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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Benedictine Monks in the Philippines:Do you know how precious each Sunday Mass is?

“Without Sunday, we cannot live.”
In the early days of the Church, Christians did not enjoy the freedom of religion that we do today.  They were regularly persecuted by the Roman authorities for attending Mass.  Pope Benedict XVI often tells the story of the martyrs of Abitene (in modern-day Tunisia).  In 303, forty-nine Christians suffered torture and martyrdom because they defied the Roman Emperor Diocletian’s order not to celebrate the Eucharist on Sunday.  When asked why they had disobeyed the emperor, one of them said, “Sine dominico non possumus” — “Without Sunday, we cannot live.” 

In fact, for nearly 2,000 years Christians have risked their lives to participate in Sunday Mass.  During the Reformation in England, priests were martyred when caught offering Holy Mass for English Catholics.  Courageous lay people who gave their homes over as places of Catholic worship, and who harbored priests, suffered torture and death. 

The witness of saints in our own lifetime testifies to the tremendous price paid by some of our Catholic family for celebrating the Sunday Eucharist. In the past century, Catholics in former Communist countries like the Soviet Union or Vietnam were persecuted for practicing their faith. Today in places such as Egypt, China, North Korea, Iraq, Sudan and countless other areas, Catholics risk their lives and travel for hours to attend Sunday Mass. We give thanks to God that we do not have to put our lives in jeopardy to attend Mass at our local parish. We rejoice that, unlike those in poor areas, we do not have to walk for miles, over hills or on inadequate dirt roads to attend. The vast majority of us can walk safely down the street or make a short drive to arrive at our beloved parish. But the ease, convenience, and legality of the Mass should not cause us ever to lose sight that the Mass is so precious that many of our Catholic brothers and sisters around the world are braving great inconvenience and persecution to receive what we, by God’s love, have available near us.

In his first Holy Thursday letter to priests, Blessed Pope John Paul II touchingly recalled situations of the faith triumphing over persecution from his own personal experience of living under religious oppression:

Sometimes it happens that [the lay faithful] meet in an abandoned shrine, and place on the altar a stole which they keep, and recite all the prayers of the Eucharistic liturgy: and then, at the moment that corresponds to the transubstantiation a deep silence comes down upon them, a silence sometimes broken by a sob … so ardently do they desire to hear the words that only the lips of a priest can efficaciously utter.

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta often spoke about how precious each Mass is.  Frequently she would instruct newly ordained priests to “celebrate each Mass as if it is your first Mass, your last Mass and your only Mass.”  In other words, she implored priests never to take the celebration of the Mass for granted and let it become routine.  I ask the same of every Catholic in the archdiocese.  Just as we should be grateful for each day God grants us, let us anticipate and participate in each Mass as if it could be our last or our only Mass. Let us never take for granted the wonder that is the encounter we have with God each Sunday that we celebrate the Eucharist together.

“Every time we celebrate the Eucharist,” Saint John Paul II preached in 2004, “we participate in the Lord’s Supper which gives us a foretaste of the heavenly glory.”18  

Filipino Catholics going to church every Sunday have gone down from 64 percent to 37 percent, based on a survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS).
Fr. Rafaelito V. Alaras, OSB, Prior Administrator
San Beda College Alabang

12"He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.…

Dear Father Alaras OSB:

Fraternal Greetings!

You have a way of shocking us, your flock, on Good Shepherd Sunday.
…10"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. 11"I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. 

You have a letter posted in the St. Benedict Chapel doors stating that there will be no more anticipated masses on Saturdays and also no more evening mass on Sundays. 

In other words, the Sunday mass schedule is now limited to two masses ONLY. No more anticipated Sunday Mass on Saturdays  and also no more Sunday evening mass!

The  reason: you are placing more importance on "monastic life" now.
Is there anything more important in your Benedictine monastic work than saying the MASS?
Fr. Alaras: Remember what The Good Shepherd said:
12"He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.…

That in All Things, God May Be Glorified!

The EQualizer Post

Many Filipinos attend church only during weddings, baptisms and funeral services.
MANILA, Philippines - Filipino Catholics going to church every Sunday have gone down from 64 percent to 37 percent, based on a survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS).

Nearly one in 10 or 9.2 percent of Catholics who are registered voters “sometimes think of leaving the Church,” according to the same SWS survey taken Feb. 15 to 17.

More than 80 percent of the 94 million Filipinos consider themselves Catholics.

In comparison, there are nearly twice as many in other Christian denominations and sects who are weekly churchgoers: 64 percent among
Protestants, 70 percent among Iglesia ni Cristo members and 62 percent among other Christians groups. Seventy-five percent of Muslims attend masjid at least weekly, the SWS said.

“In the entirety of 70 SWS surveys of church attendance during 1991-2013, weekly attendance was always lower among Catholics than among Filipinos in general,” it said.

The survey also found one in every 11 Catholics “sometimes think of leaving the Church.”

“Having thoughts of leaving the Catholic Church is more common among Catholics who do not consider themselves as very religious, who attend church monthly at most, and whose church attendance is less now than five years ago,” the SWS said.

The survey used face-to-face interviews with 1,200 registered voters divided into random samples of 300 each in Metro Manila, the rest of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.
Active, Seasonal and Nominal Catholics: How many?
by Fr. Amado L. Picardal, CSsR

ONLY 37 percent of Catholics regularly attend Sunday Mass and only 29 percent regard themselves as very religious. This is the findings of the SWS survey released last week. Some bishops and priests thought that this is not accurate since they noted that the number of Masses and Mass attendance has actually increased.

How should we interpret this survey result and what challenges does this pose for the Church in the Philippines?

For me, 37 percent of Catholics who attend mass regularly is relatively high. In 1990, a preparatory document for PCP II mentioned that only 15-20 percent of Catholics regularly attend mass. That’s even a high estimate according to some analysts who thought that it’s less than 10 percent.

We need to take into consideration that most of the parishes in the countryside have a network of barrio chapels or Basic Ecclesial Communities that are far from the parish center.

These communities do not have the luxury of celebrating the Eucharist once a week. Usually, the parish priest can only come once a month or once every two months to celebrate Mass with these communities. Instead, they have a weekly bible service or Liturgy of the Word presided by lay liturgical leaders.

For a parish with over 50 thousand parishioners, an average of five thousand regular church goers every Sunday would already be high. The number would increase during lent, advent (especially the Misa de Gallo) and the parish fiesta and the novena-masses before the fiesta. Even the weekly bible-service celebrated in the chapels would not get over 50 percent attendance, except during the special liturgical seasons. A BEC bible-service in a barangay with a membership of around 200 families would usually have 20-40 regular attendees.

We may never get to know the exact percentage of Catholics who attend mass regularly. We won’t have an accurate figure of Catholics who are living actively as genuine disciples of Christ. This means not just attending Mass regularly, but also active involvement in the parish, BECs or Church organizations and movements. We won’t know exactly how many Catholics have been truly evangelized and have gone through a process of personal conversion. We don’t have any idea how many Catholics have imbibed the teachings and values of Christ as taught by the Church or how many Catholics come together to listen and reflect on the Word of God, and filled with missionary dynamism share it with others. We don’t know how many Catholics, guided by the Church’s social teachings, are involved in works of charity, justice and peace, promotion of human rights—including the right to life, and environmental advocacy.

All we know is that their percentage is low. It would be good news if they make up 37 percent or even 20 percent—that would be too good to be true. They are just a minority but they are making a difference. This is what the BECs and other renewal movements are trying to accomplish—small groups and communities of Catholics, acting as salt, leaven and light in the midst of a majority who are living as nominal and seasonal Catholics.

When we look at the Church as a whole, we have to look at it as composed of three concentric circles. There is a small inner core of Catholics—lay, religious and ordained—who are living actively as disciples of Jesus and involved in the life and mission of the Church. Then there is a bigger middle core of seasonal Catholics who are involved occasionally and seasonally. Finally, at the outer core, which is the largest, are the marginal and nominal Catholics. They are all members of the Church with varying degrees of participation and involvement.

Since the majority of Catholics are either seasonal or nominal, and even many of those who are active are still devotional or liturgical, there is a need for new evangelization. The creative minority in the Church are to be the agents of new evangelization. Hopefully, those seasonal Catholics will become more active and the nominal will become seasonal or even active. What matters is not just the quantity but the quality of Church membership. There is much to be done.