Up Front and Personal

Returning to the Pews: Top 5 Reasons

By Sister Nora Gatto, DC

Would you bring your children to soccer practice but skip the big game on Saturday? Would you text your friends all throughout the week but not show up to share a meal with them? Would you promise a dear friend who falls ill that you’re praying for them but then not visit them in person when you had the chance? Why then do we think that we really don’t need to be together in person for Mass on Sunday?

I remember the exact spot in our church where I was standing when we realized that the Mass that had just concluded would be the last Mass before the COVID-forced shutdown. I said to those around me “We have taken this for granted.”

Do you remember how you felt when you saw the posted signs on our locked church doors that said: “Closed by order of the government”? I do.

Hopefully, this is behind us now and our churches will remain open, welcoming us back. But something is still not quite right. Too many of our parishioners are missing. So, here are my top five reasons to return to the pews:

5. Coming to Mass is not just for us as individuals but for all of us as a community of believers. We support one another in prayer and come to Mass as who we are and with what we have to share. We care about each other. Just notice how quiet we get when, during the Prayer of the Faithful, we hear the names of the ill and recently deceased.

4. Coming to Mass is for us as individuals too, for our souls to be nourished by word and sacrament. We’ll hear some of the best homilies that I have ever heard in my 45 years as a Daughter of Charity living in many different parishes throughout the country. So, no excuse here.

3. We really need you and we miss you. Consider being a lector, eucharistic minister, greeter, usher, member of the choir, or any of the many other opportunities to get involved, like the St. Vincent de Paul Outreach group. The more we are involved, the more connected we feel when we come on Sunday.

2. Every Sunday is the big game — the celebration of our faith and the fruit of our prayer throughout the week, just like our kids who practice soccer all week to prepare for the big game on Saturday. We come together on Sundays to celebrate the Mass together as the Best Versions of who we can be. It’s not enough to be spiritual if we are not also religious. David Brooks, in his book entitled “The Second Mountain,” explains this when he says, “Spiritual people may experience transcendence, but understand that for most people spirituality lasts and deepens only if it is lived out within that maddening community called organized religion. Spirituality is an emotion.

Religion is an obligation. Spirituality soothes. Religion mobilizes. Spirituality is satisfied with itself. Religion is dissatisfied with the world.” Brooks goes on to say, “the most complete definition of a commitment is this: falling in love with something and then building a structure of behavior around it for those moments when love falters.”

1. Because we need to receive Jesus in the Eucharist in order for our souls to be nourished, and unless we are ill and unable to come to church (in which case Eucharistic ministers can come to our homes) we need to be in the pews in order to partake of the Bread and Wine, the Body and Blood of Jesus.

See you on Sunday!

Sister Nora Gatto is the pastoral associate at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Parish, Bayside.