The New Evangelization Stumbles
September 21, 2020
Filed In: Church and Culture
Getting to Mass on a weekday is hard for me, and that was before the pandemic. The difficulty is not handling my four kids by myself for half an hour. It’s getting everyone up, dressed, fed, and in the pew by 8:30am. Lately our parish switched Mass times for the weekday liturgies to 5:00pm, another challenge for parents of little ones.
The Mass is central to our Catholic faith. The lockdowns earlier this year highlighted just how big of a role that weekly liturgy plays in the rhythm of our weeks. Without the Mass and the Eucharist, we’ve been marooned in a spiritual desert.
During those difficult weeks, with tremendous gratitude to the ministries that stepped up to the plate, our separation was more bearable. Like many businesses, parishes used their creativity to help us all cope. Parish rosaries have been prayed over teleconference, new homily podcasts have been published, Eucharistic Adoration has been live-streamed on YouTube, and the Mass, that sacred celebration, recorded and uploaded for viewing on any schedule.
This pandemic continues to reshape our lives in new and different ways. It’s a disruptive event, and I was glad that it shook the Catholic Church awake. All of these new ways to experience and express our faith, in community while apart, enriched my family’s life. We were more connected than we had ever been to the daily life of the Church.
I quickly keyed in on the Word on Fire Daily Mass. A ministry started by Bishop Robert Barron, Word on Fire is a digital education and evangelization platform that teaches topics of faith. They’re uniquely suited to record and publish the daily Mass because they’re a digital first organization.
My family attended Mass with Word on Fire for two main reasons. First, we knew that Bishop Barron is a legitimate Catholic priest, so the Masses we attended were valid. Second, since they’re so experienced with video production and distribution, the production values were very high. The camera angle, lighting, and audio were all carefully considered so we could focus on prayer and not poor lighting or distant audio.
Imagine my disappointment when Word on Fire announced at the end of May that they would stop uploading their Daily Mass. Weekend liturgies would have 144,000 or more views while the weekday Masses averaged 65,000 views.
The average Catholic parish in America would be lucky to have 50 people attend Mass on a weekday, and here Word on Fire was touching tens of thousands of people every single day.
In their announcement, Word on Fire cited that public Masses were resuming in California and that they never intended for their Daily Masses to be published on an ongoing basis. They also expressed their desire for people to return to their parishes. Their points are taken.
Even so, no matter how justified, what a terrible mistake.
The lesson for us to take away from the pandemic is that we need more avenues for expressing our faith. The Domestic Church, that idea that the family is at the core of the spiritual life of a person, needs the support of external resources. We harnessed new technologies, quickly, and started praying together in new ways.
Further, I wonder how many lost Catholics, or even just Catholic-curious people, were drawn to the Church through these new and modern methods.
Sadly, as the lockdowns lifted, many parishes and ministries ceased these operations. It was a heartbreaking stumble to watch. The New Evangelization demands that we use new methods and the technology that we have to spread the Gospel. This pandemic was the perfect excuse for us to try new things and experiment. When you try something novel and half a million people show up every week, you don’t just turn it off because it took some extra effort.