I don’t have any firm statistics, but it’s been my observation over many years that attendance at Mass tends to drop during the summer. Certainly, attendance at other parish activities (unless it involves a sport or a grill) falls dramatically. Getting people to attend a Scripture study, for instance, is an exercise in frustration if the teacher hopes to attract more than a core of die-hards who would come even if the study were held at midnight on alternative Thursdays.
I don’t think it’s because people become less spiritually oriented during the summer. I think it’s because where they find spiritual inspiration shifts from the inside to the outside. The glory of God is found more easily in verdant growth than in bare branches, and during the summer, being inside the church can feel a bit like bare branches.
When we are being brutally honest with ourselves, we all have probably felt that at one time or another. Have you ever secretly rejoiced when the celebrant said that his homily was going to be very short because it was just too hot? Or have you ever been reluctant to leave the lake in time to make the last Mass on Sunday evening because everyone was having too much fun? If you have, join the crowd!
Because we are drawn more to the outside this time of year, I believe that summer is the ideal time to take a new approach to our spiritual lives. No, that doesn’t mean starting a new regime of prayer or an in-depth study program. (Of course, if you want to do either of those things, feel free!) I’m not suggesting you add anything, actually. What I am suggesting is that during these months, when the riches of nature are so profuse, you look for the divine abundance in your life. We are told that when we seek, we will find … so here are a few ideas for seeing the abundance of God in these months:
Buy a melon (with seeds), cut it open and look at the seeds inside. Each one of those seeds has the potential to become a plant that could bear dozens of melons, each of which could produce dozens of melons … on ad infinitum. Recognize the abundance that is contained in a single piece of fruit and recognize that we truly do live in an abundant world.
Sit or lie down under a tree and try to count the leaves. As you do, think about how the same God who has blessed the tree with innumerable leaves has given you just as many blessings. Stop counting the leaves and start counting your blessings.
Spend a few minutes in the evening looking at the heavens. One estimate is that there are 300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, or 300 sextillion, stars. If that doesn’t convince you of the abundance of the universe, nothing will!
Finally, realize that the same God who has poured such abundance into his creation longs to give each of us an abundant life. Shift your focus from what you don’t have to what God is trying to give you.