Sorry, No Steeples


“Sorry, No Steeple…but we do have a drive-thru” is what the clever, cool, hip billboard sign proclaims.

I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant so I didn’t pay it much never-mind.

Then another one popped up with something that was, to me, similarly vague: We don’t accept perfect people.

Still, not paying attention.

Then a topic of conversation was begun in my small Catholic study group. The essence of the conversation, which has taken more than a few twists and turns along the way, was this: Should we allow—or encourage—our Catholic teens to attend non-denominational churches? In particular, this local one with the clever, cool, hip billboards? In a way, though, the conversation was almost a non-issue since it appeared that our Catholic teens (and even many of our adults) were already attending on their own without our small group’s permission—or seemingly without much guilt, either.

At first we decided this was a good thing. Maybe because our hand was forced: everyone was doing this without our wisdom, guidance, or input.

So, in our minds, we were able to argue that it was better to have our kids attend a non-denominational service every week and fall in love with Christ than attend Mass a handful of times a year and fall asleep. We all agreed that Mass couldn’t possibly compete with whatever the non-denominational service offered. Although, since none of us had ever attended such a service, we weren’t actually quite sure what it was that was drawing our kids (and those adults) to these services and away from the richness of their Catholic faith.

But we knew it must be awesome!

After all, these people were walking away from the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

And they were walking away from the Sacraments of the Catholic faith.

Basically throwing out two thousand years of history for…what exactly?

We weren’t sure; but we all agreed that it really had to be amazing.

Then God provided a turning point for me: a publisher sent me a book in which the popular female author opined about the “boring” homily she was forced to sit through.

My heart just sank.

Boring? You want to indict the priest for his homily versus your own heart during Mass?

Really? I’m sorry but I’m not on board with that perspective.

All of a sudden this non-denominational option for our Catholic teens (and those adults who also left the Catholic Church) seemed far less appealing.

With that, God also brought to my mind two separate instances in the past couple of years in which adults who had left the Catholic Church for non-denominational affiliations had, in fact, received communion at different funeral services that they had since attended.

Wait a minute!

Do you get to do that?

Add to this image, the words in this book about the “boring” homily and now I’m ready to defend my faith; I’m no longer willing to see how it might be a good thing for Catholics of any age to choose a non-denominational church over their Catholic faith.

The author’s words kept reverberating in my mind. I kept thinking: if this is what adults are taking away from Mass, can we expect anything more from our kids?

The indictment ought to rest on our shoulders since it is not up to the priest to entertain us. Rather, our attitude ought to be “Speak Lord, Your servant is listening.” If He is using a less-than-perfect instrument, does that take away from what God may be trying to say—or teach?

The same attitude should be taught to our children: Mass isn’t about “entertainment;” nor will it ever be able to compete with the world we and our children live in.

Walking into Mass is a time to put our lives aside and connect with God. It is a time to open our hearts and minds to that which will draw us into a deep and personal relationship with our Savior. Mass is not meant to keep pace with our world. The opposite is true: it should remind us that we are in the world but not of it! To make demands upon our faith to keep up with where we are in our everyday lives is to rob us of what our Savior came to do: to seek and save, not condemn.

Think about it: isn’t our world ripe for condemning?

Why would we want our Church mirroring our fast-paced lives that are ripe for condemning?

We must not clamor to change our Mass into a place that looks like our world; we ought to rejoice in the knowledge that Christ and Holy Mother Church had the foresight to have carved out a sacred place that saves us from the world.

Is it better for our Catholic teens (and those adults) to attend a non-denominational service every week instead of attending Mass a few times a year?


It is better for each of us to more fully understand what our Mass is and what it offers and trust in the Holy Spirit to answer our prayers for our family’s faith. It is better for each of us to witness to the beauty and majesty that is our Catholic faith and trust in the Holy Spirit to move the hearts and minds of those around us.


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  • LarryW2LJ

    Cheryl, this is wonderful and I am going to share this with the members of our Parish Pastoral Council, who sometimes forget this in their zeal to bring youth into the Church.

  • H. Hobbit

    Well said! I attended a non-denominational church for most of my life. I am currently in RCIA and hope to enter the Church this Easter. One thing I always found interesting is that while non-denominational churches like to say they are outside the rules, doctrines and other ‘traps’ of denominations– in reality, non-denomination has just become yet another denomination.

    I think you hit the mark: we don’t need a Church that ‘mirrors our fast-paced lives.’ The Mass offers me what my soul craves………….

  • hillbilly

    May go over this with our high school class this Wed. night.

  • Tarheel

    Being entertained at Mass? Well if “being entertained” means I enjoyed myself then I want to come back, then yes I was entertained. Boring homilies? I got a cure for that. First get to Mass a little earlier than you are accustomed to (not like some of my fellow parishioners that get in their pews scant seconds ahead of the procession) and after your prayers, get the missalette out and read the readings for the Mass. Even better, subscribe to Maginifcat and read them in advance Second, start a Mass journal. Write down thoughts that come to you about the homily or readings. Even record some of what the priest says that “strikes” you. The Mass journal is not my idea but one I got from Matthew Kelly’s Dynamic Catholic website. These two things have really changed my Mass experience.

    Now if you are a father, husband, or single adult man attend Men of St Joseph at your parish. If you do not have a chapter at your parish, then contact them and see about getting one started. After as husbands and fathers we are the spiritual leaders in our families. If you family sees you actively involved in the Mass, then they will follow suit.

    As to why non-denominational churches so attractive? I think it is because many are non-committal. They don’t say or do things that will “rock the boat” so to speak. And there are others that attract people because they (the attendees) need to be told how bad they are and how bad the world is.

    But then again some people may not want to hear that God loves them and wants to be in their lives.