A friend of mine has lapsed as a Catholic.
It’s something I really don’t understand. Talking with them I became aware that there wasn’t a great deal that I could say that would encourage or convince them to return to the sacraments. Quite simply what is it that the lapsed think they will lose by going to mass? The number of recorded instances of people being struck dead by God on entering a Church is at a record low as far as I know.
I can’t imagine not going to mass, no matter how bad a Catholic I’d become. I know that God loves me, wants me to be at mass, wants to forgive my sins through confession and remit venial sins during mass. Part of me is irrevocably tied to Christ and I know if I didn’t go to mass that part of me would be starved, would quickly fall to pieces and my sense of religious security would dissolve.
So how to explain to someone who has fallen away from mass that they should go back, even if they can’t receive communion because they haven’t been to confession yet?
If I stopped going to Mass I would rightly feel guilty, I have received baptism and Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist, to not go to Sunday mass now I would be rejecting him, rejecting the love and all gifts that God has poured out for me on the cross and in his Church.
Furthermore I would be rejecting the Holy Spirit, a terrible thing. I know this, but how to tell someone this who maybe doesn’t know this truth? I don’t want to be the one hitting them with the infamous Catholic guilt stick, but guilt is good when it is right to feel guilty about something.
Its funny, I went to mass and the sermon was on the infinite mercy of God. If only my friend had been there to hear it. The choice to distance oneself from God out of feelings of unworthiness is the easiest temptation which the devil puts our way. Why? Because we are unworthy, we do sin, yet in a way we are totally worthy because we are the children of God, sure we stumble around a bit and we can be quite naughty children but we are still the children of God.
This is why Catholics at mass, in a way, act like the demoniac possessed by legion. He runs out of his home in the tombs, runs down from the hills throws himself at the feet of Jesus and says “go away from us”. Has nobody else spotted the ridiculous nature of that? This is what we do at mass, “lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed”.
If only my friend knew how much God loved them, knew that whilst God does care a great deal about the morality of our lives, He also doesn’t want our sins to be a barrier to him because he died on the cross to defeat sin once and for all. In a way, God has shown how much he really doesn’t care about our sins. By taking them on himself, showing how much he does care for us!
The spiritual communion of Sunday mass, which we are all called to make, is of great importance, it will help people grow in faith even if they don’t receive the Eucharist. We should not be made to feel that we should not go to mass unless we receive the Eucharist.
This is the direct result of people going up for communion without thinking, we would be better off if we really examined our consciences before mass and if we are not sure we are in a state of grace then we should avail ourselves of the sacrament of confession as soon as possible.
It would be easier if the sacrament of penance was more widely available, every day, and even, if it is possible, directly before or even during mass! Perhaps we need more priests for that, but anywhere it could be done it should be done.
The Catholic Church is about getting as many people through the doors of heaven as possible, St Peter is the gatekeeper, but he is not the bouncer, it is his job to let in as many as possible, one way to do this is to make confession as available as possible. Saying there is confession on demand is a bit of a cop out, because very few of us have the courage to go to a priest, look him in the eye and tell him we are in need of the sacrament.
That is why confessionals were invented, because we are weak, we like to pretend that the priest doesn’t know who we are the other side of the grill, it is ridiculous of course, they do know who we are, but anything however ridiculous that helps people to seek confession is a good thing. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
So anyone reading this, please pray for my friend and all the lapsed, that they will realise how they are only robbing themselves of God by not going to Mass, and that God loves them and wants to see them at Church and at the confessional.