Non practicing Catholic but want all the sacraments

I am asking this question as someone who has been in the church, fallen away and back again.
When I am at work, most Catholics aren’t church going or religious but they all want baptism, first communion, etc. for their children or grandchildren. Weddings also have to be in the Catholic church but then they complain about the rules, having to “join” and use envelopes (one girl mails hers in)

Why do you think this is…just habit from youth, a ritual you just do at a certain age? I ask because they put down priests all the time, but then they want them for funerals, etc.

Just don’t understand why they don’t see the irony in it…or maybe I am just missing something.

They are individualists. They only want what is a benefit to them. They do not live a God first life style. They live “it’s all about me”!

I have wondered the same thing. I have known many people who never attend Mass, and openly mock/disobey the teachings of the Church, and yet they present their children for Baptism and First Communion.

I think many of them do it as to not upset a grandparent. I think they also may, on some level, feel it’s important even if they don’t know why. I think some feel that their kids need a religion “for the record.”

I struggle not to be upset with these people. I have often felt that they are really hypocritical, and I have felt that they demean the Sacraments. I try now to see that maybe they are not doing that on purpose, and that I should just encourage them to return to the Church, to see their desire for the Sacraments for their kids as a “foot in the door.”

I often wonder if superstition isn’t at least partly responsible. Some of the other indications of this are the extra people who show up to get their throats blessed on Feb2, those who show up for ashes on Ash Wednesday. Those aren’t even days of required attendance, but Churches are packed.

Well, they’re not real Catholics. They’re cultural Catholics. It’s like parking your Honda at a Mercedes Benz dealership and slapping a Mercedes hood ornament on it and calling it a Mercedes Benz. It’s really still a Honda.

I was born a Catholic but I don’t consider myself a revert because I was never really involved in the faith to begin with. I consider my ‘return’ to the Faith as my conversion, because that is when I really started understanding the Sacraments and the Catholic faith.

Before I came back into the Church, I was a lot like the people you are describing. I got married in the Church, even though I had no allegiance to the Pope, practiced birth control, vaguely supported homosexuality and married clergy, and was wishy- washy in regards to abortion. I think my reasoning was partly nostalgia, partly aesthetics, and partly God desperately trying to get me to turn to Him in as subtle a way as He could.

Nostalgia because this was the faith of my childhood after all, and although I did not agree with the Church on certain things back then, I had zero desire to go over to a non-denominational or Protestant religion.

There was the aesthetic reason, which sounds very shallow but was so true in my case- for I liked the beauty, pomp and ceremony of Catholic Sacraments.

And when I prayed to the saints (I started praying to them in college because guess what? They helped me and answered my prayers, thus I began turning to them more and more) they encouraged me constantly to go to the Church for help. For instance, when my second child was born he had colic and I was desperate for him to sleep at night (because he cried constantly from midnight to six in the morning). I prayed to St. Jude and he told me sometime during the novena, “Get that baby baptised immediatly.” Well, I had no idea why getting him baptised was so important since I did not understand the significance of the sacraments, but I did so because I thought it would help him sleep. Once he was baptised I had to turn to St. Jude again who, this time, helped me find some methods of soothing him so he would sleep a little bit more for me.

Some people are never going to get beyond the surface part of the faith. God might call to them and call to them, but they stay deaf to his pleas. And others like myself might get a call they simply can’t ignore and come back fully to the Faith as they were meant to. Since you do not know the chaff from the wheat, it is important to stay patient with these people and constantly pray for them. Jesus always goes back for the one lost sheep. :slight_smile:

I agree that what you are dealing with are mainly “Cultural Catholics” with a few “Cafeteria Catholics” tossed in.
The only real dstinction between the two is how they come to their conclusions.
The Cafeteria Catholic takes or drops beliefs and practices based on their onw ideas where a Cultural catholic picks these things up mainly through their family relations etc…

You are right in that it is extremely ironic. And sad.
I think that these kinds of catholics are the ones who often times give protestants the impression of a “works based” salvation.


In the old days of the persecution, there were Catholics who abandoned the faith to avoid persecution. After the persecution ended they wanted to rejoin the church. There was great debate at the time as to whether they should be readmitted to the church because of their grave and serious apostasy.

They had very long penances which they had to endure, for sometimes several years or more, before they would be readmitted to the sacraments.

Today however Catholics abandon their faith as a matter of routine, without any kind of persecution. They do so with virtually no compunction whatsoever. Then for societal reasons they lob up to church for confirmation, weddings etc. and they receive the sacrament of Eucharist with not a care in the world. The priest opens his welcoming arms and the faithful mass attenders who are their for mass every sunday get shoved to the back of the church while all these camera snapping relatives take over all the front pews.

The whole focus of the service becomes not the worship of God in the Eucharist but the celebration of the young people. The priest gives a little talk about the importance of mass attendance each week, the importance of bring children up in the faith. But really, why does he even bother. He, and we all, know that these cafeteria catholics will not even think twice about the Catholic religion until the next confirmation, baptism or funeral comes around.

I for one have had enough. I feel physically nauseus at these events to see the sacraments doled out with such cavalier disregard. I really think we need to go back to the old days with the mass of the catechumens and the mass of the faithful. All who were not numbered amongst the faithful had to leave after the homily to protect the sacred mysteries and the holiness of the blessed sacrament.

The point of all this is of course that the mass was never supposed to be for the unfaithful.
To neglect the faith to the extent whereby you don’t even go to mass for months or even years is sheer apostasy. There is no other word for it. A penance of expulsion from the sacrament for at least as long as the period of apostasy should be enforced, so that men may learn the fear of the Lord.

The priests also need to explain that to partake of the sacrament of the Eucharist whilst in a state of mortal sin actually wreaks condemnation upon the soul. Not many understand this because we are not told by our religious leaders. Many are sick and have even died because they took of the Eucharist whilst in a state of mortal sin. The scripture says so.

People might be able to fool the priest (that’s not hard) but they can’t fool God. But I would say that the majority of these cafeteria Catholics are almost completely missing any kind of concept of God in their lives. They are only interested in this world, with their families, hobbies, work and holidays. They care nothing for their Catholic faith.

Personally I don’t care if the churches are empty. I just want the few people that are there to be serious about their religion and approach the holy sacrament with due reverence. Truly it was chaos on Sunday. Overdone little girls swanning down the aisle like little brides with tiaras, makeup and hairdos. Cameras flashing, people talking.

Nobody noticed the little red lamp glowing near the sanctuary.

The other sacraments of marriage and confirmation are also only supposed to be available for faithful catholics, not for just anyone who walks off the street. I truly grieve to see these indifferences shown to holy things. Many will say, “What’s his problem”, “Why does he go on like this”. But again, that just proves their indifference, their lack of zeal and passion for the holy faith.

You’re right that what you have observed is not as it should be. “Going through the motions” is a danger we all need to be on guard against. We are all in need of deeper conversion of heart.

This, I think, is the best approach to take. Rather than writing such people off as hypocrites who are not “real” Catholics, I think it is most productive to look for that divine spark that can be fanned into flame.

Even if it’s just a cultural thing to them that they give little actual thought to, there is something inside of them that recognizes: “Hey, these sacraments are important.”

There are many Catholics who are simply woefully under-catechized. That’s where we come in. Such people may not be open to listening to a priest, but perhaps they’ll listen to a co-worker they respect and trust when they see how we live our own lives.

I think we all should care whether or not the churches are empty. If they are, we have greatly failed in fulfilling our obligation to evangelize (which includes catechizing).

I don’t think any of us can make the judgment call that “Nobody noticed the little red lamp glowing near the sanctuary”. How exactly would we know this unless we can read people’s hearts? I have been to plenty of weddings, Baptisms, ordinations, etc., where there is much activity going on. I know that I try my best (even if at times unsuccessfully) to never lose sight of the One whose Presence I am in. I try to extend the courtesy of assuming that others are doing the same.

I understand the temptation to assume that most of those around us simply don’t get it. Believe me, I have entertained such thoughts far more often that I would like. But rather than look at it as a commentary on the state of others’ souls, I look at it as a self-condemnation instead: if they do not understand, perhaps it is because I have not done enough to spread the Gospel.

If we get angry or aloof towards people who aren’t as pious as we would like, that just sends the message to them that in order to be a devoted practicing Catholic, one has to be a humorless, judgmental person. Rather, we need to find the point of contact – that point where they have taken some step, however small, which signifies that there is something about Catholicism that resonates with them – and build from there.

I say all this not as a judgment against you in particular, Excubitor. I know you are just articulating the frustration many of us have felt from time to time. It’s more of a reminder to myself than anything. :o

This is a sad post. Remember, blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Have mercy on those that have little understanding of their faith, or who have drifted away. Have pity on them, and pray for them. Welcome them when they come into the church, even if it is rarely. Take an example of the priest who welcomes them with open arms. Or an example from Saul, or the prodigal son. This is the right way.

Do you think they will drift away forever? For each child that a parent brings in for baptism or first communion, the parent gets one more exposure to the church, and another chance to repent and change his/her ways. Would you rather they not bring their children for the sacraments at all? Where the parents fail, the child may succeed because of this. Be happy some come at all. It could be so much worse.

Some people know they are poor in faith, but they have hope for their children. Nobody is perfect. Help those that have less faith, and encourage them. They don’t mean to by hyppocrites. Most of the time it is just ignorance. Hardening our hearts against the ignorant is cruel.

Overall, I think it is better for people to take their faith more seriously. However, God gives us as many chances as we need, and each day is new…for those with little faith and those with much faith. Lets try to gently help those that need coaxing, with love, and pray that our own hearts do not become cynical, hardened, or even judgmental against others.

In the end, I think it is better to have the church sometimes full of broken Catholics, than to have it always empty save for a few who practice their faith “perfectly.”

While I also find the behavior that the OP describes to be saddening and sometimes more than a little annoying I think we much remember that as Christians we are called to help others not to condemn them. These people at least on some level awknowledge the Church, even if it is only superficially. This is a starting place though. This is a point from which real faith my grow. Those of us who have been blessed to have a deeper faith have a responsibility to help those who are weak in the faith.

We should all care if our local churches are full or empty, just as much as we should care about any abuses we see take place. I often am discouraged when I go to Mass because most of the time I am the youngest person there by about 50 years. I look around me and I see nothing but older folks, with perhaps the exception of a family or two that has a few young kids. The kids though, even taking into consideration their age, do not seem to understand where they are and why they are there and it is a real struggle for these parents to keep them from misbehaving.

I hear regularly that there is a revival among Catholic youth, but I must confess that I don’t see it. I live in an area with a large Catholic population (at least culturally Catholic anyway) and I see very few younger people going to Mass and I’ve almost never seen any of them going to Confession. I hope that my area is an exception, but I worry that it may be the norm.

With all that said, I am a revert to the faith. I spent about a decade away from the Church, considering myself “spiritual but not religious”. At the time I didn’t realize just how shallow such a faith was or how selfish such a faith was since it was centered purely on what my beliefs happened to be from week to week. I never lost my faith in Chirst, but I did distance myself from the Church even going so far as to bash it numerous times for what I saw as its moral corruption, etc.

Why do I bring this up? Well because what drove me away from the Church was largely a combination of ignorant people put in charge of my Catholic education and intolerant people who inserted their own personal prejudices or political beliefs into the faith as if they were one and the same. When I did begin to come home to the Church it was a slow and cautious journey at first. I was blessed to meet very charitable people who were patient with me and let me come to accept the teachings of the Church at my own pace as they gently guided me home. I now have a much deeper faith and love being back in the Church. But were my reception to have been cold or hostile when I first began my journey back I may very well have turned away from the Church again and ended up somewhere else.

So from my own limited personal experiences I firmly believe that those of us who are strong in the faith need to practice the virtue of charity above all else when encountering those whose faith is weak.

I don’t think anyone is condemning these people who just go through the motions, but more questioning WHY they go through the motions without any faith behind it.

I want to understand the cultural Catholic way of thinking.

I try to pray for those souls to come back to the faith (even if they are aggravating me with their chattering during a First Communion mass). I know how much my faith means to me (and how it wasn’t always that way.) I figure if a sinner like me can come back, anyone can.

“Going through the motions” was something I could never understand even when I was estranged from the Church. One thing I prided myself on while I away away from the faith was that I didn’t behave in exactly the way being described here. Back then I didn’t agree with the Church on many things (largely due to my own ignorance or error) and so participating in the Sacraments made little sense to me. Meanwhile other cultural Catholics I knew who largely agreed with me while I was non-practicing would still “go through the motions”. In retrospect I now understand how scandalous their behavior was for me, though at the time I didn’t know what the Church meant by the sin of “scandal”. This was rather ironic since it was precisely scandalous behavior on the part of both the weak in faith and those who at least claimed to be strong in the faith that drove and kept me away from the Church for many years.

I think the previous poster who said that perhaps these people still “go through the motions” because on some level they knew that the Sacraments are valid and important was probably on to something. At the same time there are definitely many people who go to church on holidays or to have their children baptized, etc. mainly to please their relatives. But this may also turn out for the best. Most of my family members were (and many sadly still are) cultural Catholics and I was baptized, received first communion, and was confirmed mainly because it was just what was expected. But despite all this I am so very, very thankful that I became a full member of the Church through these wonderful sacraments. I am positive that they helped the Holy Spirit to work within my heart years later to bring me back to the Church. So even if at the time there is little faith behind the actions of those seeking the sacraments for their children much spiritual fruit may still come from the sacraments regardless. :slight_smile:

Oh, it is easy to see why people go through the motions, for me at least.

First is the concept of ritual. Ritual actions are deeply embedded in the human psyche, and therefore in all human cultures. Even if people do not understand the meaning or significance of a ritual, they will still do it.

Second is perhaps superstition, already mentioned.

Third is guilt. A person may know the should go to church more often, or take faith more seriously, but they feel they are too busy, or whatever. If they go to church on Christmas and Easter, and get their kids baptized, it can often be enough to pacify the feelings of guilt. “Hey, at least I go on Christmas and Easter, and that’s what counts. I’m doing pretty good.”

Fourth is self-centered-ness or ignorance. They may just rationalize that God loves them, and they can worship God in their own hearts without having to cater to the “corrupt” “man-made” laws of the church. This one is very common.

Fifth is a kind of “relative faith.” This is where people might say “Hey, I’m a good person compared to others, so I will go to heaven.” Or “some people don’t go to church at all, at least I go twice a year. I’m doing pretty good.” This stems for just ignorance too.

Sixth, might be upbringing. If your parents go to church only certain times, and not take the rest seriously…what do you think the children will do?

Seventh could be the influence of sin. Sin draws us away from God and the church. I can decrease our desire to go to church and participate as much in the faith as we should.

There are so many different kinds of people, and there are probably lots of other rationalities for a “casual” faith, as well as combinations of the above. These are just a few that come off the top of my head!

All good thoughts and theories. We talked about it at lunch today. Some are doing it for realtives although I told them any baptism in a christian church is authentic so to speak, so don’t feel you have to compromise your beliefs (slightly sarcastic) to go to the Catholic church. Some were scarred by angry nuns with rulers and drunk priests and swore, even though Catholic schools have changed, never to send their children there, ever… Scars of many kinds were under angry exteriors and I found although I could add some balance, they had the right to their feelings and if the rituals made them happy and the priest was okay with it, so be it.They were able to seperate it in their minds and maybe later, they would see the truth more clearly.

I don’t agree although I respect the view very much, that it is better to have empty church’s than all the “half there” people.
In reality it would be nice but somewhat pious…and the Catholic church would fold in some areas if everyone who used birth control, or lived together or missed mass or many other things, left, and the priests know that. You wouldn’t get them to change with the heavy fist, you just woudln’t have anyone there and there is always hope if you keep them close that they will change.

I respect the priest that says “live apart or I wont marry you” or want proof they go to church (and doesn’t let them mail the money in) but what they do after the occasion is up to them.
I just say, don’t put the church down, don’t tear the nuns and priests to pieces, and then want them at your Dad’s funeral. Balance is a good thing. Realize the person you curse at is saying the blessing over your baby, parent or gravestone.

Maybe you should take the example of Ananias who fell down dead for lieing to the Holy Spirit.
How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. 10 Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. 11 And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things

Where’s the mercy there? You probably think that this is a sad scripture too, as do I. Yes its sad when the terrible punishments of God finally get meted out to those who have been lieing to the Holy Ghost. Opening loving arms is not going to make people tremble with great fear. Such fatuous love is only going to cajole people to the same end as Ananias and Saphira.

Of course I care if the church is empty. But what is more important to the church than numbers is the holiness of the church. Holiness is one of the markers of the true church. That was what I was driving at with my comment. When the church is holier it will grow more. The ecclesiastical mission of the church stems from holiness, not greater numbers.

So I want the church to get smaller and holier, then grow again to be larger and holier. At the moment the church is not demonstrating holiness, but worldliness. Nowhere is this more exhibited than in the party atmosphere of unfaithful catholics having their family reunions before the blessed sacrament.

The sacraments are not carrots to coax the unfaithful back to church. The sacraments are privileges of the faith. That is why it was called “The mass of the faithful”. Which is to say by corollary that it is not for the unfaithful. Neither is marriage or confirmation. Even confirmation is given only to those who faithfully participate in RCIA.

What kind of logic is it to say that where the parents fail, the children may succeed? That flies in the face of all observation of the church fathers who stressed with great urgings that the parents have the responsibility to pass the faith on to the children. It is critical that the parents succeed. When an entire generation fails in this endeavour the faith is in grave danger of dieing out in that society. Which is of course what we see today in Europe. Catholics today witness their children leaving the church en-masse and they lament as they wring their hands “Maybe they will come back”. But so many don’t. The empty churches throughout the western world are a testimony of this. Showing a steady decline over the last several generations.

What the young people should be told is what their grandmothers told their mothers. That if you leave the church you will go to hell. Now that is the truth. Absolutely the truth. Apostates will go to hell, as sure as night follows day. Unless they turn from their apostasy they will be condemned. They need to understand that one missed mass, turns into 2 missed masses, which turns into a month then a year of missed masses. And the longer you have been away from mass, the more likely your condemnation will become. I speak the truth, but who explains these things any more. Even after one missed mass you are in a state of mortal sin and by definition, separated from the body of Christ. How many masses must you miss therefore before your sin is hardened into apostasy? And how many more masses than that must you miss before your apostasy is hardened to the point whereby there is left no more sacrifice for sins and there is no road back to the church? Only God knows for sure, but as a church we are just way to careless over this issue. In fact we should tremble with fear before our God.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom we are told in the scripture. The early church learned that when they carried Saphira out to be buried next to her husband. Its about time that our generation learned it too.

Now hang on. Its just this philosophy that has led to this debacle. People have been saying this kind of thing for 30 years and its not helping. We are just going steadily down the gurgler. Clearly the message is failing. Was John the Baptist hardened in his heart or lacking in encouragement when he called the people to repentance. He warned of Jesus who was to come “Matthew 3:12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Broken Catholics go to church every week. Those who were once Catholic and who fell away from the faith into apostasy and have fallen from Grace, are no longer Catholic. They have no right to be at the Mass of the Faithful. They have no right to the Eucharist because they are in a state of mortal sin. They have no right to the other sacraments of Marriage and Confirmation. They eat and drink to their own condemnation by attending these sacred services. Not telling them this and allowing them to bring condemnation upon themselves, is not doing them any favours. Its not an act of love, coaxing or tolerance. Its an act of sheer neglect, indifference, and cowardice. Bishops and priests who are too afraid to stand up to the people.
They would rather have the blessed sacrament offended than the unruly people offended.

It’s not good enough. Judgement begins at the house of God.
1 Peter 4:17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?

Obeying the gospel of God means that you obey the Bishop and attend the Holy Convocation of the Mass every Sunday and on Days of Obligation.

I think what he meant is that you wont get them back if they aren’t in the neighborhood. I don’t think Jesus would have turned people away if they didn’t act perfectly. I do think they should have rules in church, have the priest speak of reverence and prayer. Our priest talked once after mass about cell phones and excessive talking, he did it nicely, point taken.

Many Catholics feel some of the rules are man-made and don’t abide by them. God wanted Saturday or Sunday made holy, his day, but “holy days” change, some parts ot the country have them, some don’t, exceptions are made if you’re Irish and want meat on St Patricks’s if it’s Friday during lent, most people are working when they have them during the week…these aren’t Jesus’s rules, just the church trying to have her follower’s be reverent. It’s like novena’s are a practice in prayer, not a magic potion to get what you want, but some beleive if you don’t do it exactly the way it was presented, it “wont work”. I believe a lot of the beliefs Catholics have that are very comforting to some (like me) are confusing to others and and they just don’t do it.
I know people that will do “First Saturdays”, novenas all the time, daily mass, etc. but they aren’t any nicer than some they don’t, some are even more cranky. Are they getting more brownie points for their prayers and reverence or is the one that is not “perfect” by any means, but trying to live a good moral life, within their understanding of it, okay too?

God gives grace in his own way, in his own time. I am going to try to be more understanding and remember my years away. I realized after talking to some of the people that seemed so hateful, “some” of them had reasons and sometimes the church pulls them away too. I pray they find the grace and peace that some have and not somewhere else if possible.

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