April 5, 2009

Rant: A & P Catholics

Everyone likes to make fun of people who only come to church on Christmas and Easter. I don't know; they don't bother me so much. If you're only going to attend twice a year, Christmas and Easter are pretty good choices. There are those who argue that Pentecost ranks above Christmas in the calendar, but we can leave that for another time.

When people confess this semiannual pattern of attendance, I invite them to add another day each year. Pentecost the first year and Assumption the next. By then they would have a quarterly visit! Then I remind them of their "Easter Duty" to receive sacramental absolution and Holy Communion once a year, and crack them up with the suggestive title of said decree: Omnis utriusque sexus. (That's DS 812, for all of you church nerds who have your Denzinger handy.)

But the people who do get to me are the "A & P" Catholics, as my first religious superior used to call them. The 'A' and the 'P' stand for ashes and palms. These folks choose Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday as their semiannual visits to church. And sometimes it's not even about praying with the community and allowing the meanings of these symbols to permeate you as a member of the Christian assembly. No. It's about "getting my ashes" or "getting my palms." Sometimes they are so brazen as to complain about not being able to get this stuff without even staying for Mass!

I don't get it. If you want to pray with the Christian community please join us as we use these miserable little material symbols to recall the paschal victory of Christ over suffering and death. But if you just want to run in and out or have a three second para-sacramental transaction so you can have some dirt on your head or carry some leaf home with you, there's plenty of dirt out there and plenty of leaves that you can go pick yourself.



Barb, sfo said...

My uncle (a Holy Name province Franciscan priest) also used to call them "A&Ps." But I made that reference last week at choir practice and they all looked at me blankly.
One of my kids once had a religion teacher (a Sister) who remarked that many Catholics would only come out for free stuff (free ashes, free palms.) Big Brother mused that maybe the churches should put up a sign that says "Free Eucharist every Sunday! Free forgiveness Saturday afternoon!"

Lee Strong said...

Inspired by an Irish friend who refers to St. Patrick's Day as Amateur Night, I describe the A & P Catholics as "amateur Catholics".

Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday are "Amateur Days".

Jim said...

I am so happy I found this site. I now read it everyday.

GrandmaK said...

Ashes and Palm Catholics. Interesting. Had not considered this! Hum! A quandary isn't it. Cathy

fr. Matt, OFM Conv. said...

Maybe they could work on becoming PTA Catholics.....


Throats and


Brother Charles said...

Barb: I learned the term from an HNP OFM, so maybe that's where it comes from. :)

Jim: Thanks for the encouragement!

4narnia said...

hi Fr. C! and hi to everyone else writing in response to this topic. i've heard of this: "CAPE" catholics- they come on Christmas, Ash wednesday,Palm sundaay & Easter. someone also told me some people are only in church three times in life: "when they're hatched, matched & dispatched." i think this is only a funny joke, but it could be a sad reality. PEACE!
~tara t~