The following is by Father Valentine Young, OFM, a faithful Catholic priest who died on 17 January 2020. It was delivered sometime between 2013 and 2020. To learn more about Father Valentine, please scroll to the bottom of the page.
NLY ONCE IN MY LIFE was I ever asked to preach at a non-Catholic Church. Back in the early 1970s—when I was stationed at Saint Teresa Church in Grants, New Mexico—I became rather close friends with the Presbyterian minister and several members of his congregation. On one occasion he asked if I would come some Sunday morning and preach to his congregation. I wasn’t sure if this was proper for me to do, so I consulted our local Bishop of Gallup, New Mexico, who gave me the necessary permission (or whatever was needed) for me to do this. I didn’t want to preach on anything that would be blatantly controversial, so I chose as my topic: “Our need for God.” I felt that Catholics and Presbyterians could agree on a topic like this. The only criticism I received afterwards came from one gentleman who said: “Father, your sermon was fine. There was only one thing wrong; it wasn’t long enough.” No Catholic ever criticized me for not preaching long enough!
Our need for God: As we begin another year I think it might be good for us to reflect practically on our need for God. I purposely inserted that word: practically. I’m sure all Catholics—and even Presbyterians and many other people—theoretically believe in the need for God. In other words, they say they need God’s help to get through life and its problems. But are they willing to take the time and effort, for example, by actually going to Church to ask God? Are they willing to take the time and effort to give public witness to the fact that they need God’s help?
Why Catholics assist at Mass: Some time ago I was part of a conversation (although I didn’t say much) in which several of our older priests were discussing the way things were before the Second Vatican Council. They admitted that a lot more people came to Church. The Church where I currently live used to have six Sunday Masses, all very well attended. Now it has two Sunday Masses, one of which hardly has fifty people in attendance. The other may have 100+, but rarely 200 in attendance. Some will shrug this fact off simply by saying that people only came years ago because they did not want to commit a mortal sin and go to hell. I didn’t want to argue with them, but I don’t believe that was the uppermost thought in people’s minds years ago: they went to Mass on Sunday because they knew that was the right thing to do. And what was perhaps even more surprising is how these same priests are resigned to the fact that things are going to get worse, not better, in the years to come. They expect that very few of the children now attending Catholic School will be going to Mass when they are adults. 1
The Least Observed: Well, look around and notice how many—yes, even how many even practicing Catholics!—go to Mass on New Year’s day or a vigil Mass! This is probably the least observed of any of the Holy Days of obligation. Isn’t that a wonderful way to start off the New Year by committing a mortal sin by not going to Mass, unless one has some serious reason that excuses you? And yet these people say they need God! Is this an appropriate occasion to say, “Bah humbug?”
Important: Father Valentine is speaking of localities where January 1st is a Holy Day of Obligation. Holy Days are different in each country. For instance, the Feast of the Epiphany (6 January) has never been a Holy Day of Obligation in the United States of America. In Los Angeles, January 1st is not a Holy Day of Obligation.
The world and the Church: When people want to talk to me about how bad things are in the world, or in the Church, or in our country, most of the time I agree with them. And all I can do is listen, because I don’t really have any answers. I don’t have any control over what other people do, and I found out years ago they are not going to listen to me. Maybe in my younger years I thought they might, but I know better now.
The only solution: God is the only solution. Sometimes I think we should stop thinking that God hasn’t solved the problem yet. We seem to be sitting around waiting for “that day” when everything in the world, in our country, and in the Church is going to be perfect. Now, I don’t want to blow anyone’s bubble, but I don’t think it will ever come. But let me ask you this: What don’t you have right now that you really need? What can’t you exist without? I’m not talking about what you want, but what you actually need. I must say: In view of what I know regarding what God expects of me, I have everything I need—even though I can’t walk very well, can’t see very well, or hear very well.
Conclusion: Our New Year’s resolution should be to do “the next right thing” God puts in front of us to do. We simply need God to help us do it. +
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 I have found it is best not to directly confront or contradict others when having a discussion, and—quite frankly—I did not even take part in this discussion, simply because it is not true of my own experience. I mainly serve people who prefer the Usus Antiquior, the former Latin Tradition of the Church; those people whom Saint John Paul II said should “be respected, and their legitimate desires and aspirations be fulfilled.” And we certainly are not diminishing in numbers.