Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Catholics Who Are Not Seen In The Pews

Two Korean Priests traveling in Europe on Christmas Eve some time ago found themselves in a large metropolitan city and made their way to the Cathedral Parish to attend Mass. Their experience was written up in a bulletin for priests. During the sermon, sirens were heard; probably, from the security system, the priests thought, and after some effort on the part of those present the sirens ceased only to start a few minutes later. During the Cardinal's sermon, some of the church-goers got up and walked out. The Cathedral at the beginning of Mass was only half filled  but by the end of Mass only a few remained. The sound of the sirens was too much of a distraction for most of them to pay attention to the sermon and for other unknown reasons the congregation diminished in size.

This scene made a big impression on the priest. Did the Cardinal realize the congregation was not listening or could not hear what he had to say? He concluded that the seats in the congregation were too far away from the altar and the pulpit--meaning the congregation was not tuned in on what was going on in the sanctuary.

The priest feels that the Church in Korea is where the Church in Europe was 50 years ago. The Church saw what was happening in Europe and decided to examine the causes and to make changes. It was a chance to see the world differently, a new way of seeing culture and language. Recognizing that a materialistic civilization had begun to influence the Church, it decided to "opt for the poor."

The problems encountered by the European Church have not yet come to our attention. The Church here, instead of seeking the causes of these problems by a rigorous self- examination, is wondering why Christians are not listening, and is surprised at the response. The priest wonders if he is  the only one who feels this way.  The basic problem, is that the Church doesn't seem to see the poor in society, or is it, he asks regretfully, that we don't want to see.

We are fortunate in being in a Church that is filled with energy. The ghetto-like atmosphere that had been present is breaking down. We are ecumenically sensitive, dioceses are looking beyond their borders, the Church is actively welcoming religious orders; efforts are also being made to go out to other parts of the world.

It is true that we have become a middle class Church, and many of the poor no longer find the Church a place where they feel comfortable.  Because of the growth of the Church, money is needed to build churches and start programs; this puts pressure on those who have difficulty meeting their needs to survive. The need for money was not as necessary in years past when it was a simpler and poorer Church. There are first and second collections, monthly collections (denarius cultus) to bring in money for the up-keep of the parish and diocese. Even the fine clothes that many wear to Sunday Mass make it difficult for those who can't afford to dress as well to think of going to Church. How to solve these well-known problems is not easy.  Some within the Church are more aware of this reality than others. In time, we will be getting our Dorothy Days-- those who will make us more sensitive to this other world. Wasn't this what the priest-visitor to Europe was telling us?

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