of your doubts and struggles. Ask Him to reveal His presence. Then, be as patient with Him as He has been with you.
And as Fr. Benedict Groeschel says, “When you are aware that He is there, you will be changed.”
I know how you feel. I remember serving as an altar boy and being troubled by the vacuous stares of the faithful as father droned on through another homily about God’s love and went through the motions.
In college I nearly left the faith because of what I viewed as a lack of energy in mass. I just could not get motivated to attend.
Thankfully, in my early 20s I discovered the Traditional Latin Mass and it really saved me. The community is awesome, the traditions are rich, and the mass is truly blessed! Some people say it is very similar to the modern mass, but my personal opinion is that it is very different, in almost every aspect from big things like the role of the priest and the quality of homilies to little things such as how people dress and act.
I would encourage you to try it out for a year and see how it goes.
In my reading of both scripture and the Early Church Fathers, I find that the Mass of today is exactly the Mass of the Early Church (see Justin’s First Apology, Ireneaus’ Adv. Her., Ignatius’ letters, and many others).
Perhaps you are putting too much emphasis on the excitement of the non-Catholic services, for they do try to entertain, often with great cacophony. They go on quite large with it, especially in the mega-churches.
Oddly enough though, I have not read anything in scripture or in the ECFs that describes Catholic worship in quite that irreverent way.
I think your understanding of the Mass, and our participation in it, could use some improvement.
I understand what you mean about just not feeling that excitement at mass. When I was younger I simply went with my family and followed along. I saw how much energy other churches had, although I also recognized there was something false about them - at the time I just couldn’t put my finger on it. St. John of the Cross (and maybe official Catholic doctrine) referred to the need for that feeling of excitement or energy as spiritual gluttony.
After falling away from my faith, I eventually made my way back home to the Church and have built a much better relationship with God. It is so much more rewarding than I could have imagined. It can seem like we are just being dull and lack the Holy Spirit, but it’s simply not true.
Before I say anything else, I would like to tell fellow Catholics to please engage your brain before you type.
“Pastors that are awesome at preaching the Word…make me recoil.” :eek:
“Protestants need fantastic homilists…because they lack…” :eek:
I would beg you all to remember that throughout the centuries, the Catholic Church has been blessed with some fantastic preachers/homilists that have literally changed their world through their preaching!
My favorite example is St. Anthony of Padua. I have read that thousands of people stood for HOURS to hear him preach, and his homilies always lasted much more than 20 minutes, but people STILL flocked to hear him instead of walking away and saying, “The average human attention span is only 20 minutes, so if he can’t say it in 20 minutes, it’s not worth hearing.”
Another great example is Bishop Fulton Sheen. People actually buy and listen to CDs and DVDs of his talks, even after all these years! I can remember MY Protestant parents listening to him!
People, there is a HUGE difference between “flashing lights” and a good homilist! Flashing lights are indeed optional. But a good homilist is a truly a blessing to any parish!
It’s wrong of us to criticize our young OP because they desire to hear good homilies. That is a noble desire. My answer to the OP is that if your parish priest is not a good homilist, then check out CDs or podcasts, or listen to Relevant radio (online) and find good homilists to listen to.
Same thing about music, OP. If your Mass music is not inspiring to you, then go find some Catholic recording artists who DO inspire you, and after Mass, crank up your iPod and get inspired by them! I’m not just talking about contemporary Catholic Christian music (which DOES exist, and some of it is pretty good), but whatever musical style(s) inspire you. There are Catholic musicians who do pretty much any style of music you wish to hear. Listen to them.
But be careful and charitable. Always remember that the musicians in your parish are doing the best they can within the parameters given to them by the Church. If you play or sing, then perhaps you might want to consider volunteering in your parish, or joining your choir and trying to get a little energy into the music. There’s nothing like a young person to wake up older folks and help them to sit up straighter and sing stronger!
You’re very young, and to be fair, I’ve heard this same argument from many Catholics, current and fallen away members. It’s very easy for many to forget why we attend Mass, what it means for our faith and ultimately our souls.
Feeling energized spiritually is great, being true to the teaching of the Gospels and inspiring others by how you live your life and faith are great as well. That aspect is important and can’t be discounted.
You’ll have to ask yourself other questions though. These questions will not pertain to the charismatic pastor, the flashy lights, the hip music and modernistic worship that’s being fed to your emotions.
If you haven’t been following recent events, you may want to research it. At first, I was a little surprised, but when I really thought about it, I probably shouldn’t have been. The demise of these mega churches, and feel good non-denominational churches will be eye opening. You being so young, you’ll probably see their decline more vividly in your lifetime than us old salts. Here’s a summary of it: nytimes.com/2012/12/16/opinion/sunday/the-decline-of-evangelical-america.html
Always ask yourself whatever Mass or service you attend whether Jesus is being given the reverence and respect he deserves. It could be the type of service at your Parish. Ever been to a Traditional Mass? Regardless, ask yourself when you’re praying whether you’re really thanking Jesus for his sacrifice, or whether you’re just trying to be self fulfilled. Is the fulfilment more important than the sacrifice? The recurring theme you’ll hear in homily after homily, parable after parable is not only to be closer to God, but also to remove the self and the pride in everything you do. This would apply just as well when praising and giving thanks to God. Remember when Jesus cured the 10 lepers in Luke and only 1 thanked him? Be one of the ones that thanks him. When you attend Mass and remove thy self, that’s what you’re doing.
Sacrifice is a foundational element in our Mass. Think about sacrifice and spiritually you’ll be truly fulfilled.
Please post back in 20-30 years, but don’t be shocked if those in the non-denominational feel good churches are attending Mass. Keep the Faith, Propicietur Deus noster ecclesiae
Hi, I do agree with the above posters. We do have the Real Presence in the Eucharist and what could be more exciting than that? We are the original Church, founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ. We have the fullness of Truth.
We do not go to be Mass to be entertained but rather to worship God in Truth and Spirit and offer ourselves to God. The Mass is the Sacrifice of Calvary in which Jesus offers himself to redeem us.
We cannot judge others fervor by how much emotion they show or noise they make. I prefer a quiet Mass. I too, have a different temperament. There is nothing wrong with your having a different temperament than other people who prefer quiet.
May I suggest you try attending a Catholic Charismatic prayer group/Mass/healing service? You might find what you are looking for without having to leave the True Church.
Maybe going to another parish could help. Maybe the local University has a Mass with more vibrant music.
Thanks for posting. I appreciate your honesty. God bless you. We will be praying for you.
It’s not about feelings, NextElement!! Jesus hasn’t promised us that we would feel him if we wanted to follow him. He has promised to be with us and so he is in The Holy Eucharist. The protestants don’t know exactly what the catholic church is. I’m sure they want to be kind to you, but they aren’t of much help since they don’t know what they are talking about when (if) they talk about our church.
The next question is what is the mass really about?
If you take a quick look at this book at Amazon or another online bookstore, you will probably start to understand that missing mass (or leaving it for another society) isn’t wise:
“A Biblical Walk Through the Mass: Understanding What We Say and Do In The Liturgy”
by Edward Sri
There are catholic churches who are so “modern” that it might be hard to recognize it as catholic. If you belong to one of these, please find yourself another catholic church and please remember feelings can mislead you, right knowledge cannot!
May be you should try to join a catholic group for young adults who is standing on their feet when it comes to knowledge of the Faith and the Church. There are many who haven’t had properly catechesis these days, so please look out so you don’t fall into the hands of the “lacking in knowledge group”.
While searching for a catholic group in real life, here is a place to start at your own: salvationhistory.com/
The ancient, the timeless, is made present at mass. We are in the upper room; in the garden of Gethsemane, at the foot of the cross and at the empty tomb during mass. At the “Holy, Holy, Holy”, you cannot see it, but the entire host of heaven, including the angels who ministered to Jesus in the desert and at Gethsemane are present. Each parishioner’s guardian angel hovers over them at the consecration. Essentially, time stops. The bells are rung to signify the miracle that is occurring by the power of the Holy Spirit, Who is also present and very active in the mass. It is the power of God made manifest.
Get a book about the mass - there are several good ones.
More importantly, go to our Lord in the Tabernacle and humble yourself before the Divine Priest, Prophet and King - your Judge at the end of time. I never forget that He is our Judge. You will never look at mass the same again, nor will you ever want to go anywhere else.
I know you are not suggesting that they had bands and flashing lights in the early Church. But that is what it seems like when you suggest there is a huge gap between then and now and then go on to say how much you enjoy bands and flashing lights.
I would suggest you read Luke 24:13-35 about the Road to Emmaus and then take the time to read this reflection by Msgr. Charles Pope…
Mass on the Move:The Hidden Mass on the Road to Emmaus
Today’s Gospel of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) does more than present a resurrection appearance. It also presents the Mass in seminal form as I will show. In doing this Luke and the Holy Spirit teach us that the Mass is the essential and most vivid way that we encounter Christ now. The two disciples also learn this lesson for as soon as they recognize Christ “in the breaking of the bread” he vanishes from their earthly eyes. In effect Christ teaches them they will no longer see him in an earthly way but now they will see him with the eyes of faith in the Eucharist, the liturgy and, by extension, in all the sacraments.
So for us to who to encounter the risen Lord Jesus, this Gospel teaches us that the Mass is the most perfect way and place we will encounter him. Let’s examine this resurrection appearance and see it for what it is, a Mass.
**Gathering Rite** – The Curtain rises on this Mass with two disciples having gathered together on a journey: Now that very day two of them were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus (Lk 24:13). This is what we do as the preliminary act of every Mass. We who are pilgrims on a journey come together on our journey. It so happens for these two disciples that Jesus joins them: And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them (Luke 24:15). The text goes on to inform us that they did not recognize Jesus yet. Now for us who gather at Mass it is essential to acknowledge by faith that when we gather together, the Lord Jesus is with us, for Scripture says, For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them (Matt 18:20). it is a true fact that for many of us too, Jesus is unrecognized! Yet he is no less among us than he was present to these two disciples who fail to recognize him. Liturgically we acknowledge the presence of the Lord at the beginning of the Mass in two ways. First, as the priest processes down the aisle the congregation sings a hymn of praise. It is not “Fr. Jones” they praise it is Jesus whom “Fr. Jones” represents that they praise. Once at the Chair the celebrant (who is really Christ) says, “The Lord be with you.” And thereby he announces the presence of Christ among us promised by the Scriptures. The Mass has begun, our two disciples are gathered and the Lord is with them. So too for us at every Mass.
**Penitential Rite **– The two disciples seem troubled and the Lord inquires of them the source of their distress: What are you discussing as you walk along? (Lk 24:17) In effect the Lord invites them to speak with him about what is troubling them. It may also be a gentle rebuke from the Lord that the two of them are walking away from Jerusalem, away from the site of the resurrection. Clearly their sorrow and distress are governing their behavior. Even though they have already heard evidence of his resurrection (cf 24:22-24), they seem hopeless and have turned away from this good news. The text describes them as “downcast” (24:17). Thus the Lord engages them is a kind of gentle penitential rite and wants to engage them on their negativity. So too for us at Mass. The penitential rite is a moment when the celebrant (who is really Christ) invites us to lay down our burdens and sins before the Lord who alone can heal us. We too often enter the presence of God looking downcast and carrying many burdens and sins. We too like these two disciples may be walking in wrongful directions. And so the Lord says to us, in effect, “What are thinking about and doing as you walk along. Where are you going with your life. And thus again we see in this story about two disciples on the road to Emmaus, the Mass that is so familiar to us.
**The Liturgy of the Word** – In response to their concerns and struggles the Lord breaks open the Word of God, the Scriptures. The text says: Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures (Luke 24:27). Notice that, not only does the Lord refer to Scripture but he interprets it for them. Hence the Word is not only read, there is also a homily, an explanation and application of the Scripture to the struggles these men have. The homily was a good one too for later, the disciples remark: Were not our hearts burning (within us) while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us? (Luke 24:32) And so too for us at Mass. Whatever struggles we may have brought to the Mass, the Lord bids us to listen to his Word as the Scriptures are proclaimed. Then the homilist (who is really Christ) interprets and applies the Word to our life. It is a true fact that the Lord works through a weak human agent (the priest or deacon) but God can write straight with crooked lines and as long as the homilist is orthodox, it is Christ who speaks. Pray for your homilist to be an obedient and useful instrument for Christ at the homily moment. After the homily we usually make prayers and requests of Christ. And so it is that we also see these two disciples request of Christ: Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over. (Luke 24:29) Is this not what we also say in so many words: Stay with us Lord, for it is sometimes dark in our lives and the shadows are growing long. Stay with us Lord and those we love so that we will not be alone in the dark. In our darkest hours, be to us a light O Lord that never fades away. Yes, this whole brief journey of Jesus and the disciples is surely familiar to us who attend the Catholic Mass!
The Liturgy of the Eucharist – Christ does stay with them and then come the lines that no Catholic could miss: And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them (Luke 24:30). Yes, the Mass to be sure. Later, the two disciples will refer back to this moment as the breaking of the bread(Luke 24:35), a clear Biblical reference to the Holy Eucharist. The words of Mass come immediately to mind: “While they were at supper He took the bread, and gave you thanks and praise. He broke the bread, gave it to his disciples and said, take this all of you and eat it: this is my Body which will be given up for you.” A fascinating thing happens though: With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight (Luke 24:31). First note that it is the very act of consecration that opens their eyes. Is this not what Holy Communion is to do for us? Are we not to learn to recognize Christ by the very mysteries we celebrate? The liturgy and the sacraments are not mere rituals, they are encounters with Jesus Christ, and though our repeated celebration of the holy mysteries our eyes are increasingly opened if we are faithful. We learn to see and hear Christ in the liturgy, to experience his ministry to us. The fact that he vanishes from their sight teaches us that he is no longer seen by the eyes of the flesh, but by the eyes of faith and the eyes of the heart. So though he is gone from our earthly, fleshly, carnal sight, he is now to be seen in the Sacrament of the Altar, and experienced in the liturgy and other sacraments. The Mass has reached it’s pinnacle, for these two disciples and for us.
Dismissal Rite- Not able to contain their joy or hide their experience the two disciples run seven miles back to Jerusalem to tell their brethren what had happened and how they encountered Jesus in the breaking of the bread. They want to, have to, speak of the Christ they have encountered, what he said and what he did. How about us? At the end of every Mass the priest or deacon says “The Mass is ended, go in peace.” This does NOT mean, “OK, we’re done here, go on home and haver nice day.” What it DOES mean is: “Go now into the world and bring the Christ you have received to others. Tell them what you have heard and seen here, what you have experienced. Share the joy and hope that this Liturgy gives with others.” Perhaps you can see the word MISSion in the word disMISSal? You are being commissioned, sent on a mission to announce Christ to others. The Lucan text we are reviewing says of these two disciples: So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them……Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread (Lk 24:33,35). How about us. Does our Mass finish as well, as enthusiastically?
So there it is, the Mass on the Move. For a Catholic this resurrection account is unmistakably a Mass. True it is in seminal form, but all the elements are there. The teaching is clear, the risen Lord Jesus is now to be found in the Liturgy and the Sacraments. It is for us only to have our eyes opened and to recognize him there.