Hebrews 13:8 – look it up, it’s essential

Brothers and Sisters,

Around one hundred years ago, there was a contest sponsored by a newspaper in England.  The challenge was for any reader to submit a short essay responding to the question “what is wrong with the world today.”  It is a big concept, to be sure, and one that could illicit a wide range of responses from vices (greed and arrogance) to natural disasters (like famine or wildfire), or even large-scale problems like crime and war.  Interestingly, the winning response did not address any of those issues.  The “essay” chosen as the winner was a mere one-sentence response to the question “what is wrong with the world today.”  The winner was the famous Catholic author GK Chesterton who simply wrote as his response:  I am.

There certainly are a great number of troubling issues facing the Church (and the world) these days.  Focusing on the Church, both locally in our parishes and around our whole country we are seeing a drastically declining Mass attendance year-to-year and even at Christmas.  The most recently available data shows that Catholics at Mass are down around 30% across the country.

Now, in trying to find something to blame, we could try to blame the pandemic for this drop in attendance – it’s an easy target.  We could blame the wider culture, even; we could say that television, movies, and Hollywood are creating a culture that is anti-Christian.  We could blame the various social media platforms, the political parties, or even the people who directly oppose the Church publicly on this issue or that issue.  Perhaps we could even just directly blame the Catholic who are not coming to Mass.

Rather, following the lead from GK Chesterton, here’s my suggestion for who to blame:  me, ourselves, all of us, and each of us.  In his simple, pointed response to the contest, Chesterton implied that blaming the world’s problems on something or someone dismisses both our own culpability and our own responsibility.   As for Mass attendance, ask yourself how often you have missed Mass, or how often you have volunteered to help the parish.  Ask yourself how often you pray by yourself and with your whole family, when was the last Rosary you prayed together?  How about talking to family, friends about coming to Mass or having them over to your own home to read or study the Bible, learn about Church teaching, or just pray together?

What’s wrong with the world today?  Chesterton says as his response “I am.”  Why are so many people staying away from Mass these days?  Like Chesterton, let’s be bold enough to turn the question onto ourselves.  Rather than pointing to the pandemic, the culture, the news, or any other thing, I recommend asking ourselves:  what have I done to help the Church and help others come to the Church?  If your response to such questions is thin, then we all could take a “page” from Chesterton’s essay and say similarly to him:  what’s wrong with the Church today?  I am and we are, but we can fix that starting right now.

Father Jeremy