I wrote the other day about the welcome I received when I arrived here at St. Benedict’s Monastery on Monday.
The subject of hospitality also came up in the discussion period after my talk at Our Lady or Lourdes on Sunday on the subject of Intentional Discipleship. One young woman talked about the lack of welcome she felt in a Catholic church she attended.
I was reminded of both of my welcome here and Sunday’s discussion last night when I came across something in a blog post, a copy of which was in a pile of papers I brought with me here to St. Ben’s. Although the post was written last year, it mirrors the experience I and others have had. The author of the blog, writing about the efforts of she and her husband to find a community in which to find Jesus, said this:
We knew just two young Catholics who practiced their faith, but their quiet reverence was eclipsed by the Protestants we knew, who unabashedly talked about their love for Jesus and whose churches were vibrant and welcoming. When you showed up at their services, they were on you like white on rice and never failed to invite you to their spiritual family. We’d attended several Catholic Masses to learn more about Catholicism, but we’d never once been approached by a welcoming Catholic. In fact, when we’d asked one priest if he’d meet with us to answer questions about the faith, he gruffly told us, “Call the diocese.” Catholics seemed to worship more as individuals, even in Mass.
As I said when this issue came up in the program at Our Lady of Lourdes on Sunday, it may be that instances like this are isolated. But if they are not, our lack of welcome to newcomers in our midst is something that deserves attention. How can we be in relationship with people if we can’t even make them feel at home in our home?
This will be on my heart and mind for awhile for many reasons. If anything, we as Catholics should be the least individualistic; yet we are the most so much of the time.
Beyond the greeting received from ‘volunteer greeters’ offered as we enter the sanctuary or the ‘beginning of mass greeting’ offered to those in the pews near us, can much more of a welcome be expected in medium to large parishes? Large(er) congregations with full mass schedules serve many at a mass that is often ‘secular schedule’ selected – “5:15 mass this Saturday and we can drive to dads for his birthday on Sunday.”
Being welcomed into an active parish often speaks to activity and / or outreach – to service. It is much easier to be welcomed when we offer ourselves in service unconditionally – allowing our gifts and personality to shine through attracting others to us and we to them. Common interests shared are often the best way to be noticed and become welcomed for what we willing offer and share.
Mass is a social celebration, not a social ‘mixer.’ A parish is a family that feeds our soul and our body – we should bring a ‘dish’ to share, if we wish to be included.
Sanctuary entrance greetings encountered are our invitation to the celebration, an ongoing celebration – being welcomed (and feeling welcomed) depends as much on us as those we wish to know.
The Lord may open the door, we need the courage to enter and experience – both the expected and unexpected – it’s a new day, mass is celebrated and everything else is a blessing added – with an open heart we enter. . .