We’ve had our fair share of parish problems over the years. We have been to Masses that don’t look or sound like Masses at all. We’ve come home almost in tears and wondered what to do. The obvious solution is to look for another parish. But recently I have been mulling over another idea, an idea I don’t like at all.

A few years ago our dearly loved priest, Father L, was moving to a new parish. We had no idea who our new priest would be. What if he wasn’t orthodox? What if he came along and changed our Mass? Our outgoing priest must have sensed our concerns. He must have realised some of us were looking at our options. He said, “Whatever happens, don’t abandon your parish. You are a community. Remember that both gold and lead pipes convey water equally well. Keep your heads down and concentrate on Jesus.”

That’s all very well in theory, I thought. But when there’s a ‘better’ Mass just down the road, doesn’t it make more sense to go elsewhere? We need to be part of a parish that will feed our souls with good homilies and liturgy. We don’t want to return home feeling upset. And we want our children to attend Mass as it is meant to be.

I think back to Father L’s words: “Don’t abandon your parish.”

Some people have the luxury of travelling to a better parish. Some don’t. And I’ve been thinking… maybe none of us are meant to go elsewhere. Perhaps we aren’t meant to flee when things get tough. Maybe we are meant to stay and pray and work as much as we can for a return to how things should be.

I have to say again, I don’t like this idea at all. My heart rate rises just thinking about priests who change our beautiful Mass because they think it is boring and repetitive, who preach their own ideas from the pulpit, who accuse us of being old fashioned because we are obedient to the beliefs and practices of the Church, who aren’t faithful to the Pope … these priests who refuse to obey.

And I remember the suffering…

Suffering? Infinitive amounts of grace must result from suffering, grace that could change a priest, a parish… And do we refuse to suffer? Do we side-step the suffering by abandoning our parish and the priest?

No, I don’t like the idea of staying with a troubled parish at all. I’d much rather shop around. I mean to say, this is Mass after all. We need a good Mass, don’t we? Who would blame us if we go looking for what is every Catholic’s right? 

The problem is with the priest. Surely he will realise his mistake when we have all disappeared. But if he doesn't, we could still pray for him from a safe distance. No, we have to move on, for our own sake, for our children’s sake. Their faith is too tiny to withstand the influence of error, even if they have our strong example to follow, wouldn’t you agree? Suffering in a ‘bad’ parish won’t teach them anything of value. And of course there is also the possibility the priest will fail to consecrate the hosts, despite Fr L's claim that gold pipes and lead pipes are equally effective. Yes, these are strong arguments, I'm sure.

But still… these nagging thoughts remain… be humble and obedient, accept what God allows, remember a priest is a priest regardless of what we think about him, pray, suffer…

Stay and suffer, together with Jesus who must surely suffer during such Masses... for out of suffering comes grace, and with grace anything can happen. It has transforming power.

But I still do not like these thoughts. I wish these uncomfortable, maybe unacceptable thoughts, wouldn’t appear in my head. Perhaps I should dismiss them, stop writing, press 'delete' quickly. I am not a controversial writer after all, preferring to remain safely within my comfort zone.

However, I know I will hit ‘publish’ because you may be able to persuade me why it is essential we shop around for a ‘good’ Mass. I am ready to be shown the errors of my thinking. Yes, I am in no hurry to suffer a 'bad' Mass ever again.
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  1. my family has been there. we sought direction through adoration and spiritual direction from a faithful priest.

    prayers for your discernment.

    ad Jesum per Mariam, lena

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    1. Lena,

      Thank you for your suggestion. It makes so much sense!

      We actually live in an excellent parish with a very faithful priest. But he has been here for a number of years and soon, no doubt, he will be moved elsewhere. I guess I am writing with the future in mind. It is always unsettling when change comes along and we don't know who will be responsible for our parish. Would we move to a new parish, like we have in the past, if there were problems, or would we stay and inevitably suffer? Yes, spiritual direction and prayer will show us the right thing to do.

      May God bless you and your family. May He send you many blessings this year.

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  2. Sue
    Oh it is a hard one{{}} and I can see, and are experiencing both sides of the coin.
    First we left a very untenable situation and I cried for months and months every week as we passed our church. We initially travelled as Church B in our town wasn't much better, but we felt the lack of belonging to a parish that travelling didn't allow. So after six months we began attending Church B and we are still there 5 years later, our parish Church A has gone through many upheavals and we feel we abandoned our people but we had to do it for the children's sake. Church B has also had many problems but God has taught us many lessons too. Now Church B is suffering a messy upheaval (as is Church A again..) so we're hanging on and seeing what we can learn

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    1. Erin,

      I am sorry to hear you have parish problems. It must be very difficult when both your local churches aren't ideal. When we live in rural or regional areas our choices for Mass are very much smaller than for city folk.

      Yes, we can travel but then we don't feel we belong. After a few years of roaming abroad we started attending our local parish. I do like being part of a local community where we know people and can contribute.

      "God has taught us many lessons too" That is such a good point. I think we do gain from every experience, even if that experience isn't one we really want.

      I hope things get better for you in your parish. Thank you so much for your comment.

      God bless!

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  3. I know this well! I have had some amazing priests over the years and they have such a special place in my heart and there have been tears when they have moved on.

    last year we bought a house a few suburbs away in a new parish. now I guess in sydney we are pretty lucky that there are plenty of churches. Our own parish covers about 6 suburbs and has 3 churches.But we changed schools and made the decision that we would change church too as this is where everyone will go to school and to be part of the community. but the first few weeks all I was loving was that mass was at 10 instead of 9. I wanted to go back. It was my hubby that insisted we stay. It has been so tempting to go back. Not knowing anyone at morning tea after church is hard work.
    As December rolled around I put all the big kids in the nativity play and decided this it, no going back. This is our new parish and it's different, the music isn't what we love to worship too but we are doing this.
    I still miss my old parish and friends but we've met some lovely people, the little ones are happy and I'm glad we went through the initial pain.

    whatever you decide will be right for you and nothing is ever permanent!
    corrie:)

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    1. Corrie,

      We have also been so upset when wonderful priests have been moved on to other parishes. I can remember wanting to cry too and thinking that nothing stays the same forever. Change inevitably comes along whether we want it or not.

      It must be such a temptation to shop around for Mass, when you live somewhere like Sydney, where the churches are so much closer together than in regional areas like ours. It must have been a hard decision to start attending Mass at your children's school church, and sticking to your resolution.

      It does take time to settle into a new parish. I can remember feeling out of place in a new church, not feeling like I belonged. You are so right when you say there is 'initial pain'.

      I have found that children make it easier to settle into a new parish. People talk to children where they might not talk to adults. Putting your kids into the nativity play sounds like a very positive step. Maybe that's what we have to do: be positive and make an effort to fit in. But I still think it is very difficult if a parish is very different to what we are used to. It's easy to make comparisons and not like the way things are done, especially if there are abuses of the Mass. I hope you haven't had to deal with such things on top of getting to know a new community.

      "Nothing is ever permanent!" Yes! The good never lasts but a bad situation will also eventually come to an end. I always try to remember that whatever happens, God remains the same. He is unchanging.

      Corrie, thank you so much for stopping and sharing your thoughts and story. I appreciate it very much. I hope you and your family continue to find your place in your new parish. Enjoy your new home!

      God bless!

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  4. Sue, this is such a tough situation. I can sympathize. I live in an extremely orthodox diocese, but we still have our share of "unorthodox" priests and parishes. Pray, pray, pray, for the new priest coming in though you have no idea when or who it will be! I have heard it said that you should stick with your parish, too. However, the spiritual safety of my children would have to take precedence. One cannot live on a diet of junk food. You have to have your spiritual "meat, potatoes, and veggies" most definitely in order to be healthy. : )

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    1. Stephanie,

      It sounds like you are very blessed with your parish and priests. We are too at the moment. Praying for a future priest is an excellent idea! We have no idea when our situation will change but change will come eventually. Praying and trusting that God will look after us now and in the future is something we should do.

      The spiritual safety of our children... Yes, this is very important. We once had to move parishes because a priest was unkind to my boys when they were serving for him. He had problems of his own so I am not saying he deliberately set out to be cruel. But the boys began to dread going to Mass and that is unacceptable. It is hard enough for adults to put up with an upsetting situation. We couldn't make our boys endure it.

      Thank you for your thoughts and suggestions, Stephanie.

      God bless!

      Delete
  5. Sue- We too have been there. We attended a wonderful parish full of many good Catholic families but when a new priest came, the Mass was not what it should be anymore. Then the church ministries (youth group, bible study, etc...) began to suffer as well. We watched as many of the good Catholic families left and I remember thinking- "How can you leave? The parish will never improve if we all leave, we must stay and make it good again."

    But a few years later, Tim was offered the position of youth minister at a neighboring parish. Our parish had not improved in all that time and had, in fact, continued to suffer under the new priest. So we ultimately- after LOTS and LOTS of prayer- left and joined the parish Tim was working for. We have received so many little graces and nods of confirmation since switching that we know it was what God wanted for our family.

    Our new parish is truly our home now and a community we feel blessed to be a part of. It is a tough decision and one I can see both sides of-- but through prayer, God will help you to know what to do.

    Blessings, Kari

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    1. Kari,

      It sounds like you have been through a very heart wrenching experience. Like you, I have questioned whether it is the right decision for families to leave a parish when the going gets tough. It is easy for some people to pick up and move on. For others it is impossible. I know we would miss friends if we left our parish, and our friends would feel we were abandoning them. But as you said, maybe God sometimes wants us to go elsewhere.

      I am very sad to hear your parish never improved in the time you stayed despite the problems. Mass is supposed to be our refuge, our source of strength, but attending Mass in a 'poor' parish does tend to eat away at that strength and leave us feeling upset and depleted.

      Both sides... yes, it can be a complicated situation and knowing what to do can be so difficult. I agree that we need to pray and pray. I am so glad to hear you have found a home in your current parish. It's a wonderful feeling attending Mass in a beautiful parish with loving friends, knowing you belong, isn't it?

      God bless!

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  6. We were in the same spot years ago. We left as our priest, who started by introducing hymns instead of Kyrie, Gloria, Credo; reading the newspapers instead of the Bible etc., changed the words of consecration - maybe he only did this once, but it was enough.
    I wrote a humorous short story based on our experience then, but it's in Danish (naturally) so I can't send it to you. the short of it is: We're not too good at praying and keeping God in His place in our everyday life, and at least once a week our soul needs solid nourishment. Therefore we left - even if it meant 2 hours by train every Sunday.
    Also, and maybe more crucial, we felt like condoning the liturgical mis-uses by staying on. The biblical "dixi et salvavi anima mea" (see. Ezekiel 33:9) fits here, I think.

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    1. Uglemor,

      We have had similar experiences with priests changing the Mass. They say that we get too used to hearing the same words and saying the same prayers each week. We need some variety. I think there is great comfort in knowing that whatever happens in the outside world, we can be sure our beautiful Mass will always be the same. How can such a wonderful and miraculous event be boring? It is also good to know that wherever we are in the world, the Mass continues unchanging, the same for everyone despite our differences, and it has always been the same down through the ages. I guess not everyone understands the Mass in the same way we do.

      I am sure I would have enjoyed your story! Stories are a good way of expressing our concerns and helping others see what we are worried about. Did you publish your story? I wonder how it was received.

      I agree that attending a Mass with abuses may seem like we are condoning it. I am just concerned for those who have no choice but to stay. And I don't like the thought of abandoning fellow parishioners. As long as the hosts are consecrated, we will receive grace from any Mass, and that is grace we all need so much. But still... I think I would be tempted to make the same decision as you.

      I am glad you are able to attend a good Mass even though you have to travel so far. Maybe one day things will be different for your local parish. I hope so!

      Thank you for your comment, Uglemor.

      God bless you!

      Delete
  7. We are going through the exact same thought process right now. Our little parish is run by a very liberal order so unfortunately forcing one out will just be bringing another one like him in. We are still relatively new to the town. We know 3 families who are faithful to the Church who have left the parish. My husband and I don't know what to do. I've been tempted to drive to the big city to hopefully find a Latin Mass somewhere but like you, I don't know if that's the answer. I know this isn't helpful to you but I feel some consolation knowing that somebody else is going through the same thought process.

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    1. Elizabeth,

      I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. It's lovely to see you back on my blog!

      Unfortunately it seems it doesn't matter where we live in the world, we face similar problems. But yes, there is consolation in not being alone and having others to discuss such issues with. For me, this is thinking out loud about a possible future situation but for you... you are having to deal with it today. I am so sorry to hear that.

      Maybe the answer lies in prayer as other readers have suggested, prayer for your own decision and prayer for your local parish and priests. I wonder how many people think and pray ( and sacrifice) for their priests, especially when they choose not to go to their local church. Liberal orders are in very much need of prayer, I am sure.

      I hope you can come to a decision that gives you peace. I will pray.

      Thank you for stopping by, Elizabeth. I must hop over to your blog now you are back after the Christmas break. I wonder if you have come to another decision... what direction to take with your blog!

      God bless!

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  8. Hi Sue,
    Happy New Year. We went through a similar thing this time last year. We Prayed as well for the right decision. We moved parishes and we have settled in nicely. Brid is in her element, Lots of Youth and Children, very active Youth Group. It was the best move we made. I pray you have peace with your situation very soon.
    Leanne

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    1. Leanne,

      Happy New Year to you and your family too!

      I remember how unhappy you were before you moved parishes. It sounds like you made the right decision for your family. Peace... Yes, we need to feel at peace with our situation. That doesn't necessarily mean we need to be in a perfect parish but rather, we need to be where God wants us.

      I always appreciate your prayers, Leanne. I continue to keep you in mine.

      God bless you!

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  9. A very common issue for the Catholics of today (at least for those of us who want to be real Catholics) I don't have the answer and I don't know what is the "right" thing to do.
    But I do know this:
    It is not good for your family or your faith to leave Mass angry or sad each Sunday.
    It is not good to keep company with those who set a poor example for your children.
    A "bad" parish can not usually be influenced by a minority eg. one family. They will go about their wicked ways and either ignore you or enjoy gossiping to one another about your weird fanatacism in believing that the Mass is not just symbolic but real.
    Do I sound bitter yet? Don't mean to, but it's hard when your own beautiful, magnificent church is turning in on itself and the enemy is no longer those from the outside.
    What we do now is travel over an hour to Latin Mass every fortnight (so, so wonderful!) and brave our local on the other weeks. The local is not so bad for weekday Mass, so we do that when we can too.

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    1. Kelly,

      I am sorry to hear your local parish has so many problems. Yes, it is very difficult watching our beautiful Mass erode away and not be able to do anything effectual about it. I guess we keep praying though.

      I have been thinking more about Father L's words: Keep your heads down and concentrate on Jesus." There are so many things that distract us from the central mystery of the Mass. It is hard to ignore them and see only Jesus. Yes, I end up feeling angry and sad too.

      We don't live within reaching distance of a Latin Mass, but we do have one blessing: There is a monastery about 3/4 hours drive away. We love going there for Mass and devotions whenever we can.

      Thank you for your comment, Kelly. I hope things get better for you.

      God bless.

      Delete

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