Can't Mass Be More Meaningful?
Q: Just over a year ago, my
husband and I made the commitment to attend church every
Sunday. We have been faithful to that commitment.
I know that our four children feel
as I did when I was a child in church. They say it is hard
to understand and therefore boring. They do not object to
going, but I want their experience to be more fulfilling
so they won’t ever be tempted to fall away as my husband
and I did.
How do you make the Mass more meaningful
for children and adults? Is there something that we aren’t
doing that would make it more precious to them?
A: You and your husband might want to explain to
your children why you don’t find Sunday Mass boring but
rather very important.
Some parishes have a children’s Liturgy of the Word. Most
religious educators and parents agree that this is a good
way to help children of a certain age see a connection between
the Scriptures and their life.
Sitting closer to the front of church might help your children
see what’s going on at Mass. Maybe your children find one
priest easier to understand than another.
Are any of your children old enough to be readers at Mass?
To be Communion distributors? It might help them if you
and/or your husband volunteered for those ministries. If
you sing at your pew during Mass, they may join you.
Boredom comes from within, from not sharing an interest
in the event going on. Some people love to watch NASCAR
races; I find them boring. Although I like much of what
is on the History Channel, many people do not.
Sometimes people say the Mass would be less boring if the
music were livelier, the people were more friendly, the
homilist more animated, etc.
Frankly, this is sometimes the case. Although many of our
parishes can do better, I think we still need to
ask: Are we going to Mass like judges for Olympic diving
or gymnastics (rating it 9.7, 9.3, etc.)? Or are we going
as disciples, as people eager to grow in our relationship
Hearing the Scriptures read in common and receiving Holy
Communion are part of our growth within the community of
If we want the Catholic community to be at its best when
our families celebrate major events such as weddings, Baptisms,
funerals, etc., then that community needs to keep “in practice”
through ordinary times—like most Sunday Masses.
Part of the difficulty many people experience with Sunday
Mass is that it seems so ordinary. God’s grace rarely works
with trumpet blasts. Much of daily life is ordinary, but
that is where all of us grow as family members, as individuals—and
In the long run, we become what we choose. We can choose
to open our hearts to the grace of each Mass or we can walk
away with a scorecard about how other people could improve
Read our Catholic Update “Sunday
Mass: Easter All Year Long.” You may find it helpful.
Hang in there. Sunday Mass is a better guide to life than
what you might do if you did not go.
What Is a Tithe?
I’m confused about Old Testament references to tithes. What does that word mean? Does it apply today?
A: A tithe is 10 percent of something. In the Old
Testament it acknowledged God’s dominion over all creation.
Everything we use or own belongs radically to God.
John L. McKenzie’s Dictionary of the Bible points
out that Abram’s tithe to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:20) predates
the Chosen People. Deuteronomy 14:22-29 describes tithes
in greater detail.
Must Christians tithe? It’s recommended but not obligatory.
Although Jesus did not mention percentages, he expected
his followers to help support the faith community (Matthew
5:23-24). Some Christians today split a tithe between their
faith community and other charitable organizations.
Tithing does not win us points with God; it reminds us
to whom we and our world belong.
Can I Trust the Bible?
Q: During a recent youth retreat
at our parish, someone asked about Adam and Eve. Someone
else said that it was just a story to explain how creation
began and not necessarily a real account. That same person
said that the story about Noah’s ark and the flood may have
happened but not necessarily.
I always understood that the things
in the Bible were inspired by God and were the truth. Now
I am not so sure. What’s going on here?
A: Yes, it is a story, but a story full of meaning
and truth. Both Jews and Christians accept this story as
inspired by God.
If you had been present with a video
camera at the creation of the world, would you have captured
exactly what the Book of Genesis describes? Would you have
recorded both creation stories (1:1—2:4a, as well
as 2:4b-25)? Would you have recorded Noah, the ark and the
flood exactly as the Book of Genesis describes them?
Hardly. These stories, however, convey
powerful, fundamental, religious truths about human life.
These stories are not videotape renditions of early happenings.
Even a videotape is true from a limited physical
Was the final editor of the Book of Genesis even saying
that these stories are true in the same sense as a videotaped
ou have to respect the kinds of writing
you find in the Bible, which is better understood as a library
of books by different human authors—all inspired by God.
In the ancient Near East, almost all
creation stories, for example, denied that women were made
from the same physical “stuff” as men. With its story of
Adam’s rib, a play on words in the original Hebrew, the
Book of Genesis tells us that God created men and women
A God who starts over with a remnant
(Noah and his family) is more generous than a God who wipes
creation out completely and starts all over.
When you look at the daily newspaper,
you expect that the stock market report will be accurate
and that humor columns are indeed funny. A stock market
report crafted to be funny is as useless as a tightly-reasoned
humor column. You have to allow each type of writing to
be what it is.
The Book of Genesis is absolutely truthful
about all creation coming from a single source (God) and
evil entering human life through a misuse of God-given freedom.
For more information on this topic, read
Use and Abuse of the Bible," by Ronald D. Witherup,
S.S. You can also read other recent issues of our Scripture
From Scratch newsletter.
Does Baptism Last a Lifetime?
Q: My daughter cannot understand how Baptism
will last a baby a lifetime. After all, the child does not
even know what is going on.
My daughter was baptized as a child and now it is her
baby’s turn. I don’t want her to start questioning her faith.
A: Questions do not threaten faith, but can help
it grow. Often they are necessary if the person’s faith
is to mature.
Baptism lasts a lifetime in the sense that it designates
this person as a member of God’s people, as branches with
Christ as the vine (see John 15:5).
Yes, the baptized person will eventually sin, but Baptism
points out his/her deepest identity. Even though a person
can live contrary to that identity, no sin can wipe it out.
In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God forgives sin. The
Sacrament of the Eucharist renews a person’s Baptism.
Which Sin Is the Worst?
What is the worst sin that can be committed against Our Lord? What can we do to prevent such a sin?
A: A strong case could be made that the worst sin
is religious hypoc-risy—pretending that God loves all the
things that I already like to do (usually very publicly)
and that God despises all the people whom I despise.
Jesus comes down very hard on this sin several times, especially
in the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector in the
Temple (Luke 18:9-14).
Other sins may do greater obvious damage (murder or adultery,
for example), but religious hypocrisy suggests that God
encourages immoral behavior, which is not true!
You asked about what we can do to avoid any sin. Simply
put: Open our hearts to God’s grace and be willing to take
the risks that grace presents.
If you have a question for Father Pat, please submit it here.
Include your street address for personal replies enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, please. Some answer material must be
mailed since it is not available in digital form. You can still send questions to: Ask a Franciscan, 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.