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Warming up the lukewarm…

I was recently on Facebook (who am I kidding… I’m ALWAYS on Facebook!) and reading a stream of comments on a friend’s wall.  These were Catholic women who were discussing their frustrations with what they were hearing from the pulpit.  They both admitted (within the thread and in previous comments) that they personally take issue with many of the Church’s teachings, so this particular thread caught my attention.  I know there are many “lukewarm Catholics” out there, and I do think it’s important to understand their frustrations and to lead them and guide them to a greater understanding of the faith we hold dear to our hearts.

This particular discussion was about comments (the actual topic doesn’t really matter) they were hearing during homilies at Mass that were bothersome to these ladies.  They wanted to approach the priest or deacon on what they were hearing.  One of the comments on this thread that popped up was this:

“…just politely state that as a practicing Catholic, one of the most important tenets is the concept of free will and the advocacy of that and that we are all responsible for our own actions and sins, but that making political statements in church brought up messy choices and concepts that aren’t simply chosen in an either or format. And that by becoming too political they risk being investigated by the IRS.”

… this comment was then applauded back and forth on the thread and “liked” by others, so clearly it resonates with those who struggle with some aspect of the faith.

But WHY?

I think the first part of her statement isn’t too bad… “as a practicing Catholic, one of the most important tenets is the concept of free will and the advocacy of that and that we are all responsible for our own actions and sins” – there’s a lot to be said for this statement.  Sometimes it rings in my ears as a cop-out statement, as if their moral compasses are individually defined.  But, if they truly believe what they’re saying – I can appreciate the onus of responsibility for one’s own actions.

But the rest of her statement gives me a lot to chew on.  I know that drawing the line between politics and religion is difficult, without a doubt.  We should not be discussing politics for the sake of politics on the pulpit.  As Catholics, we’re thrown into the realm of choosing the lesser of two evils in many cases and weighing the scales between the political parties is challenging.  This doesn’t mean we cannot address many of these moral teachings of the faith at Mass.

This may be difficult for many parishioners to understand since many homilies over the recent decades have thrown rainbows and butterflies into the clouds, and we’ve come out rather disillusioned as to what a hard-hitting evaluation of moral theology should truly look like.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to homilies that “challenge” me to “really think and ponder how this reading affects my life”… and… I leave more uninspired than ever.  At least this has been the case at my parish… not all, I’m sure –  but it’s definitely a problem that the church needs to address at large.

A recent article at National Catholic Register explores the results of a survey for why Catholics leave the church, and the results are quite interesting… “A second major concern that can and should be addressed is that of bad preaching. Again and again, people said that they left the Church because homilies were “boring, irrelevant, poorly prepared”“.  People are actually leaving the church for this very reason.  Not just becoming lukewarm about the faith, but actually LEAVING!

This tells me people CRAVE insightful teachings.  They want to be challenged and taught and be given answers to daily, practical questions.  As the Facebook conversation said, “that making [these] statements in church brought up messy choices and concepts that aren’t simply chosen in an either or format” shoots right to the core that the “messy choices and concepts” aren’t being addressed and taught to the parishioners– so OF COURSE people are left to feel like these aren’t black and white issues of morality.  Sure, many modern moral issues ARE difficult, but they certainly aren’t grey.  Morality is clear, but most don’t have that understanding because it’s not being TAUGHT.

So, I do have to hand it to these ladies for at least going to Mass and continuing to explore their faith.  And I certainly can’t entirely blame priests and deacons for not preaching strongly across the board.  Now that these issues are coming to the forefront of today’s politics with the HHS mandate the clergy is starting to be more aware – and we’re going to start hearing more of these types of rants from our lukewarm friends.  We walk a very fine line in how we address these discussions… we certainly don’t want to push them further away from the church by taking the rhetoric to extremist levels – as much as we might desire to!  Still, we must do our part (as lay men and women) to address the basic truths of our faith in order to lay a strong moral foundation in the hearts of  all Catholics… especially the lukewarm.

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About Emily

Emily is a cradle Catholic, wife of over 12 years to her hilarious husband, and a mother of 4 kids. Emily loves all things Catholic and stays busy volunteering at her children's Catholic School and parish. She also works full time as an Electrical Design Engineer.

  • Erin H - Thank you, Emily. I am incredibly frustrated by folks who consider themselves Catholic, but insist on picking and choosing which parts of the faith they want to follow. Honestly, I think this is the biggest problem our church faces (at least in America.) If I am to look at the positive of the HHS mandate (while praying and working toward getting it overturned absolutely), it is that it is forcing our leadership to talk about these issues that have been all but ignored (in the U.S.). When all is said and done, we may be a smaller church, but we will be a stronger church. Our church is black and white and that is what I love about it.April 23, 2012 – 9:20 amReplyCancel

  • Cephas - I will take issue with the first part of the statement as well: “one of the most important tenets is the concept of free will and the advocacy of that and that we are all responsible for our own actions and sins”

    Yes, Catholics treat free will as a given, and encourage, but as one of the most important tenets? How about our call to conversion and redemption? More than being ultimately responsible to the point of suffering the consequences, we’re called to unburden our sins on the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and to be set free in him.April 23, 2012 – 9:38 amReplyCancel

  • Martina - I don’t think free will is out of the realm of possibility of being *one of most important tenets* – after all, without free will, our love and adherence to God is not free, total, faithful and fruitful.

    I think the quote is designed to take the original author’s position {which is clearly in opposition to the Church} and use it to say, yes, we agree that free will is an integral part of our Faith; however, where I think Emily parts ways, is that those who have a solid understanding of the Faith, know better than to abuse the gift of free will to do anything other than what God calls us to do.

    Free will and the exercise to use it must be in accord with God’s plan, particularly when our conscience is formed in accordance with what the Church teaches.

    So…I would definitely say free will is one of the most important tenets of the Faith. I can agree with the original author on that – though, I do not agree with her reasoning for stating that. 🙂April 23, 2012 – 11:20 amReplyCancel

  • Emily - Thanks for everyone’s comments regarding that “free will” comment. I had hoped my comments following that had more fully explained my thoughts
    (to recount, I wrote: Sometimes it rings in my ears as a cop-out statement, as if their moral compasses are individually defined. But, if they truly believe what they’re saying – I can appreciate the onus of responsibility for one’s own actions.)April 23, 2012 – 12:35 pmReplyCancel

  • Courtney - As a lapsed Catholic/former Protestant/returning Catholic, I can tell you that the homilies leave A LOT to be desired. I love the Church, but Oy… Some priests need to go incognito to a Protestant sermon to see how it’s done. That’s the only thing I miss about my former church.April 23, 2012 – 4:50 pmReplyCancel

  • diana hall - Well written and well said. Good comments by all, too. I grew up a hundred years ago with the old Baltimore Catechism teachings and after attending Mass for the past 52 years continue to fall in love with my Church, The Trinity and my Faith…. and people will always find excuses to “cop out” and fall away.

    I was taught that we go to Mass for the Glory of God and to be fed by His Body and Blood and we are to take away from this Holy Meal and inspiration of the homilies and use them; and as it says at the end of Mass, “go forth in Peace to Love and serve the Lord” and before all the new changes it said “to serve the Lord and each other.”

    I think that about covers it…. and for those who are lukewarm we pray….. true faith is tested every day…. we don’t just attend Mass to get…. we must bring something more to that Altar Table than our own great expectations.

    For in giving,,,,we receive,,,,,and in this “me oriented” culture it is very difficult to “die to one’s self”. But that is what true faith is….

    We have set through many a dull and nodding homily ….. but again, “It’s not always about you!” As a kid of the 60’s with that famous Catholic POTUS…. I remember that fantastic question… “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” The words ‘country’ can be replaced with many, many others….Church, Family, World, Community,,,,,God.

    Peace & HopeApril 23, 2012 – 8:02 pmReplyCancel

  • Alicia - I cannot even agree with the beginning line of the statement, “as a practicing Catholic, one of the most important tenets is the concept of free will and the advocacy of that and that we are all responsible for our own actions and sins” because, as Catholics, we believe that a person’s sins affect not only that person, but all of us. We are not just responsible for our sins in the sense that we can do whatever we want and, if we go to Hell, oh well. Our sins, whatever they are, hurt other people- our families, our neighbors, and even starving children in Africa… we really need to raise awareness among fellow Catholics, but how?

    On a side note about Priests not informing parishioners about our Faith, I have a cousin who has a daughter baptised in her local Catholic church even though she NEVER attends.. then I found out that the God parents are not even Catholic… what are the Priests doing?? How can we change this?April 24, 2012 – 6:49 pmReplyCancel

  • Mary Katherine - Each person has had really good comments. I have to say that Diana says it best, we are there to receive the body & blood of Christ.(that is what sets us apart from protestant churches) As for the Homily, I am drawn to Priest that are outspoken about the truths of morality and Church teachings. I am there to receive Christ and to hear what I NEED to hear, NOT what I WANT to hear.April 24, 2012 – 11:22 pmReplyCancel

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