Poor catechesis alone is often blamed for the lack of Mass attendance among the younger Catholic generations. It is often assumed that poor textbooks and poor teacher preparation alone were the source of poor catechesis.
However, the post-Vatican II generations were taught not to attend daily Mass when pastors, pressured by Catholic educators and some parents, ceased to encourage daily Mass attendance by Catholic school children, and the Catholic K-12 school day was no longer scheduled to begin with a weekday morning Mass as an option for the students and parents.
This unfortunate de-emphasis on daily Mass attendance by the young extended even to Catholic minor seminaries, the theory among formations faculty being that a weekly Mass that was a creative liturgical production with lots of participation would do just as well. This de-emphasis on daily Mass was such a success that minor seminaries declined in their sending men along for further seminary study and were eventually closed.
But daily liturgy, with its seasonal flow of daily Scriptural readings, is one of the greatest instructors in the faith. The senior citizens attending daily Mass today, where still available, were the Catholic school children of 50 years ago who attended daily Mass.
The greatest threats to the faith in the United States are not atheism or libertarianism, but distraction, hedonism, and simple conflict of commitments. Weekend entertainments and sports schedules prevent families from attending Sunday Mass together. This change in priorities is a result of the de-emphasis on the centrality of the Liturgy in the daily life of the Catholic. The Church got out of its educational system the priority of values, in this case a de-emphasis on the Liturgy, what the Church put into it.
A Catholic K-12 school that does not begin its day with highly-encouraged optional daily Mass denies its students and families not only a deeper knowledge of Scripture, but a deeper encounter with the Lord. Improved textbooks and teacher preparation cannot make up for this. The Liturgy remains the greatest teacher of the faith, and the greatest link to social justice. Public engagement by Catholics not grounded in the Liturgy will in the end fail to remain Catholic social justice.
The de-emphasis on daily Mass for Catholic school children and their families is right up there with the increase in alcohol consumption by the clergy as one of the most damaging unintended post-Vatican II cultural changes that really had nothing to do with, and even contradicted, the teachings of Vatican II. It’s time to refocus on the daily Liturgy and its readings in those Catholic K-12 schools that still remain.
© Copyright 2015, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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