A Twentysomething is in Your Parish

A Twentysomething is in Your Parish

A twentysomething Catholic sits in the pews at St. Mary Immaculate week after week. Have you noticed them? They are typically inconspicuous, unassuming, and keep to themselves. They sit alone, often surrounded by empty pew space on all sides. The single twentysomething Catholic is a rare breed.

I would say more has been written about this generation leaving the Church than almost anything else in the Church outside of the abuse scandals, and rightfully so. However, I’m told the number of twentysomething Catholics is low, and we need to get them back! The problem is low attendance. Right?

What’s the Problem

While there is a problem with low Mass attendance from the twentysomethings, Mass-goers and Catholics need to focus on what we can control. Namely, how we interact with the current twentysomethings who attend Mass, and how current young adults experience the parish life. There are many articles out there about why young adults have left the Church in droves, and the countless cultural problems that come into play. But we have twentysomethings sitting in our pews! The twentysomething in your parish is the person Jesus wants us to encounter. While a problem is the lack of numbers, the real problem is the isolation twentysomethings experience from the rest of the parish.

Isolation at Mass

This isolation manifests itself very directly in how a twentysomething experiences the parish on Sundays. Now, Mass is about encountering Jesus in the Eucharist, and that should be the reason for attending. However, everyone sits in a church full of people who are told to spread the Gospel to each other. Twentysomethings usually sit alone, but they encounter less than a dozen people on a typical Sunday. Two people may hand you a songsheet, three to six people shake your hand at the sign of peace, and you shake the priest’s hand on the way out.

How are handshakes and mumbling “Peace,” a genuine encounter? This isn’t a comment on being welcoming, either. You could have the most welcoming parish in the world, and still only interact with less than a dozen people. As you encounter Christ in the Eucharist and are told, “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord,” do we start with the strangers we’re sitting next to?

What Do We Do?

Well, start with the people sitting next to you! Unless they are intensely praying, strike up a conversation on the way out of church. Introduce yourself! The studies show over and over twentysomethings are looking for authentic friendships, but both sides don’t make the effort. Building friendships with people in your parish is hard, but everyone needs friends, especially friends who are on the same spiritual journey.

If you’re a twentysomething who has agreed with something in this post, you must make an effort too. What bothers me more than anything is people who refuse to engage in small talk, because they aren’t comfortable with small talk, claim to be too introverted to carry on conversations, or want authentic relationships but don’t want to put in the work to build them. To you twentysomethings who have used these excuses…stop it! You will never encounter Christ in someone else with these excuses.

But, if you see a twentysomething, reach out, and try to make a friend! Even if you are in different states of life, try to make a friend. You shouldn’t travel the Catholic path alone. Iron sharpens iron and we need good Catholic relationships for us to continue to grow and motivate us to grow our relationships with Christ. And if you’re older and see a twentysomething in Mass, remember you are looking at an endangered species. Be a friend, and encounter Christ in the Catholic twentysomething.

Back to SMI Blog

Putting the Extra in Extraordinary Ministers

When training Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (oftentimes referred to as EMs for short), there’s an old joke that any leader will tell the new ministers. It goes something along the lines of, “You may be an extraordinary person, but that’s not why you will be called an extraordinary minister.” The joke usually gets a chuckle, but points to a truth about being an Extraordinary Minister. While all of the EMs at St. Mary Immaculate are extraordinary people (we can personally vouch for them), the point is the title of Extraordinary Minister puts the emphasis on the circumstance of the minister, not the minster per se.

Ordinary Ministers

While there are Extraordinary Ministers, one must understand there are also Ordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. These are bishops, priests, and deacons, who have been ordained by God, to be the ordinary ministers. Back before the Second Vatican Council, the Ordinary Ministers were the only ones who could be in the sanctuary, let alone distribute Communion.

Since the council, the laity has the opportunity (when pastorally acceptable) to distribute Communion, as Extraordinary Ministers. Now, pastorally acceptable has a broad definition, but for the purposes of St. Mary Immaculate, we have Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion because the number of Mass-goers warrants it. Communion takes a long time as it is, even with the number of ministers we have from Mass to Mass.

When Do We Need Extraordinary Ministers?

But think about the purposes of having Extraordinary Ministers for other circumstances. The bishops tell us about these roles here, but there are extreme cases to need these ministers too. Certain parts of the world have an extremely small number of priests. Priests will often go to missionary lands to be able to cover large areas that the local priests can’t cover. They need help at Mass because like at St. Mary’s, Communion would take an extremely long time if left to one man. To be able to distribute Communion, they must delegate that to lay people.

And closer to home, the need to take Communion to the home bound is great. This includes taking Communion to the elderly in nursing homes and hospitals. While we have 3 priests on staff (a blessing for a parish our size), we need a large number of ministers who can take Communion to those who cannot attend Mass on Sunday due to illness or the inability to get to Mass. If we were to just have Ordinary Ministers, our priests would never sleep!

Why Extra?

So while it may appear Extraordinary Ministers are just extra, the Church sees the need in having faithful lay people assist in distributing Communion. We need Extraordinary Ministers who are not simply “there to help” or “feel special distributing Communion.” Rather, we need Extraordinary Ministers dedicated to the reverence of the Eucharist, and feel called to serve the needs of those who wish to receive the Eucharist. The focus must be on Christ, not the minister. Handling our Lord is an extreme privilege, and ministers need to take their role seriously. Because while they are not Ordinary Ministers, they are participating in a task that is extraordinary.

Back to SMI Blog

Spiritual Change

With Daily Mass set to move to Cana Hall for the next few weeks, it can seem like a change of scenery is a hassle or is an unwelcome change from routines to which we’ve grown accustomed. Other times, we find ourselves excited for a mix-up from the monotony. Whatever the feeling, the secret to living well in life and in a parish is being able to adapt and accept change, particularly in the spiritual life.

In reality,  the only constant that exists is change (and God of course). Sadly, change can be the one thing we struggle with the most. In fact, most of us find it difficult to implement any change in our own lives because of the perceived backlash from those around us. Upsetting the balance I’ve delicately created could make people upset, is ultimately the thought that crushes us.

This happens frequently in the spiritual life. No matter how big or small the change, we are hesitant to upset the balance we’ve created. God wants to radically change us so that we can be close to Him. He calls us to this change constantly, yet we still falter. Why? Because comfort is comfortable. Sacrificing to live the life of Christ is not comfortable and requires massive changes. We see this in the Gospels, particularly as we enter Ordinary Time.

But, we have the Sacraments and we have the Mass. And most importantly, we have a community of believers that help and support us on our spiritual journey. The constant reality of a community of the faithful can help us immensely when times get difficult. So when change comes knocking, and it most definitely will, know Christ will guide us through it. The Carthusian Order’s motto is “the cross is steady, while the world is turning.” Let us strive to live this reality, that even as things change around us, we can rely on a Christ that does not change, and is steady, even as the world is not.

Back to SMI Blog

The Year of the Eucharist

On Sunday, June 23rd, the St. Mary Immaculate Parish Year of the Eucharist officially came to an end. Beginning last year on the Feast of Corpus Christi, St. Mary Immaculate dedicated the year to highlighting the Eucharist as the source and summit of our faith.

You may have seen the Summit sign hanging over the Commons doors and wondered about what happened in the way of the Year of the Eucharist. There were many events catered particularly to the year, even if you didn’t get a chance to attend. We’ll highlight a few big events over the last year, while touching on some of the other elements associated with the Year of the Eucharist.

Eucharistic Miracles Displays

The Eucharistic Miracles displays covered the entirety of the year, being exhibited in the gym after weekend Masses on several occasions. These exhibits highlighted Eucharistic miracles from all over the world. They were affirming to our yearly theme, but also appealed to those who had never heard of Eucharistic miracles before. It was a brief history lesson that helped us grow in our love for the Eucharist.

The 177 Project

Matt Faley from the 177 Project

This one night event featured a night of adoration and praise music. Led by Catholic singer-songwriters from the 177 Project, we had a praise and worship night with adoration. The night was focused solely around the Eucharist, and was an extremely prayerful and fun evening.

Bishop Barron’s The Mass Series

Bishop Barron’s The Mass series was studied twice throughout the latter half of the year. Led in part by Fr. John Regan and the Fishers of Men, The Mass series focused on teaching our families about what we experience when we attend Mass.

40 Hours Devotion

Leading up to the Immaculate Conception, the parish took part in a 40 Hour Devotion. The 40 Hours Devotion, ironically enough, was 33 consecutive hours of adoration, taking place in the Church. Many of the SMI ministries volunteered to sponsor hours of adoration, and was capped off by consecrating the parish to the Immaculate Conception on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It was such a joyful time of prayer, as everyone prayed for each other in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Fr. Pat Mulcahy consecrating the parish on the Immaculate Conception

At Mass

On a smaller level, you may have noticed little nods throughout the weekend Masses. During the petitions, the response for each petition was “Bread of Life, hear our prayer.” This was to remind ourselves that the Lord we pray to, is fully present in the Eucharist. After Communion, we prayed the Anima Christi, as a Communion meditation. The Anima Christi is such an important prayer because it highlights the reality of the Body of Christ.

Corpus Christi 2019

And lastly, we cannot forget the Corpus Christi processions. Last year’s Corpus Christi procession was different than previous years, when different cultural groups decorated altars for our Lord. The Spanish, Polish, and Filipino ministries did the same thing this year, but the Mass was also bilingual in English and Spanish.

In conclusion, the Year of the Eucharist was a great success! We wouldn’t have had such a great year if it wasn’t for the participation of the parishioners, staff, and clergy. And to have all of these events and more for the glory of Jesus in the Eucharist made this year that much sweeter. Stay tuned when later this year, we announce a new theme for 2020!

Back to SMI Blog

Why Do We Need Reconciliation?

Everyone gets sick at some point in their lives. This is a fact. And after we get sick, we need medicine to heal us. The same thing happens in the spiritual life. Sometimes we may ask ourselves, “Why do we need Reconciliation?” “Why do I need to tell a priest all of the things I did wrong?” Ultimately, we need reconciliation because we need to be healed spiritually.

Reconciliation

The Sacrament of Reconciliation, often called Confession, is essential in the life of the Church. As we know from what happens at baptism, we receive life-saving graces. However, these graces don’t completely fix us. We are still human and fail constantly to live up to the standard of the Christian life (CCC 1426).

Therefore, we constantly seek conversion. We must constantly turn ourselves away from sin and into the life of Christ. This extends beyond our baptism. St. Ambrose said of conversion that, “there are water and tears: the water of Baptism and the tears of repentance” (CCC 1429). Thankfully, the Church helps us continue to live a life of holiness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. By going to confession, we receive graces to help us avoid sin in the future on our journey.

Forgiveness

Oftentimes, we may wonder why we can’t just ask for forgiveness on our own. Because the forgiveness of sins brings reconciliation not only with God, but with the Church (CCC 1462). We must restore our relationship with God, but also with the Body of Christ, the Church. Pope Saint John Paul II says, “The forgiven penitent is reconciled with himself in his inmost being, where he regains his innermost truth. He is reconciled with his brethren whom he has in some way offended and wounded. He is reconciled with the Church. He is reconciled with all creation” (CCC 1469). After reconciliation to creation, we can participate in the life of the Church to its fullest.

We also ask ourselves, “Why do I need a priest to forgive me when God will forgive me if I ask for it in prayer or out of pure contrition?” Because the priest is acting in as the person of Christ through the sacrament of Holy Orders. “The confessor is not the master of God’s forgiveness, but its servant” (CCC 1466). Jesus gave his apostles the ability to heal and forgive sins in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Through apostolic succession, priests become the instruments of forgiveness and spiritual healing (CCC 1465). It can seem embarrassing to confess your sins to a priest, but under the sacramental seal of confession, the priest cannot under any circumstance reveal your sins (CCC 1467).

Conclusion

So, once we have confessed, received absolution, and completed our penance, we have right relationship with God and the Church, receive the forgiveness of all of our sins, and have spiritual healing. God wants us to be spiritually healthy and to be close to Him, so it is good to go to confession regularly. Check out a list of Confession times at St. Mary Immaculate, and know that God wants you to be in relationship with you, and that He loves you.

Back to SMI Blog

What Happens at Baptism?

Baptism is the basis to Christian life, because it is the gateway into the life of the Holy Spirit (CCC 1213). When I was younger, if I came into Mass and there was Holy Water set up in the front, dread swept over me. Mass will be longer! No!!! But, this stance was silly, because I didn’t fully understand what was happening. So, what happens at baptism? Big picture: the baptized receive graces that carry on with them for the rest of their lives.

This article won’t touch on the specifics of getting a child baptized, but will explain what is happening spiritually. To see what the process is to get a child baptized, check out our Baptism page. There you can find a step by step on how to get a child baptized at St. Mary Immaculate.

What is Grace?

Whenever we receive any of the sacraments, we receive grace. Grace is the free gift of God’s love inviting us into deeper relationship with him. Participating in the life of God, helps us grow closer to God, and gives us strength to do so (CCC 1997). The best thing about grace, is that it’s a gift! We don’t necessarily do anything to deserve this grace, but God gives it to us willingly because He loves us. So, the big answer to what happens at baptism, is an outpouring of grace. But what are those graces?

Freedom from Sin

Did you know that the rite of baptism actually contains a minor rite of exorcism? They ain’t messing around! Because, while we have personal sin, the fall of Adam and Eve means we’re also born with original sin. So, the deacon or priest busts out the Sacred Chrism so the candidate can renounce Satan (CCC 1237). With all of your sins forgiven, you have access to the rewards of eternal life.

Rebirth

For a baptism to be valid, it needs to be done with water. Why? The word baptism is actually Greek for the word plunge or immerse. We “plunge” into Christ’s death and resurrection by submerging in the water of life and rise again as a “new creature” (CCC 1214). So, by baptism, you’re literally reborn into new life! Specifically, the new and improved you receives the grace of justification, which bestows on the newly baptized the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love, the ability to act under the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and the ability to grow in moral virtue (CCC 1266).

Member of Christ

1 Corinthians 12: 13 says, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” Which body? Christ’s of course! And the Church makes up the body of Christ. Baptism bonds Christians together as members of Christ, and constitutes the foundation of communion among all Christians (CCC 1271). However, those looking to become Catholic should contact their parish RCIA coordinator to figure out their stage of the process in the RCIA process. Because you only get baptized once!

Indelible Spiritual Mark

Lastly, by being incorporated into Christ, baptism leaves a mark on your soul that cannot be erased by any sin. This is why we can only be baptized once, because you only receive the seal of baptism once (CCC 1272). This mark allows us to be saved through baptism.

Conclusion

So as you can see, baptism is kind of a big deal. And if you show up to Mass and discover a baptism is happening during the Mass, don’t groan and get upset that Mass will be 10 minutes longer. Instead, celebrate, knowing the baby being baptized is receiving so much grace!

Back to SMI Blog

The First SMI Blog Post of Many

Welcome to the first addition of the SMI Blog! St. Mary Immaculate Parish is always looking to provide our parishioners with great resources and content to help them on their spiritual journey.

Admittedly, this is going to be more difficult of a task than previously expected. It seems as if we drown ourselves in information; infiltrated everyday with a barrage of news and media. Why add to it? Haven’t we had enough?

In some sense, yes. Oftentimes, we catch ourselves reading a blog or article and think, “What does this have to do with me?” or “Why do I need to know about this?” Maybe for you, this is that moment!

But this blog hopes to provide parishioners with a look at the life of the parish. So many conversations, stories, life events, and prayers happen here every day. We will provide information that may not be readily explained and can often be taken for granted. And furthermore, we hope to provide you with some knowledge about the Catholic faith.

This will not be a place of spiritual reflection. Visit Fr. Pat’s blog for more on this. The SMI Blog will aid the spirituality of living life in a parish. It will touch on more practicalities of living one’s faith.

Ultimately, this is where the story of St. Mary Immaculate can unfold.

Back to SMI Blog