Spirituality for Today – Fall 2019 – Volume 24, Issue 1

After Church

Reverend Raymond K. Petrucci

Sunday morning dawned and the Lord's Day ritual began. Donning our "Sunday Best," the family prepared to attend the 7:00 a.m. Mass at our parish. This Mass was the sine qua non to the rest of the day. In other words, nothing was going to happen until after church. Depending on which season of the year it happened to be, the remainder of the day was filled with a number of traditional activities as well as some variables. No matter, there was never a question that Sunday was the Lord's Day.

I suppose that those experts who study such things that alter the principles and morals of a society can explain them with much more competence than I can. What I am able to say is that an ill wind carrying a multitude of pollutants has twisted the understanding of self–awareness and one's relationships with other human beings. Seeping to the depths of one's soul, the notion of being connected to the unity of the Trinity has been replaced by indifference and even denial. Unless I paint too dreary a picture of the current state of affairs, I believe that religious sentiment prevails, but it must be admitted that a secular and an atheistic beachhead has been established. This can be seen in the trend that defines the many activities one used to do "after church" as now readily done "instead of church."

If we were look at the notion of "cause and effect" regarding this circumstance of modern times, an argument might be made that it is not the result of a stratagem to destroy religious practice, but one of more earthly pursuits due to the competitive nature of humanity or the lust after greater and greater monetary profit. Nevertheless, Sunday has become another day of labor and – if for some, a day off – worship may or may not fit into one's schedule. If God comes in second or at all, what is coming in first in importance? As one whose vocation is God-centered and consumed with the concerns of theology and liturgy and spreading the gospel, I feel ill–suited to providing an answer to this question. Perhaps, the lack of prioritizing what faith obliges or allowing a narrowness of thought toward secular desires to determine the use of time are factors. Maybe we can bypass the question and look, instead, on what is required to energize an active and deep faith.

There are but two roads that lead to an important goal and to the doing of great things: strength and perseverance. Strength is the lot of a few privileged men; but austere perseverance, harsh, and continuous, may be employed by the smallest of us and rarely fails of its purpose, for its silent power grows irresistibly greater with time.

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

In hopes of a spiritual "Great Awakening," the task of bringing people to think deeply about how one's life ultimately matters and how a connectedness to God and the importance of being a People of God leads to making one's life matter eternally. What is the "Big Stuff" and what is the "Small Stuff" of existence? Entertaining these questions is not a bad place to start. Helen Keller spoke of her faith as being a response to what she called "eternal longings." This, in my opinion, constitutes the "Big Stuff" of life. You can state this idea as the desire to get to heaven. What matters the most in life are those beliefs that lead to eternal life in God's love or, shall we say, to heaven. Jesus teaches us that he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Thus, it would seem most important for the human being to do their best, as we are taught, to know, love, and serve the Lord. The gospels are replete with metaphors by which Jesus describes himself as the Vine (to which we must be attached as branches drawing life), the Gate (through which we must enter), the Good Shepherd (we must hear and recognize his voice), as well as numerous other images of being to source of our salvation. We might conclude this quest as reaching the realization that Jesus established a way of being in communion with God and in being in communion with one another: the Church. All the rest is the "Small Stuff."

The apostles went throughout the world forming communities (churches) founded in Christ and uniting the members as a People of God. The Mass was and is the point of worship where the members reach the most intimate unity with the Lord. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit is the enduring divine presence guiding and teaching the community as it wends its way through the centuries. Belonging to the Church Triumphant (in heaven) and the Church Militant (on earth) is the natural environment of a people who are faithful, a people who worship. This belonging makes us a people who truly are in the world, but not of it. We have our individual lives within which we do a multitude of things, but when it comes to keeping it all in its proper place, we keep it After Church.