Sunday, September 08, 2013

Help Build a Vibrant Parish

Since the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum, it has been more common for people to be able to attend the Extraordinary Form Mass at a parish which is not strictly devoted to the EF Mass. My primary exposure to the EF Mass is at my diocesan parish, which celebrates in the Extraordinary Form at least once a month as well as on special feast days and octaves. The parish is not dedicated exclusively to the Extraordinary Form, and though quite a number of parishioners attend the monthly EF Mass, I'd venture that more than half do not. It remains primarily a Novus Ordo parish.

But if less than fifty percent attend the EF Mass, that's not to say the EF Mass is not well attended. Every month at the EF Mass, I see a ton of people who I know come here just for that monthly Mass. Where they go the other three Sundays or for weekdays, I have no clue. I just know they are not parishioners of our parish.

Which leads me to reflect on the question of attendees of the Extraordinary Form and parish life. Unless you exclusively attend a parish specifically set aside for the EF Mass (like those run by the Fraternity), chances are you attend the EF Mass at a Novus Ordo parish. Perhaps you manage to attend only the Extraordinary Form by bouncing around between three or four parishes who each offer it once per month; perhaps, like me, you attend a mixture of the Novus Ordo and the Extraordinary Form. Perhaps you attend a Fraternity parish or an old indult parish but occasionally attend EF Masses at diocesan parishes.

There is no arrangement that is right and no arrangement that is wrong. But what I do want to stress in this post is that, whatever your Mass arrangements are, you need to be involved in parish life at some place. If you attend a parish exclusively devoted to the EF, then this is your home parish and it's probably not an issue. But if you are one of these folks who bounce around to four different EF Masses a month, I ask you to reflect on whether or not you engage in the parish in any other way? Do you attend the Labor Day or St. Patrick Day festivals? Do you volunteer at parish activities? Do you attend other liturgical devotions, such as Stations or First Fridays? Sign up for a Holy Hour? Go with the parish to the local soup kitchen? Volunteer to chaperone at a kids event? Help with VBS? Work at the Lenten Fish Fry? Put money in the collection basket? Attend the annual parish missions? Show up for the spring cemetery clean up?

There's a multitude of ways it can happen, but the bottom line is you need to be involved and engaged somewhere. There is a saying in the Church dating from the Council of Trent, "No cleric without a superior"; there is a similar corollary, "No parishioner without a parish." Were a person to simply bounce around to four EF Masses at four different parishes each month and never actually get involved or engaged at any particular parish, I think that person would be in the wrong. It's not for me to say where, or how this engagement must look concretely, but you must be engaged.

After all, how else shall we tell others about the beauty of Catholic Tradition if we can't make acquaintances and explain our love to them? I first fell in love with Catholic Tradition after another traditional-minded Catholic - one who was not above attending the Novus Ordo - had some very good conversations with me and gave me some of Michael Davies' books. Had he been exclusively attending the EF and been aloof from parish involvement, I would have never run across him. But he would occasionally go to the Novus Ordo, volunteered at the festivals, and was always seen at coffee and donuts, where some of our most formative conversations would take place.

So beside the question of obligation, I think there is a real evangelical motivation for us making sure we are truly engaged in the life of a parish. After all, we do not simply want the preservation of Tradition, but its restoration, and restoration implies engaging people who do not currently attend the Extraordinary Form and teaching them the beauty of Catholic Tradition. This can hardly happen if we keep to ourselves and do not get engaged. Yes, I know for decades when the very survival of tradition was in question, we resorted to establishing enclaves devoted to tradition for its preservation; but this ought not to be a normative approach, and now that the Extraordinary Form can be offered and frequently is offered in Novus Ordo parishes, there is less justification for an enclave mentality.

I am not suggesting you have to attend the Novus Ordo Mass, but I am suggesting that you need to also consider getting involved somewhere, perhaps in a Novus Ordo parish. Be a volunteer the pastor can depend upon, the first one ready to cheerfully put your name on the sign up sheet at the back of the church. Or if you are willing, occasionally attend the Novus Ordo and get to know the regular parishioners, and demonstrate by your joy and charity the formative value of Catholic Tradition. It is a great opportunity to have these important conversations about Catholic identity. Pastors are already afraid of "traditionalists" in many places; why give the pastors more occasion for mistrust by acting as if we don't give a damn about their parish festivals or food pantries or communities so long as we can get a monthly EF out of them? Blogging about Catholic Tradition does not excuse you. Fellowshipping with other traditional-minded Catholics who already see things your way does not excuse you. Saying the traditional Breviary in Latin does not excuse you. If you are not engaged in parish life somewhere, there simply is no excuse.

Show the parish that the "stable group" referred to by Summorum is not just dependable when it comes to showing up for the Extraordinary Form, but is dependable to be called upon for whatever task. Traditional minded Catholics should be the happiest of souls, the most dependable volunteers, and the hardest workers, and by their fortitude and charity, can show forth the glory of God.

Let each one examine his conscience, my friends.


iudica me said...

I have a concern on constant using the EF term on this blog. In a sense provided by Summorum pontificum, that the NO and TLM are different expressions of the same lex orandi, and two forms of the Roman rite each having its own value and without any defects in any of them, I consider it unacceptable for a Traditionalist in positive sense because it automatically implies that the NO is in no way inferior to the TLM and that it contains no defects, which in itself is deeply contrary to the main tenets of Traditionalism. So I find it very strange for this blog, which according to all other contents, surely is traditional, to constantly keep forcing this term.

Anonymous said...


This is a brilliant and straight-talking article on involvement; 'no parish without parishioners', Amen brother!! its about getting involved, getting our hands dirty in the doing of parish life and community building, forming and growing relationships with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and being what our Lord and Saviour calls us to be, in other words, us answering the call to be 'Matt 23: 23' people. if we are Matt 23: 23 people, we will find ourselves in a position to reach out to others as your fellow in Christ was able to reach out to you. This real call to parish community life will also help to bust the ( myths that have grown up around those who favour the TLM and other more 'traditional' expressions of Catholic Christianity (sometimes warranted, sometimes not).

I, to my sadness, have read on other blogs the argument that it is impossible to engage in such parish life because the average Catholic, NO, weekly attending parishioners of insert average suburban congregation) are so fragmented re Catholic matters of non-negotiable doctrine that walls are erected, isolation preferred and such community impossible because of said divergent views (re levels of 'orthodoxy'). Please, I call upon every one who reads this, if Boniface allows it through, to not fall into the above mindset trap, but build, connect, become active and give.

for many of us, it is impossible to get to a TLM due to transport issues or nothing being offered in our diocese/city/region. Might I suggest that before we go looking to form a stable group, we live Christ's truth practically as well as spiritually where we find ourselves.

I have a question; If one is driving two hours plus each way to attend a TLM once a week, or up to 3 or 3.5 hours plus each way, what are such attendees able to give to said community in activities and participation outside the Sunday Mass???

Fr. Zuhlsdorf has also put this to his readership from time to time, as have other Catholic bloggers. Good work.



Beefy Levinson said...

I strongly prefer the TLM over the Novus Ordo, but I just volunteered myself for youth ministry at the local NO exclusive parish. I figure if anything could use a shot of Tradition, it's that.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Brother Boniface. At three different LIl Licit ' Liturgy Parishes I volunteered to visit any elderly male parishioner who needed assistance cooking or transportation to Mass, shopping, or just a potential friend, etc.

At each Parish, the Priest told me to contact the Director of Parish Ministries - and I did and they asked me to chose among their already existing Ministries.

C'est la vie.

My heart and soul is with the FSSP Apostolate at Christ the King Church Chapel in Sarasota, Fl. but I can only get there, roughly every fortnight, but they do have a GREAT Parish I'd love to be a part of.

I have always been a loner by choice but now when I want to participate, I am given the runaround.

C'est al vie

Anonymous said...

Yes the Traditionally minded have an obligation to be involved in parish life. There is for many a practical difficulty of course, but remaining insular will only perpetuate the problem.

In my own case it means being involved in a parish where that I only attend Mass once a month.... but If I were to leave completely (which would be easier) the progress in rebuilding which has been made over the last few years would be one person weaker.