Last weekend was an oddity in Austin, TX… an overcast and rainy blip in an extended season of drought.
As I got my family moving for Sunday mass, an email came in on my phone stating that the power was out in the religious education building and, thus, there would be no Sunday school for the kids.
We pulled up to the church, noticing that the long line of cars that typically back up to turn into the parking lot were missing. There was very little movement in the parking lot, as only a fraction of the normal number of cars were still leaving from the previous mass, or arriving for the next one.
Michelle and I looked at each other in disbelief. Checking our watches to make sure we were on time, we wondered aloud, “where is everyone?”
As we walked into the church, we came across the Director of Religious Education. She made sure we got the email that class had been cancelled and we asked her if the earlier masses had been so empty. “Yes,” she said, “when people got the email that power was out in the RE building, at least half a dozen emailed back or called to ask ‘does that mean church is cancelled too?’”
“I guess the rest of the folks just assumed it had been cancelled or decided not to get out in the rain,” she added.
It’s hard for me to put myself in the mindset that says, “oh, well, it’s raining outside, I think we’ll stay home today.” I don’t put that forward as some kind of holier-than-thou statement of condemnation against those who didn’t make it to mass that morning or decided to attend another mass.
What it does remind me of, however, is how spoiled we are as the American Catholic Church. We want the freedom to worship but, just as much, we want the freedom to choose not to worship when it fails to fit our schedule or expectations. We so often look at the expression of our faith as a convenient add on, an extracurricular that flows from free time on our schedule, rather than pure devotion to the gospel and presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Trust me, I use the inclusive “we” here, as I will do anything but cast the first stone.
On the other side of this coin, every week I read more articles about whole churches being brutally attacked in Egypt, China and various places throughout the world. For many living in the 21st Century Church, the decision to wake up, go to Mass and receive the body of Christ is not a decision of convenience, but a decision of life and death. I get it… that’s there, and we’re here. I don’t hope to ever know that kind of persecution but I wonder, in these words, if knowing just a bit of adversity could set the American Church on fire for Christ again.
Over the past three weeks, we’ve seen a small but dedicated group of Americans take to the street for the various “occupy” events. I can’t say I entirely agree with their message but, is it wrong that I covet their passion?
If only we American Catholics cared enough about something to get so riled up. If only we stepped out to share the joy, hope and love of the Gospel. If only we weren’t so comfortable.