Do our parishioners celebrate Mass humbly? An unusual question, perhaps. We more typically discuss liturgical participation in terms of reverence or prayerfulness or piety. Nevertheless, the question remains: Do the liturgies at our parish have a humble, and humbling, quality? Are parishioners brought to greater humility by attending Mass? Should they?
Humility towards God has sometimes been described as a virtue by which we know who we are, and know Who we are not, and then proceed to live accordingly. The Mass is a sublime encounter with the thrice-Holy God, and in that encounter we acknowledge our sins before Him, we praise Him, we listen to Him and obey Him, we offer ourselves to Him through the Perfect Offering and Sacrifice of Christ Jesus to God the Father. We receive Him under our roof, unworthy as we are.
A congregation filled with parishioners who have not bothered to go to Confession for a long time cannot but feel a jarring contrast between the contrition implied and required within the Liturgy, and the resistance they have offered towards God's rich mercy waiting for them in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To relieve this tension, some parishes simply downgrade the humble, suppliant aspect of the Eucharist, presuming that a "celebration" by its very nature must steer clear of humility, lest it be dampened by a gloomy, even emotionally unhealthy, tone.
And the less-than-felicitous result? Fewer and fewer Catholics showing up to celebrate.