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Losing my religion…

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Oh, no I’ve said too much. I haven’t said enough…

I almost walked out of Mass in the middle last night. Seriously. And I was not in my own parish so don’t try to figure out where I was. But it doesn’t really matter where I was because, from what I can tell, what I experienced yesterday is a universal problem, as in Universal Church.

It wasn’t that the priest was preaching heresy, which also isn’t unheard of in my church-going experience, unfortunately, or that any one thing outraged me to the point where I felt I just couldn’t remain. It was the overwhelming, long-building, near-constant feeling that my Church really doesn’t care enough to try to feed me spiritually, that the Church is daring Catholics to leave. As in, let’s see if they’ll sit through THIS. Quite frankly, these parishes don’t deserve any of us.

One of the reasons I cried while reading Pope Francis’ stunning and inspiring interview with America magazine last week was because I have been starving for what he’s calling the Church to be. I have been desperate for a shepherd, for someone who wants to meet me in my darkness and walk with me spiritually, for someone who gets up there and tries to meet people where they are – in the real world, struggling with real problems, in a way that actually has some meaning in their lives. That maybe the music lifts us up instead of leaving us shaking our heads. That something, anything, give off even the faintest whiff of meaningful spirituality.

You get a Gospel like we had this Sunday – “No one can serve two masters…You cannot serve both God and money.” – and you choose to drone on for 20 minutes about temperance and prudence and fortitude and justice in a disjointed, monotone, utterly incomprehensible way? I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to do better than that. I look around and see the blank stares, the fidgeting, the eye-rolling (at least in my pew), and it depresses me. It’s not that people are unwilling to listen or that they don’t want to be there. They’re in the church on a beautiful fall Saturday afternoon or early on a Sunday morning. Obviously they want SOMETHING, but it’s not this. I can assure you.

I walked out of Mass last night and looked at Dennis and said, “I can’t do this anymore.” Meaning, I cannot put up with parishes that do not even attempt to lead spiritually, that do not care what their people need, only, it seems, what might take the least amount of effort, like using an old canned homily (and, yes, we can tell). The path of least resistance. Well, I say it’s about time we start putting up some resistance.

I think every Catholic who is sitting in church week after week wondering, Why? Why? WHY? should not put another thin dime in the collection basket, should not volunteer one more minute of their precious time, should walk out every single time they are insulted by or condescended to or lied to by someone on the altar until something starts to change, until Pope Francis’ challenge begins to take shape before our eyes, not just in beautiful words spoken by a courageous man.

I’m talking about a revolution. But it’s not going to happen unless we care enough to take the dare and get up and walk out until they can do better. It took a while, but I’m ready.

UPDATED: Part II of this conversation can be found here: Words Matter. The Word Matters. Especially at Mass.

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  1. Lucy Restivo #

    I hear what you’re saying. For me however I go for the Eucharist and the community of fellow believers. If I’m not satisfied with the sermon that day, I’ll go to the Internet — there are plenty of amazing sermons posted. You seek The Lord with your whole heart and you find Him.

    September 22, 2013
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Thanks for your comment, Lucy! Unfortunately, where I am there is also no sense of community. It’s a sad situation, really. And I always come back to the same thought, “To whom shall I go?” And so I hope and pray and wait. I love my faith too much to sit by silently, so I thought putting this out there might get people talking and maybe start even the smallest change in the right direction. I certainly love the spiritual community here on NSS, so thanks for joining us!
      Peace,
      Mary

      September 22, 2013
      • Praying for you today!

        I traveled a bit. In other countries, I always felt at home in my Father’s house. I felt connected to the people around me, as I couldn’t elsewhere since I did not speak the language. Language was not a barrier in the Mass. I would have made the same comments everyone else has about the Eucharist until relatively recently.

        I felt completely disconnected from my community when I moved. It took two heartbreaking years before I found my home- though I attended Mass faithfully every Sunday. The disconnect was real and painful and unlike anything I had known. When you are going to Mass because you don’t want to break the rules, as I was, something is terribly wrong.

        When I desperately needed help, I asked for it at Church and finally found the community. The community was there all along. I had not known how to find my way in. I have no advice. But I’ll pray for you.

        September 23, 2013
      • Don #

        As you know, Pope Francis is a Jesuit and a primary tenet of Ignatian Spirituality is to find God in all things. If I didn’t believe absolutely that Jesus is present in the Eucharist, I wouldn’t be a Catholic because the liturgy of the word feeds me all too infrequently. However, the church is its people and it is in God’s people, where they are and in my interaction with them that I encounter a life-giving spirituality. I think that is what Pope Francis points to. So, don’t look in the tomb…He’s not there…He’s in the struggles and joys experienced by all of humanity. He is in all creation…be fed by these and not the words of someone who is using old sermons to deliver a message. Unless the message points to something real…it is useless.

        September 23, 2013
      • Lisa #

        While I understand your frustration, I wonder why, if “there is no sense of community,” you have gone to the internet instead of to the pastor and/or the pastoral council. Is there really no one at the parish that cares about the quality of worship? You mention volunteers, obviously those people have some investment in the parish. If the pastor and/or pastoral council won’t hear you out, I would suggest talking with various volunteers. It may be as simple as starting a liturgical catechesis or scripture study program, perhaps even in your home.

        In those instances when I am engaged in a liturgy lacking in spirit and a communal sense, I pray for the ministers and myself. I also remain encouraged by knowing that Christ is present in Word, Sacrament, and that I am present with the mystical Body of Christ.

        May God grant you strength and peace.

        September 23, 2013
    • wineinthewater #

      This is the point. But I’d go a step further and leave off the part about the community. Mass is where we encounter God Himself made really and truly and physically present in the Eucharist. Bad preaching, bad pastoring, bad music, bad people, all of these pale in the face of the miracle of the Real Presence.

      And that is the problem with the advice in this column. In the face of something spiritually challenging – and I often wonder if there is anything more spiritually challenging than other believers – Mary recommends depriving yourself of the surest and greatest access to God’s Grace in all of creation: the Eucharist.

      Certainly act. Do something. But do something fruitful, don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.

      September 23, 2013
  2. I have had the same disillusionment with the Episcopal church in which I grew up. In fact, in the past few years I have attended there only on holidays to accompany my father-in-law, who still loves the church.

    I, too, find myself drawn to Pope Francis — he speaks to my interpretation of Christ’s teachings.

    So far, I have been floundering — trying out different churches to see where I feel at home and spiritually nourished.

    September 22, 2013
  3. Michele B. #

    AMEN!! was thinking the same thing today even though we were blessed with a beautiful and insightful homily At Mass today. I keep wondering if our not really belonging anywhere should grow us closer to Jesus…but then my sadness for not having a faith filled community with which to share Jesus overwhelms me! It is so lonely! Jesus sent his disciples out two by two because he knew THEY couldn’t do it alone. How can we then be expected to do it alone?

    September 22, 2013
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Thanks for making me feel less alone! I know SO many people like us — people who are there week after week, people in the Catholic trenches — and they just can’t take much more. It’s so sad, and I think it’s particularly acute for those of us in this region. :-( We need change, and we need it now.

      September 22, 2013
      • Laurie Francis #

        I feel for you and with you. I have been there and many Sundays am there. I have found great support online and reaching out for enrichment from EWTN radio and television, and daily prayer.
        The Lord needs us who hunger for more to stay and to fight the good fight as St. Paul says. Hang in there, I will be praying for you.

        September 23, 2013
  4. Thank you thank you thank you for posting about what has been going on in my soul for the past couple of years. We wonder as a collective Church why the biggest Catholic Church is the evangelical church down the street and maybe, just maybe some of leaders ought to step in there on a Sunday morning and find out why they are drawing people in. Feed my sheep! We are not getting fed. It is so sad.

    September 22, 2013
  5. “I can’t do this anymore” are exactly the words I said to my husband Dan (an Episcopal priest and canon on a bishop’s staff) last week after being raked through an inane/insane vetting process before I could be allowed to give an (invited!!) keynote at a Roman Catholic conference. Actually, two of them. Heard through the back channel that my marriage to an Episcopal priest was “a red flag” as was my “ecumenical work.” WTF???

    You are not alone.

    I’ve long maintained that I’ve wanted to keep my membership for several reasons including but not limited to the fact that I take my sacraments seriously and I want to maintain/retain my role as “loyal opposition.” Don’t know how much longer I can or will.

    Pope Francis, especially what he had to say during the recently published interview, has given me great joy. Alas, at the local level it’s still pretty cray cray (as the kids say).

    As an adult convert and someone who has (for at least a while) been viewed as a Roman Catholic author, my current inability to tolerate much more is deeply painful. Truly, I’ve spent time crying — and not gentle weeping, either.

    My gallows humor regret: that I’m not high profile enough to get ex-communicated with anyone giving a rat’s ass!

    My joy: working with church leadership at the local and judicatory levels across denominations.

    September 22, 2013
    • Marie #

      Meredith, I am sorry that to keep that speaking opportunity you were put through a vetting process that seemed unjust and/or insensitive. I can imagine the feeling “I can’t help having an Episcopal husband” “Couldn’t you have done due diligence *before* deciding to invite me?” etc. It must have been an unpleasant experience for you. By way of encouragement, I’ll offer this: God does not allow us to suffer trials like that for no reason. Perhaps He saw that by you patiently enduring that and offering it up to Him, you would be more united to Jesus’ cross and thus more souls would be reached through your presentations than by just having the presentations go smoothly with no trial or suffering on your part. This is not to say that whoever put you through it necessarily acted rightly, but God sometimes allows others to treat us unjustly. And when He does, it’s not for no purpose, but to give us a chance to unite ourselves to Jesus who patiently endured the worst injustice ever perpetrated on the face of the earth.

      November 5, 2013
  6. Fred Krueger #

    I wish you well and I will be praying for you. I beg you though, don’t walk away from the Eucharist for a better homily.

    I feel the same way sometimes. I read the Holy Fathers interview yesterday and got tears I my eyes. His church is what I want to be part of. Sometimes it seems I am in some other church. I just have faith in those times that God knows what he’s doing. Maybe He’s telling you to do something to fix the problem.

    God bless you and your family!

    September 22, 2013
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Thank you for your prayers. I will tell you this: The only reason I did not walk out of that Mass at the homily was because of the Eucharist. It’s the only thing that kept me in that church.

      September 22, 2013
      • Joanne #

        Hi, Mary: It’s my first time reading your blog. I would imagine all Catholics can relate to your frustration and anger about homilies. And 20 minutes? imo, that’s a bit long, even if the quality were good. The Catholic Church in this day and age does an abysmal job at catechesis. My concern about priests’ giving long homilies is that some people may be misled into thinking that the centerpiece of Catholic worship is what the priest has to say.

        Catholic worship is about the Eucharist, of course. That’s really the only thing that *should* keep you or any of us in the Church. What point is there to being Catholic if we don’t believe in the Real Presence? We could certainly find better preaching elsewhere. We could in some cases find a warmer welcome from fellow worshipers, better music, better coffee, etc, at many non-Catholic churches, but we’d be missing out on the Eucharist, which means we’d be foregoing Christ. Thanks for your thoughts on this issue and God bless ~

        September 22, 2013
        • Janine #

          As a former devout charasmatic catholic, and now a devout believer/ follower of Jesus Christ and His finished work at the cross who attends a non _denomiantional homebased church, I have the One True Living God, His Holy Spirit
          dwelling in my heart (which I also had as a Catholic as well as you do), that is the Real Presence of Christ. Your statement about, “missing out on the Eucharist, would be foregoing Christ”, is not a complete understanding of being, ” In Christ”. If the Eucharist is the only way to Jesus, then the 11 disciples would not have been able to perform miracles in Jesus name, go out unto all Nations and spread the Good News, and withstand the persecution unto death: they did not have to go and receive the “Eucharist to experience Jesus Christ for His Presence”, the Holy Spirit, which is Jesus’s Spirit, dwelled in their hearts on the Feast of Pentecost. Jesus said to the disciples, before His death, ” I am the Vine and you are the branches, if you remain in me (follow Him) I will remain in you” (John 15:5) and in John 14:19-21 Jesus said, “on that day, you will realize that I am in My Father and you are in Me, and I am in you.” Because we are co-Heirs with Christ we carry His Spirit in us when we believe in and on His, Birth, Death, Asscention, and Ressurection. The book of Romans written by St. Paul talks all about the Holy Spirit, who He is and who, we, His followers are IN Christ..Your hunger for for His Presence is in His Word and we as believers in Jesus Christ have access to Him at all times, Jesus said, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). “I am the GOOD Shepard,I know My sheep and My sheep Know Me(John 10:14)” My sheep listen to my voice( John 10:27)”. Hope this brings you to His Word. In His Love, a fella believer..

          September 22, 2013
  7. Marge Edwards #

    Keep looking for the right church. I finally found one I love, although I know my Pastor won’t be there forever. But the parishioners will. This church is diverse and inclusive. I’m lucky. I go for the Mass though. If the homily sucks by a visiting priest, I find spiritual sustenance elsewhere. Try reading Truly Out Sister, by Elizabeth Johnson and then other feminist theologians. Also Seven Story Mountain by Thomas Merton. Also, A Marginal Jew, by Meier. If it’s any comfort, every saint I have read about has gone through more than one dark night of the soul. Finally, I, too, have come close to walking out on sermons. Concentrate on the Mass . Oh yes. Read the National Catholic Reporter website. It is for YOU. You also need some liberal intellectual Facebook buddies.

    September 22, 2013
    • RS #

      Don’t read the Reporter. It frequently can and does lead to error. If you’re hungry, you want real nourishment, not junk food (or paint chips.)

      Read the Register, Fr. Z, Mark Shea. They don’t always hit the mark but on balance I find that they provide plenty of sustenance, spiritually.

      September 22, 2013
      • Marge Edwards #

        Depends on whether you are a Pope Francis Catholic or not. But I respect all opinions. Really. I just feel the author, as a woman in a patriarchal church, has a few needs.

        September 22, 2013
      • Marge Edwards #

        The Register is a conservative site. But that’s ok.

        September 22, 2013
      • Marge Edwards #

        Also, read Why I’m a Catholic, by Gary Wills. Be sure to finish. He goes into the answer to this question toward the end of the book. May I also add that a priest in a former parish of mine back in the 90′s delivered an apology to women of the Catholic Church in his homily. I was in tears. His words brought me back to the church!!!!!

        September 22, 2013
      • Joanne #

        Agreed that the Reporter is horrible. But some of the more “conservative” (for lack of a better word) blogs leave a bad taste in my mouth too. Seems to me that charity and orthodoxy are an unfortunately rare combination. One blog I do like is Elizabeth Scalia’s, which is called The Anchoress.

        September 22, 2013
        • Maryam #

          I second the recommendation for Elizabeth Scalia’s blog, The Anchoress.
          Also, love Fr. Z’s What Does the Prayer Really Say.

          September 23, 2013
      • Kathy #

        To each our own. The National Catholic Reporter is a breath of fresh air for some. As the Register is for others.

        September 23, 2013
        • Brad #

          To each his own is plain wrong. To each is offered Jesus Christ, true man and true God who died on the Cross because he loves you. We go to Mass to meet Him, he never moves. If we fall in love with our cross, we can find joy and peace on our Way of the Cross. There is no Christianity without the Cross. Pick it up and follow Jesus.

          September 23, 2013
  8. Tom Gaudet #

    Mary, I can totally relate to your sense of frustration. I cannot remember a time in the last 25 years when homily from the pulpit has had much influence on my spiritual growth. For me, going to Mass is time spent in a relationship with the Eucharist as summit and source.

    I have been profoundly influenced over the years by following the Rule of St. Benedict in my lay life. I am a member of the online monastic community Monasteries of the Heart founded by Joan Chittister, OSB, and the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, PA. Contemplation (Centering prayer), the practice of Lectio Divina, and reading spiritual writers such as Richard Rohr, Cynthia Bourgeault, Joan Chittister, etc have put me far more in touch with my soul than anything I could get from a lukewarm (if not downright cold) priest. What Benedictine spirituality has taught me is that God is in everything that is in front of me at any given moment, whether I am in church or not.

    I guess the point I am making is that pursuit of spiritual food is sometimes left in our own laps. And like you, my spiritual life is far too important to stand by and watch it crash and burn. So I take it upon myself to seek out my own spiritual nourishment wherever it is to be found.

    I pray you will find a way to stay and grown in ways never before imagined. And don’t expect to be spiritually fed from the pulpit, then when it totally lets you down, you can’t really be all that disappointed!

    God speed on your journey!

    September 22, 2013
  9. Joanne K. McPortland #

    I say Walk Out, but then please Walk Back In. The poor homilists, the listless parishioners, the aging musicians, the purveyors and consumers of spiritual junk food need the same revolutionary encounter with Christ that you crave, and that you–in knowing enough to crave it–can arouse a hunger for in them. But I’m convinced, as +Francis says, that the revolution happens one by one by one, as a personal, joyful invitation to the banquet we all long to share, not as a restaurant review that finds fault with every aspect of the management, food, and service.

    September 22, 2013
    • I agree Joanne, especially your last sentence.

      I almost lost my faith entirely, and unwittingly, due to banal homilies that were of little to no substance. My catechism left me without an understanding of my faith and the homilies only added to the problem.

      This underscores the fact that each of us needs different things in the homily and I don’t think any one priest can deliver what each of us needs every Sunday.

      Mary – do you have a spiritual director who can guide you? I know they are hard to find these days, but that is where we can find more tailored assistance.

      Also, I agree with others who have suggested that the web offers us so much today that we didn’t have before. I found several different homilies on this Sunday’s readings and from each priest, I was able to pull something meaningful.

      I would say that faith is not passive where all that we need will come to us during the homily. We may have to go out and get it. Consider what Christians suffer to get to Mass in other parts of the world where they are oppressed. For them, it is the struggle to get to the source of grace, the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.

      In that interview, Pope Francis talked about spending an hour each night before the Blessed Sacrament. Maybe you do this weekly and maybe not. If not, give it a try one day a week. Sit in silence before Our Lord because he is there waiting to guide you and to hold your hand every step of the way.

      But, protesting, by walking out of Mass, that’s not the way. I hope you don’t reduce the Mass for yourself, and others, to the homily. Please don’t do that.

      I’ll include you in my prayers tonight.

      September 22, 2013
  10. After 21 years, my family finally found the courage to leave our parish where, week after week, we were being told that the hierarchy doesn’t have a clue, that priests should be married, that women should be priests, etc. The last straw for me was something very small, but a symbol of all that was wrong with where we worshiped. The pastor refused to say “like the dewfall” during the consecration. We found a beautiful parish, so full of life, so vibrant, so alive, so true to the teachings of the Church. The homilies are amazing, and the priests very reverent I have never been so happy. And then a retired priest moved into the rectory and is now helping with daily and weekend Mass. And guess what? He also omits “like the dewfall.” Ugh! I think that God is trying to tell me something. I think I’m meant to continue to learn to pray with those who think, act and pray very differently from me. I don’t know if I’m up to the challenge, but apparently God thinks I am.

    Reading this helped me put things in perspective: http://truthhimself.blogspot.com/2013/09/cure-for-sagging-faith.html Hope it helps you as well!

    September 22, 2013
  11. Gail Finke #

    So true!!! I would rather have NO homily and NO music, and just listen the words of the Mass for myself thank you very much… rather than have to fight to think about them over the banal music they insist on playing EVERY SECOND and worry that the homily will be either heretical or vacuous or possibly both!!! If you can’t do it right, DON”T DO IT. Let the Mass and the Eucharist do their work. And then go out and do somethin REAL.

    September 22, 2013
  12. GP #

    Thanks for the great article. I empathize with your thoughts and sentiments. Apathy seems to be the “norm” in some parishes and most are content with it. Since you’re “talking about a revolution,” why not consult with your pastor and have an open discussion? We, too, are called and must respond to fully live out our faith and to be bearers of the Good News to others. Sometimes our priests also needs to be fed from its flock. Blessings of peace.

    September 22, 2013
  13. Chris Hannan #

    I have been in a similar place, and have survived various bouts of dark nights of the soul. Wandering, hungry is a scary and frustrating; but remember we’re all here looking out for you. In your wanderings you will find out more about yourself. A friend once taught me to keep saying to myself ‘time to grow again’ and you will in God’s good time and in His grace.

    September 22, 2013
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      When I was on silent retreat last week, one woman came up to me at the end and said, “I think a door is about to open for you.” It was very powerful, and true, I think. Will I have the courage to walk through whatever door God puts in front of me? I hope so. Thanks for your support and prayers.

      September 22, 2013
  14. I have left my dead, do nothing,plan nothing, change nothing parish 5 years ago. Between being impacted by hordes of new immigrants, an overwhelmed, physically challenge older pastor, it was too much. I sat in that church for 40 years, thru the death and funeral of my husband. Maybe two people smiled at me, one remembered me from a committee We were on together. Otherwise, nobody misses me because they didn’t know or care that I was even there in theforst place! T.V. Church is what I do now. I don’t like the isolation, but I’m 73,and I can’t go back. I will probably suffer in purgatory, but it won’t be lonely!

    September 22, 2013
  15. Mary Naughton #

    It took a miserable Holy Week two years ago, trying different Catholic Churches within driving distance, to bring me to a wonderful Episcopal parish and eventually to the Episcopal Church where I now in a discernment process leading to ordination.

    September 22, 2013
  16. Mary, I hope you don’t mind me tossing out one more thought here.

    Going back to the interview with Pope Francis, he said, “I see the church as a field hospital after battle.”

    While we can look inward with this part of his interview, I could not help but think about the fact that our priests have also be subject to the effects of the same great battle. The weaknesses and imperfections we see at times are those wounds being manifested. Unlike we, who look at the surface, God looks within their souls as he does ours. He knows how shallow their training was, and how some were even malformed with various perversions (in all spectrums I might add).

    My point is that the very mercy we desire, we must also work at having for our priests. If one is so bad, then it might be necessary to go to another parish. I have done this because I was not be fed in a number of ways.

    When I am at a parish other than my own, where I feel I am fed well in a number of ways, I was once angry at priests for this or that. Now, I can only be moved to pray for them, silently, and without complaint. I don’t know their history or how they were formed to do and say the things that they do.

    It’s just a thought.

    September 22, 2013
  17. Joe Peters #

    Have you heard about Cursillo. Please find it in your diocese and make a weekend. You will find what you’re looking for

    I’ll pray for you

    Joe

    September 22, 2013
  18. I agree the Church Universal needs to do a better job captivating and motivating the faithful. However, to abandon Christ on Calvary (which is the divine mystery we celebrate, re-present and experience at Mass) is not a courageous act – it is cowardice (11 of the 12 apostles didn’t stand by Christ’s side so clearly it isn’t easy…it’s not supposed to be). Leaving the Church isn’t going to bring about any spiritual fruits – staying by Christ’s side amidst the sufferings and trials is what strengthens and bears fruit in eternal life. We need lay people to step up take the leadership reigns, learn actively about their faith and be witnesses to the Truth. We don’t go to Mass for the priest, we don’t go to Mass to “get something out of it,” we don’t go to Mass to hear a great homily. We go to Mass to lay our entire being and soul before our Lord, in high praise, adoration and love. It is when we give all we have to God, God in turn gives all He has to us; His divine Son in Communion. We carry Him out to feed others and it is by your acts of Love and Mercy you encounter Christ. By feeding, you will be fed. Just like St. Francis say “For it is in giving that we receive.” Be tough, have courage and stand in the batters box when they are throwing at your rib cages. That is what it means to be Catholic. End of Rant. Pax Christi

    September 22, 2013
  19. Ed Mechmann #

    Thank you for this, Mary!

    I’m lucky to be in a good parish with good preachers, but boy, I’ve sat through so many lackluster liturgies in my travels.

    Too many times falling asleep during homilies or having the mind wander to pretty much anything else until it’s finally over. Too many times wondering how many laypeople in the congregation could give a better homily. Too many times wondering what a homily from the heart would sound like, spoken as if the homilist were really in love with Jesus. Too many times groaning over the choice of music.

    It’s time for a great awakening. But our clergy will never respond to our need for it unless we tell them how hungry we are for it.

    September 22, 2013
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Thank you, Ed. Exactly! Just tonight I told Dennis that I would give anything to hear a real message from a lay person, not someone with a theology degree necessarily but someone whose faith means something in their day-to-day lives. People are so hungry, and no one is feeding us!

      September 22, 2013
      • Joe Cleary #

        Mary

        One reason Pope Frances has my attention is that he preaches in the way an old school Jesuit preaches…and he reminds me of the Jesuits I encountered in high school and college who inspire my faith to this day.

        While I am fortunate enough to reside in a vibrant parish with multiple priests should are gifted homilists, I still will From time to time I will return to a Jesuit school or parish for a mass and a homily . I am rarely disappointed.

        September 22, 2013
      • I agree about wishing there were more lay preaching. The Seven Last Words at our parish always blows me away — such thoughtful, nuanced, rich reflections from laypeople. I’m always so sorry it’s only once a year.

        That said, it has to be tough to be a priest, I think. You are called on to have so many skills (pastoring, preaching, administration, fundraising). I don’t know what kind of support exists for priests once they leave the seminary to help develop those skills; is there any? (As a public school teacher, our state has a program of mentors for teachers in the first few years of their career, which is so important.) And *do* parishioners give helpful critiques to priests when the homily is bad? ( I know I don’t.)

        As someone said above, thank goodness for the Eucharist. Even if the homily is terrible, I have that — that keeps me coming back. But I do think we should aim for a higher overall standard in our liturgies. It’s such a missed opportunity if we don’t.

        September 22, 2013
        • Christine Burton #

          While our priest is a fine homilist in his own right, his strongest gifts are in pastoral care. Fortunately, my parish has had lay reflectors (can’t call them homilists!) for years. Thank heavens the Archbishops have come to recognise them as part of our tradition (even if they don’t like the idea that anyone other than a priest might have something of spiritual value to offer), and thus aren’t trying to end that practice. Many new members (some of whom had left the church – their return says that they, like Mary, are still hungry for spiritual food) say they join our community because our reflections give them more to think about and to try to live, as followers of JC, than other parishes. Leave aside the issue of women priests (!), strong lay councils (see my note below) and lay homilists are another way to recognise the gifts of the spirit and to empower people to use their strongest gifts for the greatest good…

          October 3, 2013
          • Mary DeTurris Poust #

            Christine,
            I sort of made this same point on a radio/TV show that will air tomorrow. I suggested that even if women cannot be ordained, they need to have a voice, that our Church and its members are missing “half the equation” when the only reflections we get are from a male, ordained perspective. I think it’s time for what you are blessed to have in your parish to become a reality for the rest of us!
            Peace,
            Mary

            October 5, 2013
      • Mary, my faith means something in my day to day life. So much so that I now write and speak on it with fellow Christians, including Catholics of which I am a devout one. If you write to me, I will send you this book (see weblink). This one teaching from Jesus has opened my eyes, my heart and my soul to feeling filled with the love of Jesus – the living water. Once fed from the inside, there is no outside that can take it away from you. I’m writing a new book too on Mt 7:5 which you can see at http://lawofserenity.com if you want a short taste of it. His peace surpasses all understanding but, as he said, the kingdom of God is within you. Don’t look for it in a church – you won’t find it “out there.” Peace be with you, John Kuypers

        September 23, 2013
  20. Fr. Christopher Pietraszko #

    Dear Mary,

    Would you mind if we had a conversation about some of your very serious and legitimate concerns with the Church. I would like to pray for you as well. Tomorrow I will celebrate mass by myself and I will offer mass up for your intentions

    Please consider e-mailing me. I hope to hear from you.

    Sincerely,

    Fr. Christopher Pietraszko
    Diocese of London, Ontario (CANADA)
    cpietraszko@dol.ca

    September 23, 2013
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Thank you for your prayers! I will try to email you a little later today.
      Peace,
      Mary

      September 23, 2013
  21. Kathy #

    Mary, I totally hear you! There are a lot of good spiritual directors out there to listen deeply to people on their spiritual journeys. Sometimes church alone isn’t enough, and sometimes what goes on in churches doesn’t help at all. Yes, the sacraments are important in the context of community. But it’s hard to find meaning when there is so much chaos going on around you.
    I would encourage you to find a good spiritual director who will truly listen to your heart and soul.
    I’ve been in that field for awhile now, and find the experience sublime and holy, for both parties.
    Peace!

    September 23, 2013
  22. Darrin #

    Well, you won’t cure anything by walking out of Mass; we’re in Liturgy for spiritual food, not because we’re being enlightened by good singing or engaging homilies and so forth. Switching churches because you’re not getting anything out of the services isn’t a Catholic thing. I don’t care if a parade of Nazis did liturgical dance for an hour at liturgy; the Eucharist is the center and the reason for being there.

    September 23, 2013
  23. Elizabeth Scalia #

    Thank you for writing this Mary. I have often felt exactly as you do. This is a rant my husband has had to endure so often that one day he actually asked me “do you hate the litugy?” I almost cried and said no I love the liturgy! I hate how poorly we are doing it!” We listened to a priest start off well last week, then get lost and drone on for 25 minutes and he HAD to see that he’d lost us… That our eyes were glassy a d our arms crossed before us bc we were just trying to ride out his mediocrity. And he’s not a bad or d’état he’d priest at all…but clueless in the pulpit. We live for the Eucharist and for the rest must graze on our own.

    September 23, 2013
  24. Elizabeth Scalia #

    “Not a bad or detached priest….” I meant. Dumb autocorrect.

    September 23, 2013
  25. Iris Celeste #

    Well, the problem is that you need a mystic sometimes to know the intended meaning of the Gospel. In last Sundays Gospel, God is the wealthy man and we are his stuarts. When we encounter someone we don’t like, like the Terrorist who can harm us, or political opponents we think are acting in a morally incompatible manner that again can harm us, we are supposed to “pay off” their debt to the “wealthy man” by fasting, sacrificing our comfort, desires and praying. But who in an affluent society as our is going to stand for such a message?

    September 23, 2013
  26. Mary,

    Amen, Amen, AMEN!!!!!

    I left my phone number on your FB. Call when you get a chance. God Bless!

    September 23, 2013
  27. Rev Peter Venter, Deacon #

    There are times when I feel for preachers. That old cliche, ‘You cannot please all the people all the time’ comes to mind. It all depends where the listeners are at, spiritually and/or emotionally. Some might say, ‘I got nothing out of that. I’m out of here!’ Yet others might pick up a word,or sentence that filled a need. I would say the latter would be in the majority. Thank God!

    September 23, 2013
    • Charles #

      I would say you are missing the point of the article and living in fantasy.

      September 23, 2013
  28. Ellen Franklin #

    How I can relate to this! But, there are pastors who are “waking up” to the needs of the people. Check out the book Rebuilt by Fr. Michael White & Tom Corcoran (rebuiltparish.com) for the story of how our parish in a Baltimore suburb went from dry & dying to a vibrant community of growing disciples. There is hope! God bless.

    September 23, 2013
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      I have the book on my desk! It is published by my publisher, Ave Maria Press. :-)

      September 23, 2013
      • Ellen Franklin #

        That’s great! The principles resonate no matter what type of music, etc., people prefer. Also, come visit sometime!

        September 23, 2013
  29. Mary DeTurris Poust #

    My follow-up post, if anyone is interested. Words Matter. The Word Matters. Especially at Mass.

    http://www.notstrictlyspiritual.com/2013/09/words-matter-the-word-matters/

    September 23, 2013
  30. Dcn B #

    Dear Mary -

    I do understand what you are saying here. As a Catholic Deacon, I can only apologize for some “not so good” homilies. Regarding homilies, not all priests and deacons, and bishops for that matter, are good homilists. The technique of preaching can be learned, like painting or playing an instrument. To be a Van Gogh, or a Paul Simon. – that can not be learned. Good preachers have special gift from God. So, I hope in the future you will be forgiving, as Pope Francis wants us all to be, for not “so good” homilies.

    It is best for all of us, before we attend Mass, to become acquainted with the readings for the day. Chew on them a bit and listen to what God is saying to you. The scriptures are alive, they are God’s voice speaking to us now.

    The Homily is an important part of the Mass, to break open the scriptures for us – but the homily is not the most important aspect of Mass. If you are basing your faith on the homily, you will never be satisfied. The prayers if the Mass are much more important.

    Also, when we attend Catholic Mass, we are offered the most beautiful gift, The Eucharist. The real presence of Jesus, His very Body and Blood. Jesus said ” if we do not partake in His Body and Blood, there will be no life in us.”

    Mary, this is why we come to Holy Mass – to receive the abundant grace offered to us in Jesus’ Word and the receiving of His Body and Blood. This is where you will receive life in your soul and strength for the journey. It is all a matter of faith.

    I pray that you will hear some good homilies in the future, but please remember, the homily is not so important.

    Pope Francis is challenging us – to be more compassionate, more merciful, more forgiving. Maybe now is a good time to start for all of us.

    God bless you always.

    Deacon Brian

    September 23, 2013
  31. Charles #

    I walked out of mass yesterday so seeing this article today really resonated within me. I really can’t take it anymore, either. With 12 years of Catholic school religious education I got tired of trying different Catholic churches within a reasonable drive from my home. They were without exception all cold. The sermons or homilies were terrible. I always felt like the priests were all sitting on a storehouse of deep spiritual resources but were refusing to share it with the people in the pews. Finally, I found a parish where the pastor made sense, the music was uplifting and the people were friendly. Now, do to the “priest shortage” the bishop has run out of manpower and has imported many foreign priests. That’s fine by me. They seem like good people but their English pronunciation is so terrible I can not understand most of what they are saying when they preach. Neither can any of the other parishioners. I feel alienated in my own church. It’s like the bishop doesn’t care. He’s just sprinting to retirement and letting the next guy worry about this. And, this is all because the church still insists on an unmarried clergy. So it doesn’t matter if they are incoherent. It only matters that they are ordained. The solution is obvious but in the meantime I can’t wait it out. I’m not sure what I’m going to do but I do know I’m not going to sit still and listen to babble on the altar anymore. Neither are many others. I see attendance diminishing slowly but surely.

    September 23, 2013
    • John Drake #

      Sorry, Charles, the “priest shortage” issue is NOT unmarried clergy. It’s that so-called Catholic families are not having enough children, having almost completely bought into the contraceptive mentality of the general culture.

      September 23, 2013
      • kmk1916 #

        A concerted prayer and fasting for more priests and religious, that is our vocation as Catholics. I think I spent the entire first 29 years of my cradle Catholic life not consciously praying for priests, religious, bishops, vocations– I am embarrassed at my previous ignorance and indifference! I have been/still am part of the problem!

        Praise God that the tide is turning and we are more conscious of the need to pray for our Church.

        September 23, 2013
      • Charles #

        John, That is only a small contributing factor. Catholic families are still having children, male and female. How come so very few want to be priests, nuns, or brothers? And, how come so many priests, nuns and brothers left, many if not most to get married?

        September 23, 2013
  32. I left the Church for 25 years as an evangelical/baptist; not out of any problem with the Church, but that’s a tale for another blog). I heard many sermons in those 25 years, most of them good. But even the best sermon is not Jesus Himself, and I was never given that. He was certainly present in the congregations, active in the ministries, wonderful in the Word and remembered in the Lord’s Supper. However, without the fullness of the sacraments, I was not truly fed.

    Yes, I wish homilies were better, service more loving–I wish I were both those things!

    September 23, 2013
  33. Matti #

    Mary, I hear you and I’m wondering if you have looked at this as an opportunity for you to show more love and understanding within your community? We are all called to be “good stewards of our gifts” and to “share our gifts”. We accept that LOVE of God and neighbor are the most important of God’s commandments. From these (I believe that) compassion will spring forth. And, (I trust that) the Holy Spirit is very much at work in God’s church (in us). Thank you for the posting – it has touched many of us and (I trust that) we shall see the conversion you are seeking.

    September 23, 2013
  34. Judy Kallmeyer #

    I guess I am fortunate in having heard many fine homilies in each of my parishes. Only for a short period of time, in the early ’70s, we had what I called the reign of terror in my parish. An Irish Holy Ghost Father and a newly ordained priest of the diocese were constantly telling us what terrible people we were. Many people left the parish at that time. I remember sitting in the pew thinking, “This is my parish. They will be transferred but I will still be here. I refuse to let them drive me out.” And I would reflect on the Scriptures for the day myself while they ranted on.

    September 23, 2013
  35. Marie #

    Oh, we’ve so been there! And this is where so many evangelical churches get it right. This is why people leave for other denominations. I am more plugged into a local evangelical church than I am the Catholic Church I still attend on Sundays just because it would upset my husband if I didn’t.

    I’m SO tired of the “Oh, well, we have the Eucharist, so shut up already” attitude.

    The Eucharist has to be a living thing, it has to mean something. It’s not the spiritual equivalent of a Milkbone we’re rewarded with for sitting through 45 minutes that give a day at the DMV a run for its money.

    Why are the seminaries not doing a better job of teaching this? Why not have workshops priests are required to attend during the course of their lives to help them with this kind of stuff? I don’t know anyone, from tech professionals to health care providers to artists who doesn’t continue education and training throughout their careers. Why not priests too?

    September 23, 2013
  36. michael #

    I take exception to this viewpoint. The Mass is not about having a feel good experience. It is about the Eucharist and following Christ’s commands to gather in His name and share the body and blood. If the homily is good that is a plus but the homily is not the meat and bones of the Mass. If someone wants to be entertained as part of the worship experience there are plenty of “mega churches” out there that provide a full band and ear tickling sermons.

    September 23, 2013
  37. Claire Smith #

    How utterly full of SELF this is. We go to mass to WORSHIP the LORD, not vice-versa! That is what WE WERE CREATED for. As with anything in life…………….YOU only get out what YOU put in. The Body and Blood of our Lord is REAL food, but it is up to us to prepare ourselves and try and be worthy. Then and only then, will each and every homily have new and deeper meaning for each of us. With all due respect this article sounds like something straight out of a Protestant feel good one hour Jesus High. I am not biting. I know the REAL food and the REAL presence!

    September 23, 2013
    • Marie #

      Yes, but couldn’t we say the same of the Church? If their approach is a pay, pray, obey & shut up, can they really complain when people say no thanks, movin’ on?

      Telling people their honest feelings are selfish is pretty selfish, too.

      And if you’re an example of what this “real” food and “real” presence is all about, I’d really have to question WHOSE presence you’re talkin’ about.

      September 23, 2013
  38. Claire Smith #

    One other thing, “it’s not about you!”

    September 23, 2013
  39. Patricia #

    I can relate to your post on so many levels. I have truly experienced some terrible priests in confession and been to some horrible Masses. I too have wanted to walk out of Mass and actually have done so once when my children were very small and just couldn’t take what the priest was doing anymore. I spent Mass outside in the car with the baby, praying and feeling like I had done something terribly wrong.
    I received zero support from my pastor when my husband left me and went over for a few years to the Eastern Rite church where I was helped by a wonderful priest who took the time to counsel me. 15 years later there is still no crisis support for couples who are thinking about ending their marriage. Retrouvaille is not enough and does not meet the needs of couples in crisis. Meanwhile the “conservative” elements of the laity (of which I consider myself one) howl that there are too many annulments but there is nothing to help couples.
    Most priests cannot communicate the teachings of the church in the pulpit nor the confessional.
    The music in many parishes is just downright embarrassing and awful.
    Bring back the communion rails so we can kneel. Ditch the crappy hippy hymns. Talk about abortion, contraception and euthanasia. Really explain why the church teaches what it does.

    And please stop building churches that are like giant auditoriums.

    There’s zero youth ministry that reaches out to Catholic youth, giving them a safe place to express their views and their doubts – to understand church teachings on sexual morality, and to learn that being a faithful Catholic might be difficult in our secular world but not impossible.

    Perhaps we are being sifted and winnowed? I don’t know.

    September 23, 2013
  40. Magdalene #

    Well, I have been there. I had to make the difficult decision to move from my hometown because the parishes, and the diocese as well, were so poor in so many areas (not speaking about money, there was that). So I moved. There was a price to do that but it was worth it! I moved to a faithful diocese and am in a faithful parish. We have awesome priests with 2 daily Masses and confessions 6 days a week.

    Say you cannot do that….then lead. I used to facilitate Catholic Sacred Scripture Studies in my old parishes. When the priest did not like that it pulled from the Catechism (!), I did it out of my home with about 2 dozen participants. Next year I will facilitate some other marvelous parish programs to help people know and love Our Lord ever deeper.

    We cannot leave the Eucharist and the Sacramental life! That is the greatest of gifts next to life itself.!

    I am also, at this time, able to attend the Latin Mass at a nearby parish on Sundays and I like that very much. Excellent homilies always seem to accompany that form of the Mass and there is no banal pop music to endure either.

    Go to more daily Masses if you can. Do not look just to the priest to spoon feed you. Pray more! You can, no matter where you are in your faith journey. With daily Mass, you will feel more of the smaller community that you also long for. And invite a few people to have coffee with you after morning Mass one day a week. Invite your pastor to supper and so care for him in that way so you are not always on the receiving end.

    Go to adoration of the most Blessed Sacrament and fall in love all over again with Jesus. Pray the rosary daily until it becomes a joyful lifeline in your prayer life.

    Do some of these things and you will not want to run out of the door, but in it….for there awaits the Bridegroom of your soul and your communication will come from Him.

    You can only do this in the Catholic church.

    September 23, 2013
  41. Until two years ago, I was in your shoes, so reading this just makes me want to cry, but also makes me so incredibly thankful for finally finding a parish that is as close to perfect as possible, I do believe. Incredible homilies from both priests and one very gifted deacon, all kinds of programs for children and adults, social outreach (Parishioners bring bags full of groceries for our food pantry each weekend!) ….. Churches like this do exist, although it’s taken me almost 70 years to find one. Don’t be satisfied! Search for a great parish and then support it with all your heart, time, energy!

    September 23, 2013
  42. Maggie #

    I understand exactly what you are saying, when I moved a few years ago my husband and I checked out every Catholic Church within a 25klm radius, we found all of the Churches in our vicinity to be exactly as you describe. I don’t understand what is happening in the Catholic Church, going to Mass has become a chore rather than a joy. There is no spirituality in our Churches, we need to change this. My hope is that Pope Francis can achieve what others didn’t but we have lost faith in our Bishops as many of them seem to ignore what Rome is teaching and carry on with their own agenda. I find also that because we have a shortage of Priests the layperson has had to take on many of the jobs in the Church that I believe should be performed by a Priest or Deacon. The parishioners have taken control and are a rule onto themselves. We have Eucharistic Ministers who are divorced and remarried, we regularly witness people approaching the Altar for Communion, chewing gum, talking and generally distracting others. It is a mockery. I continue to go to Mass because I believe that I have to find that spirituality within myself. I am glad to say that there is a Latin Mass now being offered, quite a distance from me but having attended twice I am eager to continue, it is such an uplifting experience to be in the presence of the Eucharist and feel the dignity and sanctity that is missing in most Churches today.

    September 23, 2013
  43. John Drake #

    This is worthy of your consideration:

    http://www.harvestingthefruit.com/when-god-says-run/

    September 23, 2013
  44. Fr Peter Calabrese #

    I’m sure you are a very active Catholic in your parish and have volunteered advice and service to the Pastor and Parish Council on many occasions and have perhaps been rejected. You are right change is tough. What will your, a talented smart Catholic’s absence do? Yes you are right if all walked out the bishop might take notice and call the pastor in. I am sure he has tons of extra priests doing nothing that he can send to your parish. But will your absence help the parish become more alive? Will it inspire a young man to pursue a priestly vocation? Will your absence inspire the music ministry to do better or inspire others to want to be a part of it? Will your absence inspire a Bible Study to help people and the pastor prepare better for Sunday Mass. Will your absence increase the outreach to the poor? Will the ministers of your parish be inspired by reading how you told the world how bad they are? I am sorry I understand your frustrations – I do – but if the people who hold themselves out to be spiritual decide to go on strike I don’t think you will encourage the poor priest who bumbled his way through the homily last week. Why now when there seems to be so much hope in light of POpe Francis would you call a strike? I hope you will stay and encourage the like-minded to speak with the pastor and offer him your help and prayers. Maybe you have and feel it falls on deaf ears I don;t really know but just the same I hope you’ll stay and help.

    September 23, 2013
  45. Bill #

    Mrs. Poust,

    I have been where you are and by Grace have found a new path. I now adore the mass and the Body of Christ (my church community) on a deeper level than I ever thought possible. I am 42 and for many years showed up at mass to be entertained or even worse to see just how bad it was going to be this week. I was prepared for disappointment. The way people looked, they way they saved seats, the way they talked, the crying kid, the bad perfume….EVERYTHING was a struggle. This was before the procession even began. I’ll save you the play by play on the priest, altar servers, and homily. Why was God not in my parish? Not in the people around me? In the priest of all people?

    Then I hit 40 and then 41…..that painful yet gloriously opportunistic point in life. The place where either we find a better way or we become bitter and entrenched. None of my expectations about marriage, church, parenting, career, or life were working out as I had planned. What. The. Hell. I’ve done everything right. I followed all the rules. I am a good man. This is not the deal I made. Needless to say there was a serious crisis of conscious on my part. Like you, I wanted OUT.

    As Julian of Norwich tells us, “First there is the fall, then there is the recovery of the fall. Both are the mercy of God.”

    Father Richard Rohr often says “Show me how you do one thing, and I will show you how you do everything”. This hit home for me. If I was unhappy in mass then chances are that I am going to find a reason to be unhappy everywhere. I took a long look and realized even on a “relaxing” vacation, I would find many reasons why I was frustrated, angry, or disappointed.

    I am in recovery. From myself. Thankfully I have engaged with some amazing spiritual teachers along this lifelong recovery journey: Thomas Merton, St. John of the Cross, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, and Father Richard Rohr. What I learned is the answer to your (and my) question of Why? Why? Why? That answer was within me. The light is there. There is no need for expectations and blame games any more. Any effort for a better way now usually comes from a place of compassion and understanding. What is needed for enrichment is always within. I have never felt closer to God sitting in a quiet pew, next to a noisy child, or while doing my best to discern a message from a priest. Even moment’s of rudeness that trigger my ego – remind me that I am called to be the healer, the one who is compassionate. These moments present me with an opportunity to be helpful rather than resentful. Do I fail? Often. But at least I see my false self for what it is and know the true self is below the old layers.

    All of this takes daily work and practice. It is worth every single moment.

    God Bless and please pray for me.

    Bill

    September 23, 2013
  46. Michael #

    I come to Mass because it is where I can worship, adore and give thanks to God to the fullest. I usually prefer Mass without a homily. I never prefer Mass without receiving the Eucharist, assuming I am worthy at that time.

    September 23, 2013
  47. Geneva Ayte #

    Mary, oh Mary: If you have a complaint about a priest or priests in general, complain to God. They are His jurisdiction, not yours.

    If you find you are distracted and/or are gaining nothing from hearing Mass, then pray to the Holy Spirit to enlighten you so that you can find something worthwhile even in the most poorly delivered homily.

    Mass is not said to entertain YOU, Mary. If you feel as though you are not being fed spiritually, look to yourself for what ails. And do not advise others to walk out as you did. We are bound under pain of grievous offense to hear Mass. Shame on you!

    Last, do not dare to advise other malcontents to stop supporting the Church. You went way too far.

    September 23, 2013
  48. I don’t think you would have walked out had you heard my homily “True Religion” at Christ the King Church in St Louis/MO yesterday (Sept. 22). You can find it on my blog: jaystl.blogspot.com
    I try in all my preaching (and have for 60+ years) t proclaim good news. That is what the Church commissioned me to do a ordination. Hence the title of the blog: “Proclaiming the Good News.”
    Fr. John Jay Hughes, St. Louis

    September 23, 2013
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Thank you! I will visit your blog.
      Peace.

      September 23, 2013
  49. Dave #

    There is more to Mass than the homily. I would hope that people get a good homily each week but some do and some don’t. Not every priest has the gift of giving good homilies. Personally, I listen to podcasts each week from a priest who has the gift of preaching (Fr John Riccardo, Plymouth, MI).

    There is a certain responsibility we all have to bear to prepare *ourselves* for Mass. We should be diving into the readings prior to Mass. There are study Bibles and commentaries to read. There is so much good stuff out there. We also have a responsibility to understand what is going on at Mass beyond the homily. Do we attend Mass with a properly disposed heart and mind? Do we really understand the spiritual realities that happen during Mass? Do we actively participate in these spiritual realities?

    “What Happens At Mass” by Fr. Jeremy Driscoll.

    Buy it. Read it. Appreciate the Mass for what it its!

    September 23, 2013
  50. Mary your message was like fresh air today; so many of us just go to Mass like sheep and get nothing out of it as the priests themselves are not professional and they are usually in a hurry to go away on Sunday evening as here they will not even say evening mass. We have no pastoral care for 33 years; no meaningful confessional ; all just perfunctory performance and no spirituality. At least Pope Francis might bring change in time.
    Thanks again for your honest provoking article ; it will do much good

    September 23, 2013
  51. Becca #

    I have walked out of Mass before and that was at my own parish. My priest cut the Saturday Vigil Mass down to like 20 minutes by cutting out the readings and doing other things. I walked out. Another time I WISH I had walked out because the priest giving the homily said that the church is wrong about female priests. I was the cantor at that Mass so I felt I had to stay and sing the Mass. I was very angry and I didn’t receive communion because I didn’t want to indicate I agreed with him as the priest and I was too angry. This is my parish. I’m not in a position to go to another parish because it would be too far away for me to drive and we only have one in my area.
    I don’t give donations anyway and I never have. Why would I donate to a parish that’s wasting money on an unnecessary construction on the Church and yet not even building an adoration chapel or setting aside a room for it?
    Why would I donate to a parish that does nothing for evangelization?
    When I brought up evangelization at a meeting, they looked at me like I was speaking gibberish.
    It’s just a sad state of affairs and even though I’ve tried, one person can’t change a parish. My friend is on my side, but they do everything to put the kibosh on anything she tries to do there too even though she works there. It’s not just the priests either, it’s the people at the parish too.

    September 23, 2013
  52. I feel your pain Mary. I remember when I was sitting on the other side of the altar rails. (The invisible, metaphorical ones, mostly. But still.)

    After three years of preaching, I can tell you it’s the easiest thing in the world to give academic or timid or mediocre homilies, and hard work — it takes a lot of time and thought and prayer — to prepare something which at least aspires to relevance, meaning, etc.

    This is one of the reasons I read blogs. Elizabeth Scalia‘s, Max Lindenman‘s, and now maybe yours. It’s not that I mine posts for material. It just helps to share their headspace, to know what thoughtful and articulate Catholics are thinking.

    September 24, 2013
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Thank you for caring enough to take such effort! I know it’s not easy to get up there and speak. In fact, I have to get up and speak tomorrow, and I will pray that the Holy Spirit guides me and allows me to say something that will speak to people’s hearts. But this was never all about the homily, although it seems that’s what it’s become through the magic of the Internet. It is more about the spirit of Church, the bigger picture of parish life. I have a feeling, based on your comment here, that you help foster that much-needed spirit of love and community wherever you are.
      So thank you, from all of us who are hungry for connection to God and one another.
      Peace,
      Mary

      September 24, 2013
  53. Nicole #

    There’s something really wrong with a woman who would advocate turning one’s back on Jesus Christ in the Eucharist merely because she isn’t hearing what she wants from the pulpit. It’s one thing if the priest is preaching heresy and one has to leave the homily to protect one’s impressionable children, but it’s another to boycott the Church by with-holding material support or walk out on Mass altogether.

    There have been times in the past where I’ve been faced with either leaving the homily or committing what I believed would be grave scandal in staying, and so left the nave during the homily, but came back during the Credo. I was there to fulfill my grave obligation to God and His Church in public worship, therefore I couldn’t just say, “For crying out loud!” and leave altogether.

    I won’t turn my back on Jesus Christ merely because His sacerdotal ministers choose to be evil, or don’t have a skill at oration. If a woman really believed that Jesus Christ is present in the Blessed Sacrament, then she would not give up on Mass or her duty to tithe for these reasons.

    September 24, 2013
  54. Father L. Bradford #

    As a parish priest, I am well aware of the need to prepare and preach homilies which contribute to the spiritual development of my sisters and brothers. I need to do that amid the demands on priestly ministry during the week, in addition to considering the different levels of discipleship that members of the congregation have (which ranges from those persons who are hungry for the Word of God to those who are more concerned that Father will not make Mass pass the sixtieth minute). Sometimes, the priest will have a bad homiletic weekend. If this priest read your blog post, I can imagine him thinking, “I can do this anymore.”

    This is a disappointing post. We are fed by a parish through participation in parish life. That includes being conscious of the different levels of discipleship that exist and helping each other grow. In addition to Holy Mass, there are faith sharing groups, prayer groups, Bible studies, etc. You have written on spiritual friendship, how to pray during Mass, etc. (I have two of your books.) I am surprised and disappointed with your post.

    September 24, 2013
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Dear Father Bradford,

      This was absolutely not about one homily, or one priest, or even one parish, but about a pervasive problem. At least where I am. I fully understand how difficult it must be to get up there and say something that will touch people’s hearts week after week. I need to do that in my writing, and I need to do it tomorrow when I stand up in from of 70 prison chaplains on retreat. What I’m talking about is a lifeless parish where nothing — from top to bottom, music to microphones, lack of community to lack of anything spiritually nourishing — is the norm. How can we draw people in that way, or keep people there? Truly, when I wrote that post, I had reached a point of spiritual desperation that showed no signs of getting better given the current circumstances in my region. I couldn’t remain silent anymore, and I think the courage to say what I said came out of time spent on silent retreat last week. The Spirit moves in strange ways.

      I am sorry I disappointed you. I value your opinion and the opinion of many others who have written here. I love this Church. I love my faith. I love it so much I was willing to take this risk and say something people might not want to hear, not because I’m looking for spiritual fireworks at Mass but because I see so many people leaving and I feel my own spiritual life withering, and I can’t stand by and watch that happen anymore.

      I would love to talk to you more, perhaps even by phone. If you’re interested, please email me through my blog email and we’ll connect. The Internet has decided to cast me as a whiny selfish woman who caught a priest on a bad day, and that’s simply not the case. It’s not even close. If you have read my books, you know I don’t fit that profile.

      Thanks for taking the time to write. Thanks for your honesty.
      Peace,
      Mary

      September 24, 2013
      • Father L. Bradford #

        Dear Mary,

        Thank you for your reply. I will read part 2 of your post. I understand that the People of God want to be fed. I am a part of the People of God and I want to be fed too. My heart grieves for those who have left the Church because they thought they were not being fed. Due to the volume of work in my ministry, I would not be able to call. However, I will pray for you and for the Church that we love as we seek to address these cries from the faithful.

        Father Bradford

        September 24, 2013
  55. John M #

    Mary and all,

    One very small answer to this problem might be if priests look to their fellow priests and theologians who are able to breathe life (or the Spirit’s life) into Scriptures.

    One such priest is Father Francis Martin. He has a ministry called “The Word Proclaimed Institute” and a YouTube channel that does not seem to reach enough people. I watch it as a lector to prepare for my readings, but it’s aimed especially at priests.
    http://www.youtube.com/user/mogchapel

    Thanks,
    John M.

    September 24, 2013
  56. Angela #

    Have you tried to find a traditional latin Mass? The liturgy is beautiful and lifts your soul to God. The homily may or may not be inspiring, but you will find peace in your heart that lasts.

    September 25, 2013
  57. John Fisher #

    Yes like you I have felt angry at the banality of many clergy who seem so sunk into the spirit….. of our times they miss what Christianity is about. They are rupturists who have made a claim that we need change always change which has to be progress. I am doing my studies as an religious Education teacher and we are given set readings full of liberal garbage and even our essay have to be written using a template. The aim to stop us looking at the primary texts which are Scripture, Church Councils, the Fathers etc. All we get is Rahner and cherry picked guff by men who over state, understate and undermine the confidence a Christian should have. I am smart enough to know the faith isn’t built around the personality or opinions of the Pope. Everything has to be tested to see if the “sprit is from God”. I feel odd because I cant go along with something without continuity!

    September 25, 2013
  58. Mary DeTurris Poust #

    While my policy is to allow all comments — other than true spam — onto the blog, I have had to make one stipulation. I will not allow comments through that attempt to define what I think or say. “What Mary wants…” “What Mary is looking for…” What Mary means….” I will tell you what I mean, trust me. So please tell me what you want, what you mean, what you think, but don’t put words in my mouth. Thank you!

    September 26, 2013
  59. I recommend you read everything at this site: http://www.thewarningsecondcoming.com for you to understand why it has come to this pass and to know what to do in the coming days of the tribulation before Jesus returns in glory. Please do not abandon the Church! You will be shown the way to refuges with faithful priests to say Mass and administer the sacraments. Jesus and Mary said through the seer Maria Divine Mercy that Pope Benedict XVI is the last true Pope before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (do not be deceived by the Antichrist who will say he is god incarnate, whereas Jesus, in the Gospel, promised to return in glory, the way He ascended into heaven after His resurrection). May God and His Mother bless you in abundance.

    September 27, 2013
  60. Noel S. McFerran #

    Perhaps I’m missing something, but it seems to me that you’re complaining that the homilist droned “on for 20 minutes about temperance and prudence and fortitude and justice in a disjointed, monotone, utterly incomprehensible way”. The delivery sounds like it may have been less than stellar, but the content sounds excellent. Talking about the virtues – how to live one’s life in a truly Christlike way – is a very appropriate topic for a homily. You have clearly stated your desire to hear something else. Lots of sheep don’t like the leadership shepherds give them. But sheep run away from their shepherds at their own peril.

    September 29, 2013
  61. Christine Burton #

    A few thoughts on this and your follow-up post:
    For the sake of context, I am a Canadian, Chair of parish council and write two monthly columns for a Cdn Catholic weekly paper.
    On the Word: I am a psalmist and whereas many of my fellow cantors bow to the altar on their way to and fro, I always bow to the Scripture on the ambo when I finish singing. That is the Liturgy of the Word – the Eucharist will come soon enough, but in that moment, it is the Word – made flesh, with God and IS God – whom we are focusing on. God is ‘present’ in a very real, if ineffable way, in the Words of Scripture. And, as a feminist and child of a feminist, I have been schooled in the reality that words do, indeed, have power (ergo some of the challenges of inclusive language and the sad loss of yet even more women’s face in the revised GIRM and lectionary). So I applaud your thoughts there.
    In terms of Liturgy – this reflection – I strongly agree with and appreciate your comments on dry homiletics. However, I would like to reinforce and add to your comments on the Liturgy as a whole. My parish has a very vibrant, dynamic liturgy. We are a growing Catholic parish (how many can say that?), attracting lost/disaffected Catholics as well as ‘last-stop Catholics’. Over 75% of our community have post-graduate degrees (that’s right – 75% with at least Master’s degrees and many with doctorates) and many are very schooled in theology and liturgy. We have over 50 self-funded ministries, including a supper table that feeds 200 people EVERY weekday evening, a women’s centre for economically marginalised women and their children, a Catholic LGBT and allies group, refugee outreach, a music ministry that is becoming the talk of the town (with different SATB choirs at each of the 4 masses) ++. Our much-loved pastor supported the establishment of a new governance model with the parish council being decision-making vs merely advisory. And yet… we are being slapped down by the ‘powers that be’ who want to impose precisely and only the words of the new GIRM – even though other, less progressive churches throughout the diocese (and the country) are each doing their own slight variation to reflect their community’s culture, history, charism etc. It feels like stultifying rubric being used as sword to punish us for daring to think outside the box – not that JC ever did that… We have too many people who are on the edge of leaving; we HAVE lost some due to the intransigence of the ‘centre’. Their loss, the loss of our community would be a blow to the RC church as a whole, but those in charge still seem to hew to the view that a ‘pure’ church of a few is better than the active and alive church that is made up of communities and liturgies that, like people, all have two eyes and a nose, but each also wonderfully unique reflections of God’s infinite diversity…. God bless you always.

    October 3, 2013
  62. Tobias #

    I am a catholic convert. I converted because of Vat II & its recognition of God’s presence in all faiths calling persons to God’s self. I converted despite the church’s poor recognition of the worth and gifts of women & refused invitations from bishops to seek ordination. I told each that until women could be ordained I would serve the people of God as women were allowed to serve.

    When my wife & I married in 1983, I told her (she was also a convert) that if she found the church’s sexist language and treatment of women too painful, I’d gladly go with her to another denomination. She chose to stay. When our daughter was old enough to begin to understand what was happening at worship & in the church, we both could no longer stand it. There were no acceptable role models for her. The language (that we’d each accommodated to by muttering under our breath our own version) was horribly offensive as we realized this was all our daughter would know.

    I discussed this with our bishop — a kind and loving man who could understand that we did not want our child warped by a warped church.

    My wife & I consider ourselves catholic, but feel that the church has left us. We are heartened by Francis’ example and pray for a church that truly welcomes and affirms all.

    October 3, 2013
  63. Michelle #

    I agree with everything you are saying, Mary. We recently left our parish of 28 years due to the lack of spirituality and the utter inanity of the pastor. For example, in one of his homilies, the priest stated that divorced people are barred from receiving the Eucharist, even if they are not remarried. I am not divorced, but I was greatly offended by this divisive (and incorrect) statement, as well as the attitude behind it. Many priests are not shepherds. They are wannabe CEOs who couldn’t cut it in the real world.
    I am praying that Pope Francis’s message will prevail over time– “trickle down” Christianity. The Catholic Church accomplishes great things through its ministries. I don’t want to leave it, but things have got to change.

    January 22, 2014
  64. Achilles #

    I felt left out by the Catholic Church also. However, I found my path back to Christ by attending a Unity Church. What a fresh alternative! I have found the joy and happiness that was missing in my life.

    August 3, 2014

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