We have finally entered the summer season! St. Theresa School will be closing its academic year this week, Religious Education finished a month ago and many of the organizations at St. Theresa will wind down and take some of the summer off.
This is the time of year when the days are warm and long, the barbeque grills are heating up and the sound of lawn mowers and songbirds fill the twilight hours. We watch our children and grandchildren play baseball and perhaps toss a few balls around ourselves, reliving our childhood and feeling young again. The flowers bloom and the garden grows, reminding us that summer is a time of abundance.
For most people, life s l o w s down, even if just a little bit, so that we can catch our breath before September rolls around and everything starts up anew.
There is an odd phenomena that takes place in Churches throughout this country this time of year and that is Mass attendance goes down during the summer months.
When I first became pastor of St. Bede Parish in Fox Lake 15 years ago, I presumed that because people would be flocking to the Chain O’ Lakes region on the weekends for some boating fun, that Mass attendance would actually go up there during the summer, but it didn’t take me long to realize that even with that draw for people, Mass attendance went down there, as well.
Why is that? Do we wake up on Sunday morning and decide we’d rather get in a round of golf than go to Mass? Do we get the boat out on the lake early and decide that God won’t mind if we miss a few Sundays? Do we go to soccer or baseball games with our kids because travel leagues and park districts don’t respect that Sunday should be set aside for worship anymore? Do we go on weekend trips and vacations and presume the Church says it’s okay to skip Mass when we travel?
Whatever the reasons, the reality is that the summer break frequently includes a break from worshipping at Mass on the weekend.
And yet, nothing changes in terms of why we go to Mass. We still need and receive the Eucharist, which we celebrate in a particular way this weekend on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, so that we can go off into the world and face the many challenges to our Catholic and Christian faith. We still pray as a community, so that we never need to feel alone in our faith. We still hear the word of God and apply its lessons to our lives.
One of the reasons I find Mass important to me (even when I travel) is that it gives me the opportunity to express my gratitude to God for all the gifts I have been given in life. No matter what challenges and obstacles I face, there are always many blessings and many reasons to be grateful to God. It seems to me that the summer months are an especially appropriate time to express that gratitude to God, because the things we love about summer are really an extension of the blessings God provides us. Without a consciousness of gratitude, we can sometimes transition to the negative experience of entitlement, which allows us to mistakenly believe that the blessings we receive in life are in fact solely a repayment for our own hard work and effort.
Let’s enjoy all that the summer season has to offer us and renew our dedication to worship and prayer through the Mass, so that we might express our gratitude to the God who made us and provides us with so many things to be thankful for, particularly in the beautiful summer season.
Enjoy the week and God bless you all.