29 July 2003

An article about Parish Shopping was posted over at Confessions of a Recovering Choir Director.

I know that his posting and the article has nothing to do with me, but somehow I suddenly feel a need to defend myself. (What was that Mr. Riley used to quote to us? "The wicked fleeth and runeth away but the righteous stands bold as a lion?") I suppose I'm justifying myself to myself.

The author of this article points out, quite rightly, that attending your neighborhood parish is not only a good idea, it's what you're supposed to do. There are geographical boundaries of parishes, and we're not supposed to go looking for a new church for just any old reason.

I went to the same church for 12 years, which is quite a long time, considering that I'm only 18 years old. I sang in the choir almost that whole time, and my mother was a lector, dad was in the Men's Club, etc. We watched three pastors come and go as well as numerous assistant pastors, supported the parish through two sex scandals and an embarassing financial situation. I made my First Communion and was confirmed there, my dad was received into the Catholic Church there, and my parents were married there. We're pretty entrenched in the community. We do not, however, live within that parish's geographical boundaries. We started going there when we moved to this town, because I was attending school there. (The school in our former hometown was full, as was the school into whose parish boundaries we eventually moved.) We left, as you know, because the way in which Mass is being celebrated on Sundays is terribly distracting to me. I didn't go looking for Gregorian chant or a Tridentine Mass, just someplace reasonably close by where I could actually focus on worship instead of thinking "what the heck is the music minister/deacon/altar server/extraordinary minister doing?" I didn't go to the church in whose parish boundaries we are, because I've been there and it's pretty much the same. The parishes in this town are not terribly different from one another. We went to the next town, which is a 15-minute drive and not really any further away from our house than any of the three Catholic churches in this town. It's a small community, and I already know four people who go there.

I don't think I was parish shopping. I am not driven by consumerist philosophy. I wasn't particularly looking for brilliant sermons (though I got them) or great music or a vibrant service-oriented community. Just someplace where Mass didn't feel like a circus. This isn't parish shopping, is it?

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