Church congregation: the solemnity of Mass is being eroded by the pursuit of money
In November, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Awka Diocese will be meeting to discuss issues affecting the Church in the diocese. This is after going through the painstaking processes involved which, as at now, will include collation of suggestions, otherwise called Lineamenta. The synod's decisions are expected to be given an official seal by the bishop of the diocese before they can take effect.
So, at the moment, the processes are on and concerned lay faithful must be compiling a list of issues they want thrashed out for the betterment of the Church. Such contributions are necessary because the Church recognizes the fact that it is not an island unto herself. She is not aloof to the feelings and sensibilities of the people, without whom there would be no Church in the first place.
On this premise, let me usher in, what I believe, the Church will do well to listen to and probably adopt as a working document ahead of the coming synod.
You see, if there is one thing everyone needs, it is knowing what others say or think about them. It is necessary if they must improve and make amends.
Right now, the faithful have been complaining about one issue that is fast eroding their faith. That issue is the phenomenon of MONEY in the Church. Yes, money has seemingly taken over the Church, so much so that in some cases, the Holy Mass shares the same amount of time with fund raising activities in the church; sometimes money even takes more time.
Indeed, today's Church has become too money minded for her own good. Gone are the sweet old days when to attend Mass was to enjoy inner peace. Everything was so solemn; even the songs rendered by the choir. How can one forget one such song which goes like this…''Aru Christi bu so mma…''
I recall how this song always seemed to transport me to the heavens and back because of its solemnity. Compare that with some of the rather raucous songs rendered today which hardly touch the soul. Sorry I am drifting.
But the issue that led to that is the gate crashing of money into the Church. This gate crash has removed that spark; that solemnity and a large chunk of the allure the Church had among the faithful.
Now, it is endless projects to which the faithful are cajoled, harried and even in some cases, intimidated, into donating to. You go to church now and all you hear is how important it is to donate to this and that. It is not the asking that is the problem, but how it is done, as I pointed out just now.
It is no longer a matter of free will donation. The names of people are called out by priests who tell them to donate certain amounts of money. In many cases, such people comply out of shame so that they will not be seen as the poorest. This is even when such people are yet to offset their children's school fees or solve other problems in their homes.
This has triggered quarrels in many homes where wives accost their husbands after Mass to ask why they should be donating money outside when they have not seen what to eat at home.
I am not saying that embarking on projects is a bad idea. Throughout the world, the Church has been known to help society through many projects and interventions. This is why the Church today has hospitals and schools which solved a lot of problems in the early days when society here was primitive.
Again, one of the projects the Church in Awka Diocese is handling is that of Peter University. It is a worthy project which is indeed necessary as the Church is yet to have such in these parts.
But beyond that, I want a situation where parishes which have completed major projects will be directed not to embark on any immediate ones for a period of five years. They should use this five-year period to just face church matters so that the faithful will be drawn back to God fully. The influence of money in the Church has whittled down the faith. And because of the anxiety to get this money, people of dubious backgrounds are often eulogised in the church, thus laying a bad example to young people who will begin to see the acquisition of wealth as all that matters.
I have attended a bazaar somewhere where the chairman turned out later to be a ritualist. But even before that event he chaired, his dubious background was already known. But because money was needed by that parish, the man in question became the bazaar chairman.
I once wrote on this page that rather than complete a church building in two years with money donated by bad people, let that church be completed in a hundred years with clean money donated by honest, hardworking people; after all, we are talking about the house of God.
A priest friend who was posted on an apostolic mission to Chad told me how masses were conducted under the mango tree and how they enticed people with food and clothing donated back home in Nigeria so that those people could come to church. Does it mean that God never answered prayers offered at Mass by those people because the prayers were said under a mango tree? No, of course. After all, Jesus was not raised in an opulent background.
So, if a five-year period can be dedicated to the business of worshipping God, more souls will be saved rather than the current scenario where people come to church to show off wealth. Such displays are antithetical to true worship.
I posit that if my suggestion should be taken, parishes which have on-going projects should be allowed to complete them after which there should be a period of rest to allow the faithful to enjoy unadulterated worship of God.
For now, it is muted complaints by people everywhere because of the importance attached to money. It is therefore time we returned to the basics and shun all this money-induced worship. People should go to church looking forward to commune with God without any distraction; not to see people flaunting their wealth or be the ones doing so.
Anonymous donations should be encouraged as they are more genuine and pleasing to God who in the Bible admonished us not to allow either the right hand or the left see what is inside each palm.
I want a situation where some gifts or money should be rejected by the Church once the sources of those gifts are dubious. The impression that money rules the world is scandalous and should be discouraged
Our bishop is already doing something that is different. He has directed the priests and religious of Awka Diocese not to hold extravagant burial ceremonies. He took that further to the state legislature, seeking a ban on expensive burials.
This is the kind of response we want to get from the Church on money and its influence in the Church. Something has to give and in this case, it is money. Its influence is killing the Church and continuing it will be like serving God and Mammon.
As we prepare therefore for the synod, I pray that my submissions here will be considered enough to be acted upon for the general good of the Church. We need some time space to serve and worship our God better without the loudness of money. Worship should be solemn, quiet and meditative.
The essence of worship shouldn't be allowed to be swept aside by the allure of money. I may not have said all I wanted to say, I may not have said it properly, but I am satisfied that what I am trying to say has been understood.
So, I plead that the campaign against expensive burials be extended to the issue of money in the house of God.
There simply has to be a limit to everything and I hope lessons have been learnt.