Why You Should Register at a Parish

Sara and Justin Kraft

Why You Should Register at a Parish

Many modern Catholics float from church to church rather than committing to a single parish. While this may offer some convenience, there is much to be gained from registering and attending a single parish. Below, we will discuss some of the advantages of joining and attending the same parish regularly. 


The Virtue of Stability

Constant change is characteristic of the modern world. Life is incredibly mobile. Few of us live in the same town in which we grew up. We make long commutes to work each day. We change jobs and the channel every few minutes. Our gadgets are even disposable, ready for an upgrade each year. Unfortunately, all this change is not good for us. Saint Benedict, who lived from 480-547, also noticed that constant change is not good for us. This caused Benedict to author his famous “Rule of Saint Benedict” which became the guiding way of life for all Benedictine monks, both past and present. 

At the heart of Benedict’s Rule is the virtue of stabilitas. “Let him then who is to be received, in the oratory, in the presence of all the brethren, make promise of stability, of conversion of life and of obedience, in the presence of God and of His saints,…” (Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 58) The virtue of stability regards a commitment to constancy in the way we pray, work, and live. Benedict contrasts the virtue of stability that will be the hallmark of his monks with those that fail to live a life of stability, “And the fourth kind is that of the monks called Girovagi, who are all their lives guests for three or four days at a time in the different groups of cells through the various provinces. Always wanderers and never settled, they are slaves to their own pleasures and the snares of gluttony…” (Rule of Benedict, Chapter 1).

Stability is so important because it allows us to form roots which last. Like the “…wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.” (Matthew 7:24-25), the virtue of stability gives us a foundation for bearing the obstacle of life. Stability means that we will not be easily moved by the change that surrounds us. 


Stability and Registering at a Parish

Registering at a parish offers a number of advantages that help us gain the fruits of the virtue of stability. 

1. In the words of Saint Benedict (above), it prevents us from being “slaves to our own pleasures”. In other words, it prevents us from following our own ways and seeking out the company and teaching of only those with whom we agree. We are forced to hear hard teachings and are challenged to confront things in our lives which must be changed. In this way, attending a single parish conforms us to the image of God rather than allowing us to make God over in our own image. 

2. Registering at a parish makes us part of a community. For most of history, people were highly dependent upon one another. Whether a member of a professional guild or simply reliant on your neighbor, we needed each other. This is another key aspect of stability. Planting ourselves in a single location, whether it be a parish or in Saint Benedict’s case a monastery, fosters deep relationships. It allows us to know others and be known. 

3. Being part of a community also enables true acts of charity. Part of knowing and being known means that we will not always like everyone we encounter. People have faults. They will hurt us, annoy us, or just be indifferent. However, this empowers us for true acts of charity. “For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same.” (Luke 6: 32-33) Praying and serving those around us requires the true exercise of charity. 

It calls to mind the great quote of Dostoevsky in The Brothers Karamazov

“‘I love mankind,’ he said, ‘but I am amazed at myself: the more I love mankind in general, the less I love people in particular, that is, individually, as separate persons. In my dreams,‘ he said, ‘I often went so far as to think passionately of serving mankind, and, it may be, would really have gone to the cross for people if it were somehow suddenly necessary, and yet I am incapable of living in the same room with anyone even for two days, this I know from experience. As soon as someone is there, close to me, his personality oppresses my self-esteem and restricts my freedom. In twenty-four hours I can begin to hate even the best of men: one because he takes too long eating his dinner, another because he has a cold and keeps blowing his nose. I become the enemy of people the moment they touch me,’ he said.” (Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov)

Isn’t this our own experience? How often do we dream of doing great things? We dream of marvelous acts of charity, only to snap at our family and friends the moment charity becomes demanding.

Theodore Roosevelt also grasped this key concept. He put it this way in a 1917 interview with the Ladies Home Journal,

“The man who does not in some way, active or not, connect himself with some active, working church misses many opportunities for helping his neighbors, and therefore, incidentally, for helping himself.” (https://goodfaithmedia.org/why-teddy-roosevelt-went-to-church-cms-796/)

4. Finally, being part of a community also helps us better engage in the Mass (or what Vatican II called full and active participation). Another phenomenon in the modern church is what I call the anonymous Catholic. This is the Catholic that attends Mass, but encounters no one. Often, they sit alone and set themselves apart from the community. This inevitably also impacts their ability to worship. The community is the Body of Christ and we cannot fully encounter Jesus in the Mass without engaging His body.

If you have not, we would encourage you to register at a parish.