Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Where Have All the Catholics Gone?

Catholics have been leaving the Church in droves for a long time now. At a recent mass at my parish church, St. Mary's in Painesville, Ohio, I asked my wife why the pews are so empty. It's like that almost everywhere we go (except last Sunday at the outdoor mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine in Euclid, Ohio, where we attend mass in the summertime). This is such a contrast with church attendance in my childhood.

At St. William's in Euclid in the 1950s and 1960s, there were so many masses: 5:45 AM, 7:00, 8:15, 9:30, 11:00, and 12:15 PM. Later there was a Saturday mass and a Sunday evening mass. The church was so overflowing that there were two basement masses at the same time mass was held in the main church. And Catholics came to church no matter the weather (and I still do!). Even in bitter cold and snow the church would be full. Often people were standing in the aisles and in the back of the church.

So many things have happened in the past 50-60 years that have undermined the authority of the church. The sexual abuse of children, mostly by priests and religious brothers (really a very very small minority of religious--who have done enormous and lasting damage); physical and emotional abuse by some nuns in Catholic schools (again, just a handful were abusive, but I saw the beaqtings with my own eyes); changing conceptions of serious sin (we thought we'd go to hell for missing mass--no kidding).

There are other reasons--no one thing can explain the decline in church attendance. In many ways, the church has failed parishioners. Catholics have put up with bad liturgy and very bad homilies for the longest time--but now people are voting with their feet.

Secular society is often blamed for the decline of the Church. There may be truth in that idea, but I think it's mostly an excuse. Somehow the Church hasn't addressed the wants and needs of people for meaning. Personally, the over-focus on certain sins and the lack of focus on social justice has alienated me from some churches (that's why 10 years ago or so we left our Church in Chardon and started attending St. Mary's in Painesville. The first time there they mentioned their prison ministry, their work with the homeless and hungry, their work with Latino refugees and immigrants--and I was hooked. Four years ago we started actively participating in the Karpos Ministry to the Homeless and Hungry. This cemented our commitment to St. Mary's. We still put up with a lot of poor liturgies and homilies. But we have outstanding music and a vibrant parish life.

People want a deep engagement with the Truth, with the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. Our Catholic Churches have to offer this to people. We have to stop being so judgmental about divorce, about birth control. Sometimes the church needs to listen to the voice of the people. We have to give women a much bigger role. I still don't understand the arguments against women in the priesthood. I believe that will change some day, and we'll look back on the old days like we look back on slavery now.

One thing people don't realize is how much will be lost by abandoning the Church. Centuries, millennia, of culture, wisdom, goodness. That can't be replaced by things, by pop culture, by technology. Please don't abandon the Church. Instead, try to make it better. And to the Church: don't abandon the people! Make changes, and do it quickly before another generation of Catholics is lost.

Petitions/Prayer of the Faithful for June 26, 2016

Ellen McHugh has prepared these petitions for next Sunday's masses:

Prayer of the Faithful for June 26th, 2016
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Celebrant: As people of faith, we pray now for ourselves and for all those throughout the world who are in need of God’s generous mercy.

That the Church may continue to proclaim with courage and joy the saving mercy of the Lord and follow him with steadfast fidelity.  We pray to the Lord.

For all who have made a commitment to religious life, that "having set their hand to the plow," they may never look back, but only follow the Lord with joy.  We pray to the Lord.

That men and women of different religions, cultures, and races may recognize one another as brothers and sisters, seeing in you the light that shines in the darkness of conflicts and disunity.  We pray to the Lord. 

For those who work to counter injustice, for those who serve the Lord selflessly by giving  hope, comfort, and refuge to those who feel abandoned, broken-hearted, or crushed in spirit. We pray to the Lord. 

For our community of faith: inspired by St. Paul’s words may we always be guided by your Spirit as we work together, pray together, and put the needs of others before our own. We pray to the Lord. 

And for those for whom this Mass is offered [name them]. We pray to the Lord.

Let us pause now and silently offer to the Father our own particular intentions [allow for silence. . .].  We pray to the Lord.

Celebrant:  Merciful God, through the power of your Spirit, shape us to be for others what Christ is for us: pardon and peace, new life and blessing. We ask this in the name of your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Poem about the Full Strawberry Moon and Summer Solstice

Sweet strawberry full moon over Hambden
Summer Solstice 2016--
The night calm, humid, warm,
I gaze at the moon rising through the trees in the East

And think of you,
Of friends and family far away,

They may be looking at the same moon,
Saying a prayer for me, for us.

                                    Bob Coughlin / June 20, 2016

Poem about the Joy and Innocence of Childhood

Robby’s joy so pure

Robby’s joy so pure
Enjoying the hot day with Nana Linda
Sliding down the slide
Splashing in the pool

No clouds no shadow
Everything right now right
Here perfect

                        Bob Coughlin / June 20, 2016

A Poem about Mentor Headlands in the Summer of 1964

Lucky (Stones) at Mentor Headlands (1964)

Got my driver’s license a week after June 11th,
borrowed Dad’s ‘59 Pontiac Catalina, big as an ocean liner,
and headed down Lake Shore Boulevard to Headlands.

The drive in mid June is wonderful, windows down,
“Cathy’s Clown” blaring from WIXY 1260,
Everly Brother’s in their perfect blood harmony.

My brother Denny and my buddies are singing raucously along.
We think we’re big deals, going into junior year of high school,
hormones boiling, but a Catholic straightjacket firmly over everything.

We get to Corduroy Road, then north past the Marsh
and east to the park. Hundreds, maybe thousands of cars
parked there, the hottest day of the year.

We hit the broad beach, burning like coals,
and hot-foot it across the sand towards the lake.
Half-naked bodies everywhere. We’re not in Catholic school any more!

The smell the wonderful smell everywhere, sweat and tanning lotion,
coconut, Coppertone, and towels cheek to jowl on the sand.
Transistor radios, tuned to WIXY and WHK, “color radio,” whatever that means!

We run into the lake, and the contrast with the sand is astonishing!
The lake is freezing cold, the sand too hot! But we are 16
and don’t give a good goddamn. We are 16,

Walk the beach toward the Fairport Lighthouse,
pick up luckystones and polished beach glass,
wish the impossible, that we could get lucky,

with the beautiful girls sunning on the beach!
The music is changing this year, Gerry and the Pacemakers,
Peter and Gordon, “Love Me Do,” side by side

with “Chapel of Love” and “Girl from Ipanema.”
Headlands is no Ipanema, Mentor no Rio de Janeiro,
but we are 16, Kings of the Beach, and happy to be here!

[Bob Coughlin / April 3, 2014]

Sunday, June 19, 2016

"We Got Cake!" Father's Day Lunch at Fairport Harbor

"We got cake!"
The boys practically exploded on the scene--a picnic pavilion at Fairport Harbor Beach. "We got cake!" said Robby. A brownie cake for Father's Day. The boys, Colin and Robby, always greet you with energy and excitement. It makes you so happy and so alive.

It was a wonderful Father's Day. Linda and I went to mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine in Euclid; afterwards we picked up some donuts at Buettner's Bakery on East 185th Street in Cleveland, then ate them at Sims Park, on the lake in Euclid. The lake was beautiful and calm this morning. Then, in early afternoon, we met Julia, Ed, and the boys at Fairport Harbor.

I was so grateful for being a father and grandfather today. It would have been nice to see my daughter Carolan and my daughter Emily, but gee whiz, you can't have everything.

I thought a lot about my father and my grandfather, and how much they gave to me. My grandfather, Cornelius Francis Coughlin, was the son of an Irish immigrant (his own father Cornelius) and a German immigrant, his mother Lizzie Ierg Coughlin. He was a great athlete--a very fast sprinter (the fastest runner in Cleveland, he claimed) and a terrific baseball player--in the Cleveland sandlots and in the Three-I minor league. I was his first grandchild. He was funny and fun and I really loved him. And what can I say about my Dad. He helped me in two big areas. He helped me become a good reader and student. He drilled me in arithmetic and spelling, he took me to libraries all the time, he modeled reading for me. My father also is probably the primary source of my religious sensibilities (of course my mother was important in this regard too). We thought of our Dad as a hero--a World War II hero for his four years at war in the US Navy. But more important than that was his lessons about family, work, and love.

So today I thought a lot about my father, my grandfather, my daughters, my wife, my sons-in-law, and my grandsons. Thank you God for my family.

Happy Father's Day!

St. Paul Says It Clearly: We Must Not Exclude Women from the Priesthood!

This morning I attended mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine in Euclid. It was a beautiful Sunday morning, Father's Day, outside mass in one of Euclid/Cleveland's most beautiful and holy places. Hundreds of people were present, including lots of children--it was wonderful. During the mass I was deeply struck by the second reading. How do you exclude women from the priesthood if you believe in the truth of St. Paul's epistle:

Reading 2GAL 3:26-29

Brothers and sisters:
Through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus.
For all of you who were baptized into Christ
have clothed yourselves with Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek,
there is neither slave nor free person,
there is not male and female;
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
And if you belong to Christ,
then you are Abraham’s children,
heirs according to the promise.

*          *          *

After Mass at Euclid's Lourdes Shrine

Whenever I go to the Shrine, I think of my Dad, who took me there when I was a little kid and throughout my childhood. Thank you, Dad, for this and for all that you gave your children and family!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Petitions/Prayer of the Faithful for Sunday, June 19, 2016

Ellen McHugh wrote these petitions for this coming Sunday. She remembered to pray for the victims of the Orlando massacre (and in some way we are all victims!).

Prayer of the Faithful for June 19th, 2016
12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Celebrant: As people of faith, we pray now for ourselves and for all those throughout the world who are in need of God’s generous mercy.

For the universal Church; for Francis our Holy Father, for our bishops, priests and deacons; for all those who live the Gospel message with courage, constancy and love—strengthen them with the gifts of your Spirit.  We pray to the Lord.  

For all people of faith in the One God, for Jews, Muslims and Christians in all parts of the world – may the hope and trust we place in our One God help us to achieve mutual understanding and peace.  We pray to the Lord.

For an end to all forms of violence; we pray especially for the men and women who lost their lives in Orlando, Florida; we pray for those who were injured and for those who mourn and struggle to find comfort, hope and peace in the midst of their loss.  We pray to the Lord.

For all fathers and those who have shown the Father’s love to us: that God will make them beacons of light, sources of strength, integrity, and encouragement.  We pray to the Lord.

For all of us at St. Mary. Pour out your Spirit upon us; help us to love both friend and stranger, building a community transformed by peace and healed of all that is broken.  We pray to the Lord.

And for those for whom this Mass is offered [name them]. We pray to the Lord.

Let us pause now and silently offer to the Father our own particular intentions [allow for silence. . .].  We pray to the Lord.

Celebrant:  Merciful God, through the power of your Spirit, shape us to be for others what Christ is for us: pardon and peace, new life and blessing. We ask this in the name of your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.