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Why Go to Church?

going to churchIn this age when more and more people describe themselves as spiritual but not religious, it is helpful to recall Ignatius’s understanding of the purpose of prayer, devotions, and participation in liturgy.

In what pertains to prayer, meditation, and study and also in regard to the bodily practices of fasts, vigils, and other austerities or penances, it does not seem expedient to give them any other rule than that which discreet charity dictates to them, provided that the confessor should always be informed…. (Constitutions 582)

All these acts of worship, public and private, are to help conform ourselves to Christ so that we may labor with the rest of the Church in the Lord’s vineyard.  There is always an “ecclesial” dimension to spirituality–that is, it is never private.  It must always be part of Christ’s work in the world.  Prayer is to the work of discipleship what exercise is to performance in competition: both make us ready.

Ignatius, ever the realist, is aware of our tendency toward laziness in devotion:

they should be vigilant that these practices may not be relaxed to such an extent that the spirit grows cold and the human and lower passions grow warm.

While going to church is not the end of our existence–rather, laboring to do Christ’s work in the world is–still it is necessary because it reminds us constantly that the work is not our own.

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Tim Muldoon
Tim Muldoon
Tim Muldoon is the author of a number of books, including The Ignatian Workout and Living Against the Grain, and teaches in the Department of Philosophy at Boston College.


  1. Yesterday in the church (in San Antonio) where I attended the Mass, I eventually get the reflection of Inatius understanding of the purpose of prayer… Truly, I realized that the mass is the highest form of prayer where we can see God (Father, Son and the Holy Spirit) face to face. Through the mass, the Body of Christ is being shared and adored, and it is a union of banquet with Mama Mary and the Saints. Thank you St. Ignatius.

  2. I wish modern society left more space for people to go to church and to dedicate themselves to their Christian communities…so many people have to work both Saturdays and Sundays…

  3. AND we receive the strength of Christ in the Eucharist, and the Word
    for direction, and celebration with others in the Liturgy. . .

  4. Wonderful post – and these words really struck me… “There is always an “ecclesial” dimension to spirituality–that is, it is never private. It must always be part of Christ’s work in the world. ”
    I am finding more and more people in one of the communities that I work and pray with, heading towards levels of personal piety that do not seem anchored in the “‘ecclesial’ dimension” that you write about here.
    Without community – whether in my home parish, work parish, out here in the virtual world – without everyone, we are diminished. That is the heart and soul of eucharistic theology.
    I’ve been praying about this frequently, so thank you for your words.

  5. I can be as spiritual as the next person, but I need communal worship. Need it! My time at mass is truly a gathering in with friends and like-minded strangers all on the same faith journey.

    • None of the articles seem to stress the importance of the Pastor. As Pope Francis has said, the Pastor should be a good Shepherd. A “good Shepherd” should be there to greet his “sheep” when they enter the Church with a loving hug or hand-shake, step down from the Alter before Mass and remind people to try to forget their worldly concerns and go to that inner place where they meet their God, come down again to he aisle of the Church for the Sermon and stress the important of receiving the Eucharist and then be at the back of the Church for the final greeting. People will come back to God’s House if they are made to feel God’s love there.


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