Why Catholics go to church

(This is a little bit I wrote as a comment to a post of my dear blogfriend JessicaHof, “Why go to Church?” The discussion there is worth reading, but I also thought my response here might make a rare, short, succinct post for The Lonely Pilgrim.)

Catholic Mass

The deeper Catholic reason why Catholics must go to Mass, and why it’s a mortal sin to miss it, is because we are members of the Body of Christ; we are the Church. The Eucharist is the source and summit not only of our faith, but of our lives. To abandon the Body is to abandon ourselves, and to neglect the Body and Blood is to neglect our own spiritual and even physical well-being.

Many Protestants, especially evangelical, “Bible” Protestants, have it in their heads that they can be Christians just by being alone with God and with their Bibles. Such a thought is incomprehensible to a Catholic; because we are members of a Body. How we worship God, how we receive His graces, is what we do together, in communion with each other and with Christ. We go to church because it is only in our corporate worship that we come face to face, flesh to flesh with Jesus.

Before I became Catholic, I wrote a lot to myself and made a lot of lists trying to establish the reason for going to church, and therefore what I was really looking for in a church. I decided that the primary purpose of the church was to “support and nourish the body of believers” — I used that very word, nourish. What I had in mind was fellowship and a system of support, to hold up believers and see to their well-being; to see they are being fed (I used those words, too) with the Word of God. When I first came to the Catholic Church, I didn’t immediately find that fellowship I was looking for — but I found what I really needed, what my soul cried out for: communion with Christ and with His Body on earth, being nourished and fed by His very Body and Blood.

9 thoughts on “Why Catholics go to church

  1. As an Anglican Catholic. Amen to this post. I can’t miss Mass because it is where I am nourished spiritually, where I receive the true body and blood of Christ, and where I worship with the body of Christ. You just can’t miss those things

  2. I would point out that many of the classic (i.e. mainline) Protestant churches also see church attendance and community as deeply necessary. In my own tradition John Wesley started his movement on community, especially reaching out to those that ended up outside the community because of economic and social changes in England. Wesley also recommended that people commune at the table at least once a week (he usually did so three times a week). Community is really the point of my tradition, although I do admit that many have forgotten that importance. The Anabaptist/Mennonite tradition (also in my heritage) has also historically had a strong emphasis on community and church attendance, and I think they might have held onto their community emphasis better than many others.

    I do admit that many churches and denominations in Protestantism seem to have forgotten their community aspect. Although it really seems to me to be a cultural problem that cuts across all denominations.

    But you are right that the more “evangelical” branch of modern Protestantism has tended to embrace individualism on a broad scale. It can often tend to a more “come to church and get your (individualistic) spiritual recharge” with little to no emphasis on community. When I was leaving behind my charismatic sojourn, I did an experiment at one point. I looked at how many worship songs in the evangelical church used the singular personal pronouns (I, me, my, etc.) compared to corporate pronouns (we, us, our, etc.) and then compared that to my high church Methodist church. The difference is amazing and I had never noticed it.

  3. I think that not to go to Mass is a sin, in the meaning that is an error or a mistake. I go to learn, the church is a university class that meets once a week and lasts all of your life. Is it a good idea to miss the day they do the axioms of Calculus? not if you want to be a mathematician, engineer or a scientist nor is correct to miss the prepared lesson in the church, you know not what you need, but the holy spirit does and it would nice for you to be in class when he speaks.

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