Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Buffalo Idea, the Mass Mob Movement

Cleveland Mass Mob [click, and here] finished their third year with their twenty-fifth mobbing on the 13ᵗʰ of November 2016 at St. Emeric, which was the last of the eleven parish churches ordered to be re-opened by Roman decrees. It has become, practically, de jure for any religious affiliated thing to have a foundation statement. Of course, after announcing our existence, we had to explain who?, what?, and such. So: We wish to attract people to come for a Mass, a celebration of Liturgy and Eucharist, in a parish community of an historical, and beautiful church.

In Buffalo [click, and here], four friends wanted to help St. Adalbert Basilica. St. Adalbert's was the first basilica in the United States. Buffalo's ordinary had closed the parish and church. Parishioners appealed to Rome, they made note of its status. The diocese denied it was a basilica. The documents showed it was. The diocese reluctantly obeyed Rome, and opened the church for worship (i think one day a year). So the first mass mob was on All Souls Day 2013. Buffalo Mass Mob II made a national Associated Press story [click].

Buffalo was the first to form, and nearly two dozen locals announced thereafter. The Parable of the Sower is an apt metaphor. The seeds were distributed about, and some plants grew well, and others not. Buffalo continues. Some locals did little more than make an announcement. Detroit's [click, and here] has done marvelously. Since their second mobbing, the local daily had a story before and after each and often with several photographs. Local television and radio have had stories, and interviews. Detroit has larger churches than Cleveland, some seat fifteen hundred, and at least one seats two thousand. Most mobbings produced no empty seats.

Something happened in Buffalo. The environment of conditions, and the spark in a few people's minds gave us this 'Buffalo idea'. The spirit we wanted to promote is appreciation that leads to rejuvenation. The United States has relentlessly promoted a disposable culture of immediate reward. So many of our societal problems are children of this philosophy. Community has been attacked for convenience, and for the desires of the aggressively ambitious and selfish. We need to celebrate and cherish something more important and valuable. Mass Mob is a form of popular evangelism. Other than religious aspects, there are community, historical, architectural, anthropological, and sociological aspects to this phenomena.

"For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."

These are the red letter words from the mouth of Jesus as recorded by the evangelist Matthew. This is the charter for the parish, a group of people in physical communion with the actual presence of Jesus with them. This is why a parish is so important. An hundred years ago, and more, people crossed the ocean and came to a new country. Their pennies, and dimes (for that was their wages) built edifices to house their community in dignity and respect befitting what they believed honored God. Often, these newcomers, 'greenhorns', were not welcomed by the greater community. These churches were bulwarks aiding them to keep the faith. Now, the progeny of some of these people are the establishment, they are integrated in the general community; but they hold a similar disregard for those who started those parishes, and built those churches. There are bishops, and other Catholics who prefer large homogenised, bland, interchangeable, indistinct units of the suburban sprawl which have large Sunday collections. These old parishes are our legacy, they are our culture, they are part and parcel of our faith.

Our goal was to, at least on occasion, flood the naves with the faithful. We wanted a greater audience to hear the invite. The genius of this Buffalo idea was to invite the public by social media. The chief, and most frequent social media organ than promotes the movement is facebook. The secular press and media, where it has given notice, has been unanimously positive, and the press has increased the invitation beyond the circle of social media available to the local organisers. Here in Cleveland, one reporter at the local daily told the city [click], and the paper [in the physical copy, or at least on line] made notice. And so did an AM radio news station. One television station came to our first mobbing, and it was linked to by an Italian publication.

Of the several locals, the first distinguishing factor was between organic and clerical. Cleveland as Buffalo was organic, and started and remained in the hands of the laity. In Detroit, there were four people who individually wanted to follow Buffalo's lead, and coalesced together with institutional support. The public enthusiasm of their local bishopry has been complete (the archbishop recorded a commercial [click], and has presided over three masses i think; and auxiliary, and retired bishops have said masses), and it is has to be believed it has added to the success there. The bishop of Ft. Wayne and South Bend asked for two mobs, the Knights of Columbus organised South Bend. In Kansas City Mo., and Memphis Tenn., it was organised by young adult ministries. A new seminarian organised in Bridgeport. The opinions of people employed professionally as Catholics, and the 'official' church's reception has been on a continuum of acceptance. Some places have skeptical critics, or have been loathe to say anything publicly. There has been expressed a worry of 'poaching' parishioners.  An old teevee cartoon had various characters say something uncomfortable about "...those meddlesome kids". I know of words that have circulated to me, that, the chancery on East Ninth does not like Cleveland Mass Mob. Some priests were timid when approached about having their parish mobbed.

The press early on was interested in this novel (and perhaps gimmicky nature of this evangelisation, and several liked to example "twitter", which use was scant and sparse) approach; and pooh-pooing critics (outside of the press, and with very small reach) looked dismissively on the movement. We made the Sunday New York Times [click]. The reporter, Michael Paulson, used the term 'Rust Belt Catholicism'. Yes, that captures the situation. Here we are in the battered industrial engine that helped create America; and here we still have great beauty, and the churches and parishes our immigrant forebears created are still here giving witness. The reporters i have talked to, and those who have talked to others elsewhere were universally positive. Many of these reporters are either active, or disenchanted, Catholics; and they like the concept, and the goals. Many people do see the Church as a community of believers that can gain members.

The call to mob is an anonymous opportunity to explore or revisit a parish, a church. A member of the mob can be incognito, and comfortable about it. The people who regularly attend that mass, are pleased to see that others want to see their church, their parish, their community. I was told after Cleveland Mass Mob III, that the mobbing confirmed the parish in its decision to appeal to Rome.

Some people object to the terminology. I remember, a Scottish folk musician say that 'mob' was the English word for a Scottish committee. Our beloved Pope Francis said, in Rio de Janeiro at World Youth Day, to make trouble in the diocese. Keep Massing and Mob On!

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