From a reader…
Wondering if you had any advice on how to explain to family and friends why my wife and I have decided to go to mass on Sunday at another parish the next town over without sounding self righteous or elitist? Basically our territorial parish is quite liberal and we like the reverence and beauty of our new parish. Hard topic to discuss with people happy at the old place.
Thanks for all you do. I have learned so much from this blog.
That’s can be a tough call. Do you stay at a parish with problems and try to be part of a solution? Do you cut your losses and go to a better place?
I don’t see why giving an explanation about your preference to go to a different church would be “self-righteous” or “elitist”, provided that you give your sincere reasons for the decision. If the people with whom you are talking think that desiring beauty is elitist, the problem is theirs, not yours. You might ask them to go with you and then, over a leisurely brunch (for which you pay) have a discussion about the differences.
When it comes to nourishing our spiritual lives, shouldn’t we want the very best? If that best cannot be attained in one place, and attempts to improve it or adapt to it aren’t working, then it is reasonable to seek elsewhere when there are alternatives.
This is one of those situations in which the admonishment of 1 Peter 3:13-17 is important:
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is right? But even if you do suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence; and keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are abused, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing right, if that should be God’s will, than for doing wrong.
Have it clear in your minds why you are making the change, so that you can give an explanation which is clear and charitable.
NB: Your territorial parish remains your true parish. Registration in a parish does not make you a member of that parish. Registration is helpful when it comes to receiving services and giving support. Unless there are issues of a personal parish involved (nationality, etc.) your territorial parish remains your official parish. In these days of easy mobility people will sometimes forget this as they seek alternatives to their insufficient territorial parish.