Action Alert!

The hopeful trend that nobody notices

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Mar 01, 2022

When Leila and I head off to Mass, early on a weekday morning, we can safely expect to find an empty pew. But not tomorrow morning; the little chapel will be packed.

No, this is not one more commentary on the odd fact that even Catholics who do not show up for Mass on Sundays will be there on Ash Wednesday—and post selfies to tell the world about it. (Although, if you’ll forgive the paraleipsis, that is a curious fact, isn’t it?) I have another point in mind.

Yes, there are Catholics who appear in church on Ash Wednesday, then disappear until Easter. But there are also some who will continue to attend daily Mass all through Lent. And—here’s my point—among them, at least a few will continue coming every day even when Lent is over. I don’t expect to have trouble finding empty pews, but I do anticipate more company in the mornings.

It’s been nearly 40 years now since I made the commitment to try to get to Mass every day. We’ve moved a few times since then, and my job schedule has changed several times, so that over the years I’ve been “one of the regulars” in eight different churches or chapels. At every stop along the way, I’ve seen a steady increase in the number of people at daily Mass.

We hear often about the severe decline in attendance at Sunday Mass. But I’m reporting that—at least from my perspective—there’s another, more hopeful trend: a quiet growth in the cadre of people at Mass every day. Do others see the same trend?

If it’s generally true that the pews are a bit fuller for daily Mass, that’s especially encouraging, because of the demographics of the typical congregation. When I first began attending daily Mass, nearly everyone in the church was older than me. Obviously that has changed in 40 years; there aren’t nearly so many people around who are my elders. Nonetheless, as the older folks disappear form the pews (headed for a better place, we pray), the congregations still increase in size.

Is my experience atypical, or is this a real trend? While lackadaisical Catholics sleep in on Sundays, are there more dedicated Catholics rousing themselves early every morning?

Anyway, if it isn’t a trend, it should be. So let me suggest, to those readers who will be making an unusual weekday appearance in church tomorrow, that you consider trying to make it there every day during Lent. (If not every day, how about twice a week?) And if you can do it during Lent, why not continue through the year? Take it from me: If you can do it for 40 days, you can probably do it for 40 years. Be a trend-setter!

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: drjanina125845 - Mar. 02, 2022 5:06 PM ET USA

    I have noticed it too! And it must be a reason for rejoicing!

  • Posted by: joy - Mar. 01, 2022 9:33 PM ET USA

    Yes, Phil! I notice growing daily Mass attendance. I'm 76, but not the oldest one there. The young are doubly inspiring: the young couples or mothers with 1, 2, 3, 4 or more young children and the single young people who tend to linger in the chapel in deep prayer after Mass is over. There is hope! Thank you for mentioning this.

  • Posted by: miketimmer499385 - Mar. 01, 2022 4:58 PM ET USA

    I found daily Mass far more in line with my faith than Sunday worship at a parish I previously attended. Prior to covid, my current parish's liturgy was the most glorious of any novus ordo Mass to be found. I am wandering in the desert to find anything approaching that reverence again, for various reasons not necessarily related to covid and the baleful response of the church in general. I find that daily Mass is once more the liturgy that speaks to my spiritual sensibility.

  • Posted by: winnie - Mar. 01, 2022 2:31 PM ET USA

    I agree. There are a number of devout young adults who attend daily Mass at Emmanuel in Delray Beach FL & also in our Huntsville AL parish of Holy Spirit. It’s so inspiring.