As a Pastoral Associate in a Catholic Parish, I have heard it all. People find ways to justify their lack of Mass attendance and believe (momentarily) that their justification will convince the pastoral staff of their correctness. Here are my refutations of these excuses—meant not to isolate further or hurt the feelings of those who don’t go to Mass, but as a playful invitation to reconsider and come back to the family that misses them.
1: I Work 24 Hours A Day, 7 Days A Week
First of all, I’m pretty sure that’s illegal—there are labor laws. Do you want me to help find you a lawyer? Also, that’s not what your Facebook page says. Americans are super busy—we fill our time with all sorts of things. It does feel like we’re working all the time—believe me, I’m right there with you. My job takes me out week days, evenings and Sundays. Plus, my email, text and Facebook are on my phone, so I’m frequently doing “business” in my free time, too. That’s not good. We all need to take a break. But, God should be part of that break, not what we’re taking a break from. Worshipping with a community, receiving Christ—these things rejuvenate, not deplete. Take time out for yourself that is going to fill you up.
2: I Have Small Children
Oh, they’re the worst. Noisy little things... I have them, too. You know, the first thing they do when they exit the womb is scream? And it doesn’t stop there—if you bring them to Church they will choose the quietest time of Mass to scream like you’re murdering them—the homily, the Consecration—they know how to pick it. When my kids were little, I used to get ready for Mass and wonder what fresh hell I was in for this week. There were Sundays when my husband would take one of my screaming, writhing kids out of Church and I’d wonder if I would ever see either of them again (not enough to follow them, mind you, just enough to quietly ponder). So, why did we put ourselves through it? Because now they come with us cheerfully—not perfectly—but cheerfully enough. I still have to sit between them and give them the hairy eyeball once in a while, but dang if they aren’t listening. Church is what we do on Sunday. It’s the main event and the rest of our day and the rest of our week is better for it.
3: Mass Is Sooooooooooo Booooooooring
Sometimes it is. I know. I’ve been to Churches where the preaching was less than stellar (not my parish, of course), and the music was more like a dirge (not my parish; we have the best music ministry anywhere), and the community might have been comprised of un-dead. I was told when I was a kid, that it’s not what Mass brings to you, but what you bring to Mass—your attitude, your attention to the readings and prayers, the quality time you are spending with God, etc. That’s certainly one way to look at it. But, what Mass brings to us is unbelievable, and transcends bad music and boring preaching—it’s the True Presence of God in the Eucharist and a loving community.
4: Church Is Full Of Hypocrites
Yes, it is, and as our Protestant brothers and sisters say, “There’s always room for one more!” A family is only as good as its best member, and is as bad as its worst member. A parish family is no different. Are we not up to snuff? Not quality people enough for you? Come! Make us better! That’s a huge part of belonging to the body of Christ—we are a group of broken, messed-up people who God makes better, and who make each other better. We could use your help.
5: Sunday Is The Only Day I Can Sleep In
Most parishes have Mass times conducive to sleeping in. At my parish we have three: Saturday 5:00 p.m., Sunday 10:30 a.m., and if you really want to sleep, 12:30 p.m. You know as well as I do that if there’s something you really want to do—like go fishing, golfing, spend a day in the City, whatever—you’re going to drag your sorry, tired bottom out of bed on a Sunday to do it. (Here comes the Catholic, Italian, Mother guilt!) You can’t spare a little time for God who gives you everything, but you can get up for your soccer league? You can’t give God 45 minutes of the time that God gave you in the first place to say “Thanks”? Sure you can. And parishes make it easy with our copious Mass times.
6: Mass/Church Is Unrelatable To My Life
Yeah. No it’s not. Real Housewives Of New Jersey is unrelatable to your life. Gossip magazines and Candy Crush are unrelatable to your life. Mass is about who we actually are. We are reminded that we are children of God, brothers and sisters, and how we should be in relationship with one another. It’s belonging to a community that cares for one another, who share values. Mass—the prayers we pray together, the readings from Scripture, the quiet time with Jesus—puts us more in touch with who we are meant to be. We fail, we make mistakes, but Mass is where we are unconditionally loved by God, and invited into a deeper union with Him so that we can live more in a more fulfilled, loving way every day.
7: I Can Pray At Home/ I Am Spiritual
We are all “spiritual.” It’s how God made us. You sure can pray at home! And you should! But, if you are a Christian, that is not enough. Jesus set his followers up to pray together, to be in community together, to go out to preach the Gospel together. He said, “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” (Mt 18: 20) This means that God (who, as a Trinity is Community) is more fully present to us when we worship with other people. And, Jesus gave us, with his own example, what that prayer should be. The Catholic Church has been doing Mass the same way since the 1st Century. Jesus taught the Apostles how, and we continue it.
8: Having To Go To Church Is A Man-Made Rule
I’m not sure where this idea came from. I’m guessing from people who have never read the Bible. The second chapter of the first book of the Bible says that we are supposed to keep the Sabbath because God modeled it for us—not because He needed it, but because He knows that we do. In Exodus and Deuteronomy we have the Ten Commandments listed for us, which, number three is “keep holy the Sabbath.” Then, we have Jesus at the Last Supper saying, “Do this in memory of me” (Lk 22: 19) and every time he meets someone after the Resurrection, they recognize him in “the breaking of the bread.” The Apostles, from the first days of the Resurrection set Sunday aside for Eucharist. It never wasn’t a part of who we are. Do you know that some groups Atheists are now having weekly meetings for community and some sort of ritual? It’s innate!!! We are hard-wired for community, prayer and God; and Mass is how Catholics do.
9: I’m Excommunicated
No you aren’t. I’m pretty sure you’re not. Did a Bishop tell you, you are? Okay, you’re not. If you were married in the Catholic Church and divorced, you are not excommunicated. If you are those things and got re-married without an annulment (or in your first marriage but not married in the Church), you are not in full communion, but you are not excommunicated. Or maybe you’ve been away or have some other problem—you are probably not in full communion. Not in full communion means that you are more than welcome to be part of our community, you can come to Mass and pray with us, you can be a part of things. But, you can’t receive Communion. Sometimes it’s just a matter of going to Confession. If you want to get some info on how to get back into full communion, call your local parish to find out what needs to be done. Trust me--they’d LOVE to help you!!!!
10: If I Walk Into A Church The Roof Will Fall Down On My Head
No it won’t. That has never happened, and far worse people than yourself have stepped through those doors! It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been away from Church. God wants you back. We want you back. Come home. There really is nothing that should prevent you from feeling welcome and loved here. Come home.
Bonus Reason: I’m Not Catholic
So what? That’s an easy one! Call your local parish and they’ll help you fix that.