Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A Catholic Evangelical Church?

One of the largest mega-churches in the US is Willow Creek, outside of Chicago. Apparently one Catholic priest was frustrated by the number of parishoners who were leaving the Catholic Church to go attend Willow Creek. His response was...

a) Do a better job teaching the truths of the Catholic Church, or
b) Helping foster a deeper devotion to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, or
c) Do a better job of entertaining the people

Of course, he chose C and has seen church attendance soar. People love his "rivetting sermons" and got "hooked on the music". Now, of course, there is nothing wrong with a riveting sermon or entertaining music. However, the focus on "entertainment" in American Christianity, in my opinion, is a great tradegy and speaks volumes about our modern society.

As a Catholic parish, the focus of the mass should be on the Eucharist, not the sermon or music. Any Catholic Church that does not live by this is FAILING at its mission.

We are a Playstation generation that wants the flashing lights and blaring sound during our worship of God. We don't like liturgy, we don't like silence, we don't like contemplative prayer. It's harder for us to "feel God" As a result, we are a people of cotton candy faith, focused on "feel good" experiences.

Now, this analysis is a bit extreme, because there are many, many wonderful faithful evangelicals who love the Lord, serve Him faithfully, and who are fed spiritually by these mega-churches. Many of my friends fall into this category. However, I still believe that the time is approaching when people will get bored with the latest versions of these mega-churches and will begin looking for the next great thing. It's like Christmas gifts with kids...at first you are really excited, but after a while you get bored and look for something new to play with. How far can these churches go to entertain people? How far should they go? Have they gone too far already?

Instead, we need to work on CHANGING THE PEOPLE, helping them understand the deep beauty and wisdom that is the liturgy and the sacraments. Teaching them the ancient and sacred theology and tradition of the Church. It is what people are truly longing for. It will draw them closer to Christ than a rock concert.

Despite what these people say in the article, this evangelical church model ISN'T the future of the Catholic Church...the future of the Catholic Church will be in continually recovering its past, its liturgy, its sacraments, its music and art, and its ancient theology. Not in making it louder, bigger, more entertaining and more fun.

Here is the intro to this article in the Chicago Tribune:

On Easter Sunday, two huge video screens will project praise hymns in this Catholic church as the rock 'n' roll choir leads the celebration of Jesus' resurrection. The priest will consecrate the Eucharist from a lowered altar that brings him closer to his people. Flowering dogwood branches will encircle the church's baptismal font, now an immersion pool in the center aisle surrounded by four gurgling fountains.

Holy Family Catholic Parish Community in Inverness is marking its own rebirth this weekend, opening a $1.4 million renovated sanctuary to its 12,000 parishioners that embraces many elements of the Protestant evangelical movement.

The changes might seem unusual to old-school Catholics. They have raised eyebrows among more orthodox leaders in the archdiocese. But the pastor and parishioners say they are carving the model for the future American Catholic Church.

In contrast to many other Catholic churches where attendance has dropped, Holy Family Parish is booming, even winning back Catholics who were attending Willow Creek, the nondenominational megachurch 3 miles away. Holy Family, with more than 3,700 families, is one of the largest congregations in the archdiocese.

The secret to the 22-year-old church's success has been replicating what growing churches are doing, but in a Catholic way. The result is an innovative congregation that bills itself as "an evangelical church in the Roman Catholic tradition."


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