I was told a story. A mom goes to wake her son from the deep sleep that five-year-olds have.
- Do you know what today is?
- I don't want to go to mass, Mom.
- No? Why?
- Mom, I don't want to go to church because the people there are not happy.
If it's not true, it's well found...
Let's take a look at the people who attend Mass in any parish on any Sunday. Do they look happy? What conclusion would anyone draw if he or she were curious about one of our Masses? And it is not that, as some people say to me: "You have to have more joyful Masses" (i.e., more boisterous).
It is not the masses that have to be joyful: it is the Christians who have to be joyful.
What do people see when they look at our parishes? What do people see when they look at us Catholics? Do they see a people alive, with the joy of the Gospel burning in their hearts... I think what they see is a people who only fulfill their obligations out of habit.
How does a conversion take place? A conversion takes place from the inside out. It is not the first thing that changes behavior, much less is it the change in behavior that changes the person. To appear happy, you have to be happy; and to be happy, something has to happen to make you happy. You don't become happy by pretending to be happy or by doing the things that those who are happy do.
Let us look at the Gospel, which came first, the chicken or the egg? First goes the Gospel and then the Acts of the Apostles. There is no dilemma here. The conversion of parishes requires us - first of all, pastors - to realize our need to become disciples on fire for Jesus Christ, and to transform parishes through parish communities, doing what the Lord does: choosing a nucleus of disciples, teaching them to be disciples and to make disciples who make other disciples. Jesus, in the Gospel, gathers and forms disciples (the happiest guys in the world); our parishes expect Mass and activity attendees, and the occasional willing volunteer.
Many parishes are immersed in a maelstrom of activism that is absolutely sterile. This frenetic pace of activity, while at the same time diminishing resources, has made us lose our joy and is leading us into a decline that, if things do not change, will inevitably lead us to disappear. Or will it?
Pastor in San Antonio de la Florida and San Pío X. Madrid.