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By Father Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.

Dealing With Boredom at Mass


Can't Mass Be More Meaningful?
What Is a Tithe?
Can I Trust the Bible?
Does Baptism Last a Lifetime?
Which Sin Is the Worst?

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 with Jesus?

Hearing the Scriptures read in common and receiving Holy Communion are part of our growth within the community of believers.

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 as disciples.

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 it.

Read our Catholic UpdateSunday 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?

Q: 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 perspective.

Was the final editor of the Book of Genesis even saying that these stories are true in the same sense as a videotaped account?

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 radically equal.

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 "The 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?

Q: 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.

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