SpiritualDirection.com / Catholic Spiritual Direction

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)?

Catholics attend 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!


Art for this post which asks the question, “Why do Catholics Attend Church More Often than Protestants?”: Partial Restoration of Christ with the Host, Paolo da San Leocadio, fourth quarter of 15th century, PD-US author's life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.

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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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