Last week we had another St Wendelin Educational Foundation meeting. You remember that the mission of the Educational Foundation is to provide financial support for Catholic schooling for our parish children. Since the closing of our own schools, parents apply for scholarships to help their children attend a Catholic school in the vicinity. Most of our Catholic school children are attending either Fremont Bishop Hoffman or Tiffin Calvert.
One discussion item for us was what to do about those families that apply for and receive scholarship money, yet never attend weekend Mass or volunteer for anything at the parish. Should we police their Mass attendance and volunteerism more rigorously? Should we give partial scholarships to people we see only rarely at weekend Mass, or who volunteer very little? Should we refuse scholarships to families that never attend weekend Mass or volunteer for a ministry?
Before I go further, I should state that I understand some parents work all weekend, and there is literally no way for somebody with such a work schedule to get to weekend Mass. I also understand that some people's lives are so chaotic and full of trials that getting to Mass or volunteering at the parish is not even on the radar. Much has to happen to bring some stability to their life, before they would be able to accomplish a trip to Holy Mass or volunteer for something at the parish. But, what about those parents who don't have work or home conflicts that make weekend Mass and volunteerism impossible? They just choose not to attend Mass or serve the parish in any way.
Policing the capable-yet-not-participating families is very tedious, for many reasons. We stopped policing Mass attendance and parish service last year. Somebody might say that it's not fair that some scholarship families have to attend Mass and volunteer for a parish ministry, while other scholarship families get away with no Mass and no volunteerism.
I'd like to approach it from a totally different perspective. Those families who choose to attend Holy Mass and commit to some service/ministry at the parish are actually living the more blessed life! [I am thinking about Deuteronomy chapters 29-30, where the Lord explains how Israel suffered because they fell away from Him, and he is now laying before them a choice: blessing and life, or curse and death.] I am pretty sure that the Faith will be handed on to the children of participating families much more successfully than in non-participating families. So right away some generational blessing has begun. Those participating families are already living the great benefit of their commitment. When we attend Holy Mass, we are standing at Calvary and witnessing the greatest act of love the world has ever known! Amazing!! The reward, the blessing, is built right into attendance at Mass. Blessing is also built into a service taken on in thanksgiving. Such families are living a faith culture that actually supports all the effort they are putting into getting their children to Catholic school. Families that do not attend Mass or volunteer are already experiencing something of a curse. They are contradicting the Catholic schooling of their children. They are missing out on the Lord's presence in Mass! That's a huge negative! How blessed are those families who realize that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life! They are blessed beyond families who don't. And how blessed are those families who give back in thanksgiving! Again, they are blessed beyond families who don't. The abundant life is the life lived in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is life! He said so Himself. And to know Him (and live for Him) is life! Again, He said it Himself.
In light of the blessing inherent in attendance at Mass and gratefully taking on a service/ministry, we don't have to think it's unfair that some scholarship recipient families avoid Mass and parish service/ministry. Those families who opt out of Mass and service opt out of the blessing inherent in these expressions of faith and gratitude. We want to encourage such families as much as possible; but I am not sure that forcing them for the sake of scholarship money is the answer. Conversion in their lives probably will not happen this way. May the Lord give us wisdom for how best to bring such families back into the blessed life, especially back to Holy Mass!
Have a blessed week!
In cordibus Iesu, Mariae et Iosephus,