Word Magazine May 1975 Page 12
This article appeared in a certain Church Bulletin and was reprinted in THE AMERICAN SRBOBRAN of Feb. 20, 1974. It carries a very good message and we are reprinting it for the information of our readers.
FROM A PRIEST
You have just finished reading the financial report of our church parish, but please, do not throw away this bulletin. Take a little time and read this report, too.
The financial report printed in this bulletin looks very impressive. The mortgage has been paid and the church is free of debts. There is a substantial amount of money in the bank. Your support of your church has been wonderful, and one can hardly ask for anything more.
However, if we are to present an accurate and complete picture of our parish, I am afraid the financial reports, no matter how impressive they may look to us, are not sufficient. There is another area of parish life which cannot be described and expressed in terms of dollars and cents.
In the years following the consecration of our church our minds were mainly occupied with one thought: how to pay the mortgage. This was our prime concern. Now, since the mortgage has been paid, I think it would be proper to turn our attention to another aspect of parish life and find out whether this parish is as successful and as strong spiritually as it is financially.
To help you form your own judgment, I am presenting some facts and figures which I hope you will take time to examine. There are more than 600 people (including children) who consider themselves members and parishioners of this church. Only one-third of them come to church services during the year to receive the holy sacraments of Confession and Communion.
There are many empty pews in our church on Sundays and Holidays. Some people attend church regularly, some occasionally, some on Christmas and Easter, and some never come. . . .
There are people who believe in Christ, but do not believe in Confession and Communion. In other words, they believe in Christ but do not believe in what He says.
The number of children attending church and Sunday School Classes at the present time is the lowest one in the last 20 years.
Some young people come to church to be married with the idea of beginning their married life with God’s blessings and making church and religion a part of their family life. Some forget the church completely after the wedding day.
There are people who pay their membership dues and support the church financially, but never go to church services, not even on Christmas and Easter, and never receive the Holy Sacraments.
This is something I was never able to understand. It is like buying a fishing license with no intention of going fishing. Their reason for belonging to church is expressed in a popular phrase, “In case something happens.” It means they belong for the privilege of having their dead body brought to church for funeral services.
At one of our clergy meetings a priest asked our Bishop, “Is it proper to perform funeral services in church for a man who never attended during his life?” To which the Bishop replied, “I think it is a sin to force a dead man to go to the place where he did not go while he was alive.”
There was a preacher who made himself popular through his sincerity in preaching eulogies.
Here is one:
“Dearly Beloved, this man was never here before. He would not be here today either, but he had no choice. He was pushed in by six pallbearers. May God be merciful to his soul. Amen.” I do not preach this kind of eulogy, but must confess, on many occasions, while officiating at funeral services for a person whom I have never seen in church before, I simply cannot avoid thinking of this preacher.
This report, as you can see, does not look at all impressive. It shows there is plenty of room for improvement. If we are to improve the spiritual life in our parish then there are a few things we must constantly keep in mind. People build churches because of their conviction that the soul is more important than the Kingdom of Earth. Without this conviction, the building of a church makes no sense.
Our beautiful church can justify hard work and sacrifices only if it becomes a real House of God; a place of prayer, worship and meditation; a place where we come to analyze our soul, realize our failures, confess our sins and receive the Holy Sacraments of Confession and Communion; a place where we find comfort when troubled, hope when we are hopeless, strength when we are weak, and light when we are in darkness. A place where we are taught to reach the highest goal of life, the salvation of our soul.
I hope you will not feel offended by this report. You have done your best to put this church in a perfect condition financially and now it is my hope, you will do your best to bring the spiritual life of our parish to a higher level.