Several years ago, someone coined the phrase “Creasters” for those Catholics, and I use the word Catholic loosely here, who choose to attend Mass twice a year – to remember the Birth and Resurrection of Christ. I absolutely do not understand their motivation. And while I am not perfect, I do my best to attend as many Masses as I can throughout the year. I also know that people tend to do things that they see value in. As such, these “Creasters” must feel that these two feasts in the liturgical calendar of the Church are very important to them. Nonetheless, it does call into question the ‘value’ of the other 50 weeks when the same Mass is held in the same church every week.
A few years ago I attended a Christmas Eve Mass at a suburban Detroit parish. After making the mistake of getting to Mass only 30 minutes prior to the beginning of Mass, I found myself standing barely inside the church. The phrase, “no room at the Inn,” was truly a reality. Within 10 minutes, the ushers were distributing steel chairs for the parishioners to sit on and I also realized that they were smart enough to have connected speakers in order that we could at least “hear” the Mass. Needless to say, this was not one of my better Catholic experiences. There was no point in taking off your coat as you needed it to keep warm. Furthermore, there was little point in trying to “see” the Mass as the ushers had closed the doors so that the faithful in the church could keep warm. Naturally, the steel chair was not the most comfortable seat and it wasn’t long before I gave thought to attending another Mass. The “Creasters” had taken over!
I feel sorry for the bishops, priests, and deacons during these spiritual seasons as I am sure that they question the sincerity of these bi-annual visitors. On multiple occasions, I have heard priests say, “I invite all of you to come back next week”; perhaps with the hope that even ten of the extra thousand “Catholics” would return? The thing that bothers me is that even the “Creasters” cannot be all that comfortable in a church that holds 600 parishioners but has 1800 people crowded at Mass? If two Masses per year is the goal, why not attend one during Ordinary Time and another during Advent or Lent- when there will be plenty of seating?
In Europe, there appears to be a similar problem where, on almost every Sunday, Mass attendance is virtually non-existent. Many years ago, I recall a Sunday when I was serving in the United States Navy Reserve in Sicily. Sunday came- and we had the option of driving to the base or walking downtown into the little village to attend the local Mass. We chose to walk to the local church, and as we entered the Plaza, there were about 150 men in small groups smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee. I thought to myself, this is nice as they are all here early for Mass. Well, I was wrong. The Mass started, and as we entered the church, we saw approximately 50 women seated in a church that easily could have accommodated 500 people. The men in the Plaza stayed in the Plaza.
I would like to see things change but I am not hopeful. Today, we face another challenge and that is a shortage of priests and the direct result will actually be fewer Masses. Maybe it is time to think “out of the box” and encourage attendance at weekly Mass in an effort to “Keep the Sabbath” throughout the week? I think something has to change.