Don’t leave church how you found it

Reflections On Life
By Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD
“There’s a 911 going off all around the Catholic Church, especially in the black part of the Church. But few people seem to be listening to the 911. It is noted that one in three Catholics is no longer practicing. Former altar boys or altar girls, former Eucharistic ministers and lectors are now part of some megachurch, Pentecostal church or no church. Amazingly, the number of former Catholics is sufficient to form the third-largest U.S. denomination.
“Most distressing of all, late-teenage and young adult Catholics are those most conspicuous for their absence. We are losing them at an alarming rate because we are not breaking the Word open to them. Our prayers, worship and life are not filled with the driving power of the Holy Ghost, so that people leave church in the same sad shape they entered it.
“Before walking out of church on Sunday, all of us need an attitude adjustment and a greater quickening of the Holy Ghost. But some of us need a transfusion, minor surgery or varying degrees of medical care, while others need open-heart surgery or, in some cases, a heart transplant. Serious head adjustment, nerve and/or emotional treatment is in order for many before they casually walk out the door as if everything were all right with them and the world.”
These words came pouring out of the mouth of evangelist/revivalist Msgr. Ray East, pastor of St. Teresa of Avila Church in Washington, D.C. He was busy bringing the fire of the Holy Ghost to St. Anthony Parish, housed in a smallish church in Dallas. Six of us from Our Mother of Mercy Church in Fort Worth had motored there to join in the revival. He observed that few churches are catching the fire of the Holy Spirit, and, without that fire, they will be lifeless, purposeless failures.
With an almost continuous smile, his eyes, ivories and his striking demeanor showed clearly that he was enjoying, savoring each greeting, every word, each prayer, every reading of the liturgy, rocking, gesturing and clapping to the beat and lyrics of each song rendered by the dynamic, powerful blended choir of St. Anthony and Holy Cross Churches.
Wearing Texas boots, Monsignor Ray removed them ostentatiously in the midst of his homily and placed them standing next to the pulpit. He did not put them on again until shortly before the Consecration. Wandering over much of the church like a peripatetic preacher, he made certain that he engaged as many individuals as he could.
Later, he explained that removing ones shoes before entering a house is common in the East, but especially when entering an area that is considered a holy place, much as when Moses approached the burning bush.
And, not surprisingly, I had that familiar feeling during the progression of the liturgy, music and homily that we were indeed standing on holy ground. As he spoke, the words of the song came to mind, “We are standing on holy ground, and I know that there are angels all around. Let us praise Jesus now.”
Yes, and the Holy Spirit was indeed moving and hard at work. In their now smiling, now pensive, now troubled, now joyful, now explosive demeanor, the sisters and brothers throughout the church resonated Msgr. East’s infectious presence and spirited proclamation of the Word, his on-fire sharing of the Word in his homily, and his highly personal rendition of each segment of the liturgy. It was an obvious reenactment of the legendary Last Supper.
“In order to reach our St. Teresa of Avila Church in D.C., many of our church members have to pass by megachurches and a number of Catholic parishes. They have to WANT to come to our church service! And that is what all of us must do. We must so conduct our lives and our church service that people will WANT to come to us and be a part of our Faith Family.”
The afterglow, of course, and the follow-up by the folks attending a church service are the proof whether the action and interaction of the service have been faith-driven, Spirit-filled and live to the point where minds and hearts are changed for the better, negative stress is relieved or removed, pain and sorrow are more bearable and our lives become more livable.
That afterglow and follow-up were evident as we repaired to the hall for a light repast. The happy, buzzing beehive atmosphere was that of the Agape gatherings of the early Christians.
“God is love, and all who abide in love abide in God and God in them.”   (1 John 4:16)
(Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD, is pastor of Our Mother of Mercy Parish in Fort Worth, Texas. He has written “Reflections on Life since 1969.)