What is happening to the Faith? We're to blame

·8 min read

May 16—"All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle."

— St. Francis of Assisi

If there was ever a time when we must be and remain a lighted candle, it's now. "It's better to light one candle than to curse the darkness" is the motto of The Christophers, a religious organization founded in 1949. Let's get those personal candles blazing!!!

A few weeks ago, there was the announcement that Mary, Queen of Peace Roman Catholic Church in Pottsville would permanently close its doors. The parish itself merged with St. Patrick, also in Pottsville, in 2008, and after appeals by parishioners, the church building was allowed to be a worship center, although basically for the patronal feast day and for funerals. It will now be put up for sale, the reason being lack of use and maintenance costs.

I know the feeling from when St. George Church in Shenandoah, home of the oldest Lithuanian parish in the country, perhaps in the Northern Hemisphere, was closed, condemned and razed. I was baptized there, received First Holy Communion there, was confirmed there and went to the parish school during my elementary years. It's tough when your religious life is centered in one place for so many decades.

But it is a trend that is happening around the country, and also in many parts of the world. Churches and schools are closing due to lack of financial support, along with declines in people practicing their faith, and not even saying they belong to any at all. Declining populations in our region doesn't help matters either, and those who are stronger in the Faith are up in age. There is no one to replace them in most cases. And that is happening in other denominations. I've been doing my job for more than 30 years, and believe me, it's the same situation for them as I drive by closed church buildings.

When I read complaints about how dare they close my church, their index finger is usually pointed at the bishop. There is that adage that when you point a finger at someone, there are three others pointing back at you.

In many dioceses, catechesis to teach the Faith has been lax at best over the past 60 or so years. It's hard to believe and live the Faith when you aren't taught it with reasons why it is so important. Too many just ignore it, or they don't understand well enough that it has any importance in their lives beyond showing up to sit in a pew on weekends, or maybe just show up at Christmas, Easter and maybe one or two other days. Many years ago, a priest in Hazleton was offering Mass and he spoke in homily about PAT Catholics, with PAT meaning "Palms, Ashes, Throats." Sadly, that is the case. A pastor in our area also said years ago in an Ash Wednesday homily — regrettably in a church that a decade or so later would be closed and demolished — that the church was almost full on Ash Wednesday, which is not a holy day of obligation, but on other holy days, that are required to attend Mass, the turnout was so much smaller. He asked why. It's a good question, but it comes with an answer that is not quite comfortable to hear.

Another major problem leading to parish closings is lack of priests. When people don't respond to the call to a religious vocations, then what? Nine senior pastors are retiring this year while only two are being ordained. You do the math.

On AD-Today, the Most Rev. Alfred A. Schlert, bishop of Allentown, spoke about the statistics and the need for such a large number of re-assignments this year in a letter, where he said:

"Traditionally, June is the time of priest transfers in our Diocese. Re-assignments bring with them the sadness of parting and the freshness of new beginnings for both priests and parishioners.

This June, there will be an unusually large number of transfers and other episcopal appointments. I am deeply aware of the amount of change and readjustment this brings to the lives of our priests and to our parishes. The significant personnel changes this year are due to a number of factors:

—Nine retirements of seasoned pastors representing 448 years of priestly service given;

—Over the past seven months, three priests have left active ministry. Each of these men had been ordained for fewer than five years. This is a potential loss of 131 years of future service.

—One ordination to the priesthood in June (one priest also was ordained in January).

As a result, for the first time in the 60-year history of our Diocese, there are fewer than 100 active diocesan priests (92) to serve our parishes, schools and institutions. In 1961, the year our Diocese was founded, there were 283 active diocesan priests."

We can consider many reasons why things are the way they are in the church and the world, but it may come down to lack of grace. For those of us who go back to the days when towns had multiple churches, Masses were offered daily, and not just one Mass, but two or three in the morning. Some churches had three Masses in the morning that were held early enough for people to attend before work or going about their daily duties.

Now, we're lucky to have one parish in a town, and in most cases, one Mass per day, assuming there are even daily ones. A town with six churches could offer 10 or 12 or more Masses per day. That is a lot of graces offered to individuals, the families, the town, the state, the country and the world. When it drops from a dozen Masses a day (and multiplied in other towns) to one Mass, how many graces are not distributed? Look around. There is an effect, and we're seeing it every day.

—There are still many people who remember Red Skelton. Now that is "Skelton," not "skeleton." A wonderful comedian and actor who had a television entertainment series from 1951 to 1971, mainly on CBS, but also on NBC at the beginning and end.

People remember him for his many characters he portrayed in skits, including Clem Kadiddlehopper, Junior, Deadeye, Cauliflower McPugg, and, of course, Freddie the Freeloader.

There was an opening monologue, and when he closed the show — which was in front of a live audience and may have been broadcast live in many cases — Skelton would have a few words for the audience in-house and out in TV land, and always end with "Good night, and may God bless."

Well, here is Skelton's "Recipe for the Perfect Marriage."

1. Two times a week we go to a nice restaurant, have a little beverage, good food and companionship. She goes on Tuesdays, I go on Fridays.

2. We also sleep in separate beds. Hers is in California and mine is in Texas.

3. I take my wife everywhere, but she keeps finding her way back.

4. I asked my wife where she wanted to go for our anniversary. "Somewhere I haven't been in a long time!" she said. So I suggested the kitchen.

5. We always hold hands. If I let go, she shops.

6. She has an electric blender, electric toaster and electric bread maker. She said "There are too many gadgets, and no place to sit down!" So I bought her an electric chair.

7. My wife told me the car wasn't running well because there was water in the carburetor. I asked where the car was. She told me, "In the lake."

8. She got a mud pack and looked great for two days. Then the mud fell off.

9. She ran after the garbage truck, yelling, "Am I too late for the garbage?" The driver said, "No, jump in!"

10. Remember: Marriage is the number one cause of divorce.

11. I married Miss Right. I just didn't know her first name was "Always."

12. I haven't spoken to my wife in 18 months. I don't like to interrupt her.

13. The last fight was my fault though. My wife asked, "What's on the TV?" I said, "Dust!"

These were the good old days when humor didn't have to start with a four-letter word or be political. It was just clean and simple fun.

—This is "When Parents Get Old" by Deacon Karl Koberger of St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Gulfport, Mississippi. So many of us have lost our parents over time, so for those fortunate to have them still with you, here are some words of wisdom:

—Let them grow old with the same love that they let you grow.

—Let them speak and tell repeated stories with the same patience and interest that they heard yours as a child.

—Let them overcome, like so many times when they let you win.

—Let them enjoy their friends just as they let you.

—Let them enjoy the talks with their grandchildren, because they see you in them.

—Let them enjoy living among the objects that have accompanied them for a long time, because they suffer when they feel that you tear pieces of this life away.

—Let them be wrong, like so many times you have been wrong and they didn't embarrass you by correcting you.

—LET THEM LIVE and try to make them happy the last stretch of the path they have left to go; give them your hand, just like they gave you their hand when you started your path!

And remember, there is the first Commandment with a promise from God: "Honor your mother and father and your days shall be long upon the earth."

Oh, yes, and may God bless!!!

(Staff writer Usalis can

be reached at jusalis@republicanherald.com)