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Why do Catholics attend church more often than Protestants?

September 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Eucharist/Mass, Fr. Bartunek, Sacraments

Dear Father John, can you help me understand and explain why Catholics go to Church so much more than Protestants (as with daily communicants)?

Here is the short answer to this question: Catholics go to Mass daily because of the Eucharist. Protestants and evangelicals, with very rare exceptions (e.g. some of our faithful Anglican friends), believe neither in the abiding, Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, nor in the sacrificial nature of the celebration of the Eucharist (the Mass). As a result, they have no reason to attend communal worship services every day.


The Mass Matters

But Catholics believe that the Mass itself is the highest form of worship, petition, and thanksgiving, because it was instituted by Jesus himself as the perpetual re-presentation of his own self-offering on Calvary, an avenue for believers from every corner of time and space to be present with him on Calvary. This is how we interpret the prophecy of Malachi (1:11): “From the rising of the sun to its setting, my name is great among the nations; Incense offerings are made to my name everywhere, and a pure offering.” Every day, through the Mass, we can unite ourselves to that offering, repairing for all the sins committed on a daily basis throughout the human family and opening new channels for God’s saving grace to flow into this fallen world. We also see Holy Communion as a sacrament, not only a symbol. This means that receiving Communion actually increases our union with God, allowing the divine life to nourish and transform our human life. Daily Communion, therefore, is one way God answers our prayer to “give us this day our daily bread.” We become stronger Christians by eating this true manna, this “true bread from heaven” every day, just as the ancient Israelites gathered and ate their miraculous manna every day as they journeyed towards the Promised Land (cf. John 6:32).

Learning from Our Protestant Brethren

On the other hand, as a former Protestant myself, I have to point out that our Protestant brothers and sisters show a deep and persevering devotion to a daily quiet time. Many Protestant Christians have a firm and healthy habit of spending time alone with God every single day, contemplating his Word and speaking with him in the silence of their hearts. Many Protestant churches also have a variety of mid-week Bible studies for small or large groups, as well as mini-worship services throughout the week for different subsets of their congregations. A vibrant Protestant community, therefore, includes plenty of devotional and fellowship activities, not only the Sunday gathering. I have long believed that if more Catholics adopted this laudable Protestant tradition of a daily God-time, they would benefit much more from the sacraments they receive, and reach greater levels of spiritual maturity. I am sure our readers will have their own stories to share in helping to answer your question, and I look forward to reading them!

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About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college, he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller, "Inside the Passion"--the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer". His most recent books are "Spring Meditations", "Seeking First the Kingdom: 30 Meditations on How to Love God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength", and "Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions". Fr. John currently splits his time between Michigan (where he continues his writing apostolate and serves as a confessor and spiritual director at the Queen of the Family Retreat Center) and Rome, where he teaches theology at Regina Apostolorum. His online, do-it-yourself retreats are available at RCSpirituality.org, and he answers questions about the spiritual life at SpiritualDirection.com.

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  • LizEst

    Fr. John, you are so right about contemplating God’s Word every day and spending more quiet time with Jesus, our brother and friend.

    Over and above that, daily Mass is absolutely essential to the world because it re-presents (it makes present not re-sacrifices) Christ’s sacrifice on Cavalry, and the superabundant graces from the Paschal mystery, in a very real way in our own time and place [having some, not all, similarities with the Jewish concept of zecher (or zakar or zeker) when the past is made present at the Passover celebration]. Thus, the Eucharist is much more than a remembrance. It is the actual Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, who said as much to his apostles at the Last Supper (and we believe Him because He is God, who cannot deceive not be deceived). As St. Padre Pio was fond of saying, “It would be easier for the world to exist without the sun than without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.” What we do in the Mass, through the ministry of the priest, in persona Christi, we do for the whole world. It is our privilege to be present.

  • Last summer was pretty stressful for me. I thought I failed law school, (Thank God I didn’t!) and was lost in discerning my vocation. Thank God that every week that summer I was able to go to Mass at least one more day apart from Sunday. I don’t think I could have survived all that uncertainty and anxiety without Him!
    The week I found out about my failing grade…my family was out of town but there was a Pink Sisters convent right across our place. I was able to attend their dawn adoration and Mass everyday. I have no doubt of the many graces God bestowed upon me then, for He gave me such joy that would last all throughout the day! This, despite the bad news of possibly leaving law school. How good He truly is! And how wonderfully He provides for all our needs! Thank You Lord!

    • LizEst

      Oh, the Pink Sisters! Love them! My mother, God rest her soul, was an Auxiliary and my parents used to take things from their garden over to their cloister in Lincoln, Nebraska. What powerful intercessors you had…and have, Mary! For those who don’t know who they are, they are a perpetual adoration order affectionately called the Pink Sisters because of the rose-pink habits they wear. They are all over the world. Here is a link to the short wikipedia citation (includes links to some of their locations): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Spirit_Adoration_Sisters

  • Angela

    Oh LORD, may I share YOU generously with our suffering world…here is a simple and deeply heartfelt witness to the gift of the Mass and my love for Jesus in the Eucharist:
    By the grace of God and with the generous support of my husband and family, I have been able to live the great privilege of daily Mass for nearly 20 years. This treasure of the Sacrament of the passionate love of Christ has strengthened and prepared me to be a devoted wife for nearly 30 years, a mother of 6 healthy and vibrantly alive children, 4 now grown to Christian adulthood, one wonderful son-in-law, one delightful grandchild and many faithful and amazing spiritual children. It is only Our Lord who can love me so tenderly and perfectly each day and produce such fruits in my life!
    In addition to my deep desire to be with Jesus in the sacrament of the Eucharist each day, I have also been motivated to daily offer the most powerful prayer possible for others in need. To unite a particular prayer intention with the prayer of the priest during the Consecration of the Body and Blood of Christ is, I believe, the greatest gift I can give another human being. There have been many times over the years when it was this desire to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the sake of another that got me out the door to Mass even when I was feeling unable to get there on human strength. Most often, it has been for the needs of my husband who is a businessman in our mixed up world that I have prayed. When he was blessed to be able to be at weekday Mass. I would joyously offer the prayer for another in need. Watching these people thrive even amidst very dificult trials has convinced me more with each passing day of the beauty and power of the Mass with the Eucharist.
    How privileged we are to be Catholic – all Glory be to God!

  • JoyInTheLord

    Here is my sharing, Father.

    My wife and I try to assist at Mass everyday, as the Lord wills. This started due in part to our covenant as members of Couples for Christ: we have to spend at least 15 minutes daily in prayer and 15 minutes or so reading the Scriptures. Well, the busy life we lead most of the time does not provide us those opportunities, or I could also say that lack of discipline on our part is mainly the culprit.

    Lo and behold, both prayer and Scriptures are there in the Holy Mass, and so it’s just a perfect answer to our needs. So it started that way, but the Lord in His goodness continues to give us grace upon grace. And so, what started as a duty to fulfill our covenant simply becomes a desire to respond to God’s love.

    We go to Mass because we love. What prayer could be better than the Holy Mass? What good can surpass the grace that is Holy Mass?

    It is a testimony to God’s unconditional love, to His promise that He won’t leave us orphans, a proof that He delights in us, that Jesus instituted the Holy Mass.

    Why would anybody miss the greatest, most sublime Miracle in the universe: to open one’s heart to welcome the King of kings, Lord of lords, Prince of Peace?

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