Mass for Sacrament, Elsewhere for Fellowship


#1

I remember reading an article where a Catholic mentioned she goes to Mass for the sacraments, and a local Non-Catholic, Christian church for fellowship. I remember scoffing at the time but more and more it makes great sense to me.

There is no fellowship at my (rather large) parish despite tries by many over the years. As I said in another post, attending Mass is akin to getting one’s Sunday obligation ticket validated. In and out as fast as possible. Otherwise the parish is empty and quiet. No coffee & donuts. No Bible study. No BBQs or pot lucks, no speakers, no nothing.

I think from now on I’ll simply go to Mass like I normally do and rather than lament not having coffee and donuts afterwards (the current pastor nixed the idea) I’ll simply leave as quickly as I can like the others and then go to the weekly prayer service/potluck at the fellowship down the street from my house on Sunday nights. It’s a nice group of people – I already know a great many. While their service is Christian Lite (yet NOT anti-Catholic) the singing and the fellowship is outstanding. My wife and I both enjoy it so I think we’ll become regulars.

I almost wish I could start a Sunday evening Catholic apostolate locally. Meet for the singing of hymns and prayer, followed by a social hour with either a potluck or a simple BBQ. That wouldn’t work though because I don’t know any local Catholics pastors that would support such a plan. Push hard enough and they might accept it with the stipulation that some layperson on their staff be in charge of it. That along would ensure it would die in a month…


#2

You can start something like this. However, it might be hard to get it started and will take a lot more work - in the beginning.

Here's just brainstorming a few ideas:
1. Start small perhaps, asking if you can use a multi-purpose room (if your parish or another parish has one) to start a little prayer group and if you can put up a sign or message in the church bulletin.
2. Someone in our parish has a family rosary day at her house, where anyone in the parish can come over on a specific day of the month - e.g. 2nd Saturday or something like that. During "ministry" day, where they try to attract people to do various things within the parish, she sets up a little sign-up for it.
3. Before you talk to your pastor, consider putting together a little plan, including the purpose of your activity, the type of activities you would do - e.g. singing, scripture reading, food, drink, etc., frequency, leadership - e.g. organizer changes every 6-months/1 year. I think if you had a plan written out it would be received much better than if you just went in without one.

I hope this helps.

God bless,
Bryan


#3

[quote="Jegudiel, post:1, topic:282193"]
..attending Mass is akin to getting one's Sunday obligation ticket validated. In and out as fast as possible. ...

[/quote]

Maybe thats the problem :) Just relax and enjoy the spiritual food :) ...no need to think of donuts and snacks imo :D


#4

I don't think you need anyone's permission to start a small group in your home.


#5

One of the fastest ways to get fellowship started in a parish is to be the one to be 'fellowship'. Many Pastor nix those ideas because it becomes more work for them and whatever staff they have (not to mention the extra cost of having it every week etc.) But if they find that a lay person is willing to take on responsibility, they often don't have a problem with it at all. I know in my particular parish when someone steps up to lead something there is no problem at all with it. We have bible studies, video nights, council meetings, etc. It's not uncommon to have people standing in the hall waiting patiently for a room to open up because all of our 'meeting' rooms are booked back to back.

Make an appointment with the priest and let him know that you are willing to lead things, do things, get things moving.. then see how he responds. He might have a completely different response if he knows it's about you stepping up to the plate to serve the parish and the community and not about giving him more work/responsibility. (they often do have a great deal of things they must do that we don't even see. Running a parish is no small task. )


#6

[quote="Dave_B, post:3, topic:282193"]
Maybe thats the problem :) Just relax and enjoy the spiritual food :) ...no need to think of donuts and snacks imo :D

[/quote]

I really disagree with this. If you read the OP post, I think he is talking about the absence of fellowship - the joining together of like minded Christians. It is a problem with our Catholic Churches in some areas. Unfortunately, it also leads to what the OP is talking about, joining together with other church groups. That has happened with two people in our family, leading one to leave the church and join a protestant church that was basically anticatholic. Another joins in some practices I feel are a bit marginal. It is not about the donuts, it is about the "hole" in their lives left unfulfilled by some Catholic "communities.


#7

[quote="Ohana, post:6, topic:282193"]
I really disagree with this. If you read the OP post, I think he is talking about the absence of fellowship - the joining together of like minded Christians. It is a problem with our Catholic Churches in some areas. Unfortunately, it also leads to what the OP is talking about, joining together with other church groups. That has happened with two people in our family, leading one to leave the church and join a protestant church that was basically anticatholic. Another joins in some practices I feel are a bit marginal. It is not about the donuts, it is about the "hole" in their lives left unfulfilled by some Catholic "communities.

[/quote]

While Dave may have been a little flip, he is right on the money. We have tried to compartmentalize our "Catholicness" and we want it all done on Sundays.

Mass isn't for "gettting;" it's for giving. And not just giving one hour of our time.

Now, there's nothing wrong with wanting to "get" something too - spiritual recharge, fellowship, whatever you want to call it. But Mass is not the time. Ideally a parish would offer lots of other activities to help parishioners "get" something. Maybe it's small group comunities, parish dinners, Bible studies, youth group, etc. And if your parish doesn't have these, you can certainly ask to start one. What is unfair is to say you want something and then hope that **someone else **provides it for you.


#8

Is there not a CATHOLIC parish in your area that does have coffee and donuts, fellowship, study groups, events, etc? Most parishes DO. Yours sounds particularly dead for reasons that probably are old and complex. Before you go to a protestant service, which may actually be a sin, check out other Catholic parishes that have a more active congregation.


#9

I recently began changing to another parish from one that had a lack of fellowship opportunities. It was a small parish. I found a charismatic prayer group through the website of the local center for charismatic renewal that met at a nearby parish. While speaking with the people in the group, I found they also have a divine mercy cenacle, which I began attending. The prayer group meets weekly and has a potluck dinner once a month after their meeting. I attempted to for a divine mercy cenacle in my old parish, but met with no success. So I decided to attend mass at and support the parish that supported me. My new parish also has breakfast following mass sponsored by the different ministries in the parish. I also am involved in a lay order of a nearby religious community. They meet once a month before mass for breakfast and and group discussion of a question or topic posed by the priests of the community. This is followed by instruction, and then mass. Following mass, refreshments are served and their is time for fellowship. As a fairly recent convert to the faith, I find meeting and getting support from my fellow Catholics to be important. I tried to initiate change in my old parish and only when meeting with no success did I move to another.


#10

Forming new groups can take a long time. Often we are not very patient when starting a group. If 35 people don't come out to the second meeting, we get discouraged and quit.

I recommend you start again. Invite a few people that you know to a Bible study at your house - or even a coffe house near the church. Gather a friend or two and start saying the rosary before Mass.

If a neighboring parish has a group - Legion of Mary, Divine Mercy, etc. ask them how they got it started and if they'll help you get a chapter started at your parish. International organizations like that usually have materials to get new chapters started. And pastors are more comfortable with groups like that because they have a specific plan and charter.

Contact your diocese also to see what they recommend for building fellowship. There may be diocesean events where you'll meet others from your parish who will work with you to build the community.


#11

Our parish is too small to start groups, we've tried, several times in the past 2 years, and many others tried before that. Average at 5pm mass on Saturdays in the summer is about 16-25 people including priest and servers etc. Average is about 50-65 people at both Sat. and Sunday masses year round. If it weren't for snowbirds in the winter, it would be much lower. Largest attended services are, of course, Christmas and Easter.

I'll tell you one of the reasons the protestant churches do so well. About 5 years ago I had a neighbor who needed a ride to her church on Sundays. So I volunteered to take her and of course I stayed for their service. The first time I took her, the pastor knew my name BEFORE church ever started. I had a note in the mail from that pastor with his home phone number, his cell number and his church number offering to be there for me and my family at any time day or night if we needed him on Tuesday. Within a week, someone stopped by my home with a fresh loaf of wonderful home baked bread and a Welcome to our Church notebook for me. No pressure really and truly, just outreaching of friendship. That preacher has retired, and I still get a Christmas card from him and his wife every year, lovely people, and very good Christian people and very kind.
They have extensive youth programs, several weekly bible studies, women's groups, men's groups, and their church is packed to the gills for 2 services on Sundays and one Sunday evening adn one Wed. evening. Prayers groups, prayer chains, bible studies and so forth. LOTS and LOTS of support and caring oozing out of that church. They even have a small bus that picks up elderly twice a month to take them 40 miles to the nearest grocery, they charge a buck or two if you can afford it. That same bus picks up folks for church too. The pastor there has a policy, miss one Sunday and you know, things happen. Miss 2 Sundays and he's calling you... not to reprimand you for missing church, but to find out if you are OK or if you need anything... I haven't been to Mass since Feb. (cursillo from heck, bad experience, rethinking church) and not one person has called me, no one. Evidently I'm not particularly missed and no one gives a darn if I'm ok or not.

When I moved here and started attending mass, NOT ONE PERSON even said HELLO when I started attending, not one person. I don't think the priest learned my name for months and months, and he had less than 20% of the church members this other church had. There is no bible study, no women's group, no men's group. Nothing except choir, and I believe there are 3 or 4 people in the choir at this point, many times when I was with the choir it would be us musicians and one or two others who bothered to come for practice once a month. We tried to get an altar society going, TWO people showed up for the first meeting, myself and one other person. Once a month we have donuts after church, and that's the ONLY time I ever see people at church socializing. No prayer group or chain, nothing. People die and you don't find out for days that they were even sick, more or less dying.

That prot. church has about 20 of our catholic folks there. I can see why they prefer that church, it's alive and there is a ton of stuff to do to get involved, there is so much support there. And I realize that larger Catholic churches have more going on, I was heavily involved in a large church back east before I moved out here. But here where I live now, our church is really very small and not particularly worried about getting folks to be involved.


#12

Why do you care about "fellowship"? Is the fellowship of Our Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist not enough? Instead of rushing off for a cup of tea why not spend that extra time in thanksgiving to Our Lord for His gift of Himself to us?


#13

[quote="Laudate_Dominum, post:12, topic:282193"]
Why do you care about "fellowship"? Is the fellowship of Our Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist not enough? Instead of rushing off for a cup of tea why not spend that extra time in thanksgiving to Our Lord for His gift of Himself to us?

[/quote]

Because if this were enough, we'd have no need for a Church at all. Jesus didn't just call one guy to learn from him and partake in the Last Supper...he called twelve.

While I think that spending time in prayer and reverence is a beautiful and necessary thing, I also think the lack of human fellowship at many parishes is what drives away a lot of our brethren who don't yet have a deep understanding of the faith. Here on CAF I've seen a lot of posters with quasi-Gnostic tendencies proclaiming the ills of this world and wishing they could just move on already. But we can't...we have to live in this world that God created for us, and as social creatures that's a lot easier to do with fellowship. This is a Church, not a "it's just me and Jesus" society.

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law both left the Church because they didn't have a deep understanding of the Catholic faith and they felt more socially and spiritually accepted elsewhere. That is, of course, a terrible reason to leave, but not necessarily an invalid one. Until we get better about properly welcoming, catechizing and educating adult Catholics, we are going to continue to see a "fellowship hemorrhage" to Protestant communities that make them feel like they're in a welcoming spiritual environment. And not everyone practices their faith in the same way. Some are content to kneel for hours in adoration...others need that interaction a good Bible study or a group Rosary provides. We should try to encourage all kinds of faith formation, and if coffee and donuts is a doorway to that, then by all means.


#14

[quote="cjmclark, post:13, topic:282193"]
Because if this were enough, we'd have no need for a Church at all. Jesus didn't just call one guy to learn from him and partake in the Last Supper...he called twelve.

[/quote]

Not for tea and cakes in the assembly hall though. The communal aspect of our faith is not about this. It's about the liturgy. The liturgy is our public prayer, our public worship. Mass is our fellowship with one another.

Fair enough I can understand wanting to associate with other Catholics. But to let it drive you to participate in false worship? The parish isn't in the wrong in that case.


#15

[quote="Laudate_Dominum, post:14, topic:282193"]
Not for tea and cakes in the assembly hall though. The communal aspect of our faith is not about this. It's about the liturgy. The liturgy is our public prayer, our public worship. Mass is our fellowship with one another.

[/quote]

Fair enough, likewise. However, the issue here is that for all too many Catholics, that "fellowship" ends with the last blessing. Heck, for some of them, it ends with Communion. It certainly doesn't extend as far as the parking lot.

And that's the problem. We're called to live our faith, not just practice it. And we have too many brethren who see too many of us simply practicing and not living, and deciding that some other faith community's worship is more genuine as a result. Again, not a good reason for leaving, but certainly one that it seems valid to most emotionally-driven people with a poor understanding of exactly what Christ's Church is.

[quote="Laudate_Dominum, post:14, topic:282193"]
Fair enough I can understand wanting to associate with other Catholics. But to let it drive you to participate in false worship? The parish isn't in the wrong in that case.

[/quote]

I'm not suggesting that the parish is wrong per se; those folks, after all, made their own choices. However, the parish could retain more people if it expended more effort on fellowship outside Mass. That's the first step. The second step is taking all those people you've welcomed in and properly educating them in the faith. That's what will give us strong Catholics and build stronger parishes.


#16

[quote="Laudate_Dominum, post:12, topic:282193"]
Why do you care about "fellowship"? Is the fellowship of Our Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist not enough? Instead of rushing off for a cup of tea why not spend that extra time in thanksgiving to Our Lord for His gift of Himself to us?

[/quote]

Because:
A) humans are social animals
B) the laity are not monks/nuns living in a cloister; and
C) there's nothing wrong/sinful about coffee or tea. Although I only drink hot chocolate :p

We're social people, and some people are even extroverts. Talking to other people and hanging out is normal human behaviour. It makes going to Mass better if you know people there (I've been on both sides on that, and I can say that knowing people is much better then not knowing anyone).

If we look at the history of the Church, we find the same thing. The early Church was a close-knit community (as we've been reading in Acts the last few weeks). It's also why religious communities (orders and congregations) have community as their highest importance.

[quote="cjmclark, post:15, topic:282193"]
Fair enough, likewise. However, the issue here is that for all too many Catholics, that "fellowship" ends with the last blessing. Heck, for some of them, it ends with Communion. It certainly doesn't extend as far as the parking lot.

And that's the problem. We're called to *live* our faith, not just practice it. And we have too many brethren who see too many of us simply practicing and not living, and deciding that some other faith community's worship is more genuine as a result. Again, not a good reason for leaving, but certainly one that it seems valid to most emotionally-driven people with a poor understanding of exactly what Christ's Church is.

[/quote]

Absolutely. One of the new options for the dismissal is even "Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life." You can't love God if you don't love His children (hint: that's everyone).

[quote="cjmclark, post:15, topic:282193"]
I'm not suggesting that the parish is wrong per se; those folks, after all, made their own choices. However, the parish could retain more people if it expended more effort on fellowship outside Mass. That's the first step. The second step is taking all those people you've welcomed in and properly educating them in the faith. That's what will give us strong Catholics and build stronger parishes.

[/quote]

And that's what new evangelization groups are largely doing. CCO (a group on campus' in Canada) focuses first on building relationships and then leading you into the faith (relationship with Jesus).


#17

I should add this. 12 years ago I started a Monday night Bible study. I asked the pastor at the time and he was highly supportive -- I was flabbergasted. I really was. We had a set time, a set place, he offered to pay for our books (we declined), offered to pay for our refreshments (again declined.) It was wonderful for the first two years.

Then the pastor left and we were pastorless for about two years. Routinely our room assignment would be changed at the last moment. That's a big deal because then people couldn't find us on campus. More often than not the room we had been assigned would remain vacant. That bothered people a lot. When there was someone actually it in, it would often be two people displacing our group of 12-20.

While the group remained strong, itt went down hill from there at my parish. We finally pulled the plug at the end of year 5 -- we were ready for a break anyways.


#18

[quote="Laudate_Dominum, post:12, topic:282193"]
Why do you care about "fellowship"? Is the fellowship of Our Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist not enough? Instead of rushing off for a cup of tea why not spend that extra time in thanksgiving to Our Lord for His gift of Himself to us?

[/quote]

You're trying to infer that my desire for Christian fellowship is a product of "the fellowship of Our Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist not (being) enough." That construct is terribly ignorant and repugnant. Sadly it's often used as an excuse when a parish fails in the fellowship area. After all, "who needs it, right?"


#19

[quote="Dave_B, post:3, topic:282193"]
Maybe thats the problem. Just relax and enjoy the spiritual food. ...no need to think of donuts and snacks imo.

[/quote]

You clearly don't get it. Fellowship is important. I flat-out reject any attempts to suggest fellowship must come at the expense of the liturgy/Blessed Sacrament or that the liturgy/Blessed Sacrament negates the need for Christian fellowship.

I suspect quite a few Catholic parishes are like mine. Daily Mass during working hours. Full schedule of quick Sunday Masses. RCIA for 60-90 minutes (sometimes) on Tuesday nights, choir for an hour (sometimes) on Wednesday nights and a KofC meeting (with 3 people attending) once a month on Thursday evenings. May God continue to blessed those parishes with more.

The Sunday night Christian prayer meeting/fellowship meal is sounding better and better.


#20

More often than not, when I go to a Protestant church, someone is there to introduce themselves to newcomers, the pastor makes an effort to greet me personally before or after the service, everybody is invited to stay for coffee and snacks, they pass around an e-mail signup list, and by the time I leave I've met 10 or 15 new people and they've invited me to participate in church meetings, the opening of a bookstore, a welcome party for a family of refugees, etc. If I call the church to set up an appointment with the pastor, usually they say I can just drop in that day. More often than not, when I go to a Catholic church I haven't been to before, nobody speaks to me, the priest gives no indication that he sees me or knows who I am, and afterwords everybody leaves without a word. If I call the parish to schedule a meeting with the priest, they're friendly enough, but they usually schedule it for two or three weeks in the future.

I move relatively frequently and you can imagine when I arrive in my new neighborhood whether I make a point to visit the Catholic churches or the Protestant churches first. I know many Catholic parishes have vibrant social communities once you make an effort to get involved, but there always is an undercurrent (particularly strong on this forum) of disdain for people who seek fellowship, almost as if one who lives a truly Christian life need never so much as acknowledge his neighbors' existence. Just witness how upset people get over something as innocuous as the sign of the peace. The mass is necessary, but any healthy church should strive to be much more than a place where a bunch of isolated people go once a week to hear the mass.

Not infrequently we get questions on here from people who have been attending a particular parish for months or even years, and they want to know how they can prove they're Catholics in good standing to be godparents or something similar because they don't know many people at church and the pastor has no idea who they are. Even if you're an introvert who never wants to talk to anyone else, the idea that the church could be so oblivious of your presence is insane, and it would be absolutely unthinkable at any Protestant church I've ever been to.


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