From the Pastor: The Sounds of Life!
Last Sunday at the 10:30 Mass we had a group of children who made their First Holy Communion. It was a glorious day! I don’t know about you, but seeing the children so excited about receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion is always a delightful reminder to me that I should be that excited every time I receive as well. I love that day. But this particular day brought about another delight to me that some of you might not have experienced quite the same way as I did. Most of the time I can pretty much tune out all of the noise going on behind me (thank you, Holy Mother Church, for ad orientem Mass!) such that even if I hear things I don’t pay attention to it. But this last Sunday was different. I don’t know if there were more children than usual or if they were louder than normal but I noticed them and was filled with joy. You see, I had just been talking with a priest about the way other priests and bishops see the Tridentine Mass and those who attend. I remember that even Bishop Parkes was in disbelief when he first came to this diocese and I told him that we had more people under 50 than over 70! The escalating trend is that the young Catholics leave the Church (not just their parish) in their teenage years and never return. Catholic schools which used to be teeming with kids close due to lack of enrollment. Baptisms, confirmations, and weddings are outnumbered by funerals. Yet bishops and priests whose parishes typically evidence such dreadful statistics, where young Catholics are scarce and where families with multiple children are a rarity, always assume that Traditional Latin Masses (and especially Traditional Latin Mass parishes) will have even fewer young Catholics and certainly will have no families with small children. Hahahahaha!
There was one particularly noticeable young child last week. I don’t remember what she was screaming over and over but she must have been quite a handful for her mom and dad. I cannot imagine what they were thinking as she remained insistently defiant of something. Perhaps they were embarrassed. Maybe they were able to ignore her. But I can tell you with absolute certainty that that small child was the source of prayerful joy to a huge number of other parents, as each one silently praised God that it wasn’t their kid this time! Such is life at Epiphany! I can imagine that at many other parishes a mother with a child making such a “joyful noise unto the Lord” would have been scowled at. Here, though I didn’t see what was going on because only teachers have eyes in the back of their heads, I can imagine that other adults were coming to the rescue, maybe helping with the other children (assuming the family had multiple kids, which is a pretty good bet) or at least giving signs of encouragement and understanding. There is a special bond, maybe born of experience, that is shared among parents of multiple children that radiates love to even the (can I say this word?) spinsters and crotchety old priests so that nobody gets too upset even when one crying baby sets off the rest of the infants like a nighttime train setting off every car alarm at the apartments next door.
Anyway, common sense shows that crying babies, defiant two-year-olds, eager First Holy Communion kids, inquisitive teens, parents striving to raise Saints, and wise and experienced elders who keep alive the traditional customs of the Catholic Faith all point to a healthy parish. Not that I am dissing old people, but a look at what should be normal for Catholic parishes shows that we should have fewer elderly than young. Always. Why? Mom and Dad, two people, have 8-12 kids. They grow up. Half become either priests or nuns. The others marry and have 8-12 kids each. How many old people are at that parish compared to the young in just three generations? The two original parents are now the elderly ones, the grandparents. The priests and nuns are obviously gone so the second generation has 4-6 adults, but each of them is married, bringing the number back to 8-12, yet half of them moved to their in-laws’ parish, for a final count of only 4-6 middle aged parishioners (which is still 2 to 6 times larger than the first generation). Of course, they have begotten 16-36 children who all attend the parish where grandma and grandpa are, making this group 4 to 6 times larger than their parents’ generation and 8 to 12 times greater than the oldest generation! If nobody died and none of the original kids entered Religious life or moved but rather all got married and raised Catholic families, the numbers would be an astounding 2 in generation one, 16-24 in generation two, and 64-144 in the third generation all at the same parish! Now multiply that times the number of families in the parish and wait for your head to explode! Numbers tell the story. It should be the normal, faithful, Catholic story of a flourishing parish. Anytime the older generations outnumber the younger ones, something is dreadfully wrong, whether it is due to a dead Faith, or a natural catastrophe, or destruction of a generation through war, and the parish will die. Which is more likely to be the parish with the largest percentage of youth today? The Traditional Latin Mass parish, of course. So let us celebrate even the noisy kids!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka