Parish shopping

Parish shopping

Miss Kelly, a Catholic revert, has just started Mass-hopping, that is going from parish to parish to find one she likes. This is a relatively new phenomenon and something that would have been downright forbidden a few decades ago.

In the old days, you went to your geographic parish. Period. If the pastor of another parish caught you parish-hopping, he would send you packing back to your own parish. There was a valid point. Catholicism is not an individualistic faith. We come to worship God as a family, in a Body, and the basic unit of that family is the parish. The parish forms bonds of communion that go beyond Mass to caring for each other. It used to be common—and God willing, it still is in places—that everyone looked out for one another in a parish. If one man lost his job, there would be casseroles in the freezer the next day and outstanding bills would mysteriously find themselves taken care of. There was no going to welfare, no institutionalized Catholic charitable agency. The family took care of it.

But times changed. For one thing, we became a lot more mobile. Where before we walked to the parish that was close by, in the Boston archdiocese, we can now drive a half hour and find a half dozen or more parishes, even in the most rural outposts. And as younger folks who never knew those old parish loyalties begin to seek out more orthodox and traditional worship against the bizarre post-Vatican II practices that have taken hold, they have begun to Mass-hop.

I can hardly blame Miss Kelly as she describes the banality and lack of transcendence she finds at her local parishes. It’s not that her demands are all that onerous. In fact, they’re quite modest.

I’m not looking the Latin Mass, but I am looking for a Mass which transends the normal, secular, day-to-day experience.  I’m looking for a worship service that is conducive to prayer and reflection. I’m looking for “bells and smells,” the traditions and sensory experiences that transport one to a contemplative, spiritual place.  I’m looking to be part of church community which respects the Mass.

Incidentally, I’m not so sure that Catholics have been dispensed from their obligation to support their local parish, but I’ll leave that to the canon lawyers to sort out.

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli