It was third period when I realized that simply telling my students that tomorrow was a holy day of obligation wasn’t about to penetrate their beloved, thick skulls. That is when I proceeded to write nearly every church in town on the board, personally look up their special Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception Mass times, and then give a spiel about this feast at the beginning of each class. It caused me to realize something is very wrong with our list of priorities.
Well, I more mean “their” priorities about this matter, but rest assured, mine are mixed up in simply a different way. They told me that they couldn’t go to Mass because they had: a basketball game, play, work, anything and everything proved to be a valid excuse. Some of their situations did sound like they would be difficult to navigate. However, it struck me as sadly stereotypical of Americans when they began to ask if there was a specific Mass time as if they were picking which time to go to a movie. Their schedules didn’t have time for Mass and it didn’t seem to be within the realm of possibilities for them to re-evaluate their schedules or perhaps forgo something. The look of shock on their faces would have been surprising if I told them to skip their basketball game or miss set-up for play.
“We have commitments.” You are absolutely right. You have a commitment to Christ and to follow His laws. The Church is asking for you to go and receive Jesus, not give half of your wealth away tonight. “What if we are going out of town?” I responded with, “There are also churches out of town.” After a brief reminder of the beauty of the universality of the Catholic Church we were moving onto other questions. I told them that failure to attend Mass for both the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and Sunday obligation would be a mortal sin. I was mildly surprised by the look of shock and surprise on their faces. Mortal sin? Mortal sin? “Isn’t that the really bad one? Like if you kill someone?” In their minds this sin of missing mass is, well, they might not actually think of it as a sin. It just doesn’t fit conveniently into their schedules and so they shouldn’t be burdened with trying to find a Mass. These little incidents convinced me that we do not talk enough about sin. I’m not evn certain they knew that it is a mortal sin to miss Mass any given Sunday.
And I think to myself: what is the point of sending your children to Catholic schools if you don’t care to encourage that Catholic identity within them? My students began to ask, in an almost accusatory fashion, why the school didn’t have Mass for them today to satisfy the obligation. Code for: “Why must we now go out of our way to go to Mass? Shouldn’t our Catholic school take care of that for us?” Yes, I am probably leaning more into a rant now, but I think it is partially justified. My seniors told me that they don’t think they have a spiritual battle going on right now because they go to Catholic school but later it will be a battle. Yet when I gave them the hypothetical situation of a student who would go to daily Mass, adoration, and ask people to pray with them, they all agreed that the person should lay off the religion and be normal. Then I told them that they are the ones who form the Catholic identity of the school. I think I sounded rather brilliant and filled with passion, how I actually appeared to them, I don’t know. But I did think it was important to remind them that they help determine how Catholic their school is.
So, perhaps, I can shakily derive some sort of point from this jumble. The priorities of our nation, of our world are nearly in shambles and are in dire need of alteration. We no longer even feel a sense of duty to follow the set rules or requirements (if you want to look at them that way) of our religion. Not that I endorse living under a feeling of guilt, but the “Catholic guilt” seems to be giving way to the pressures of secularism. People don’t go to Mass on Sundays simply out of a feeling of duty, rather, they cease to go at all and don’t feel bad about it. Perhaps this is where the crux of the moral problem is–we are simultaneously a society that is perpetually offended and yet one that doesn’t care at all.
Hope? Yes, I know I should end on a note of hope because there are a great number of movements within the Church that are reaching out and transforming society. Despite the lackadaisical attitudes of many in society, there is good news and there is hope. The Church is undergoing a purification. The Spirit is moving and lives are being changed. While I know my circle of friends and acquaintances might not be the measure of the average young adult, I have been encouraged by the number of religious vocations I know are being sought after and the young couples entering into matrimony. Particularly the numerous couples I have heard who are now welcoming into their families children, even if they have been married for less than a year when the child is born. Good things are happening. I must remind my naturally pessimistic mind that. Greater things are yet to come, greater things are still to be done in this…world.