Monday, October 7, 2013
HOSPITALITY, LITURGICAL AND OTHERWISE
I just return from Trani last night and thank my hosts Matt and Brandi Frolich for their marvelous hospitality. It was a great weekend.
Today, Monday, we have a very full day with morning and afternoon sessions with Father Craig Morrison, O.Carm of the Pontifical Biblical Institute teaching us "The Art of Reading the Bible for Preaching." Normally we have the afternoon completely free, but not for the next two days. I don't know if I can take it!
But let's talk about hospitality, liturgical and otherwise. Both are important, liturgical and otherwise.
I have prided myself over the years of having a relatively good RCIA process for those who seek to become Catholic. What I like the most about it is that we encourage all our parishioners to invite those they know who might be interested in the Catholic Church to attend our process. We always tell them that we don't make a hard sell, that we try to equip those who are seeking truth, meaning and purpose in their lives with enough of an experience of the Catholic Church and who we are and what we beleive so that in cooperation with the Holy Spirit they may discern God's calling in this regard. I think the RCIA is a wonderful part of the new evangelization and the RCIA's welcoming aspect.
Often, though when we think of "welcoming" we think of those greeters and ushers at the doors of the Church. While this ministry is helpful, it could confuse the majority of people that they are entering Walmart rather than the Church, meaning of course, that Walmart has or had greeters to welcome customers. Customers to greet other customers at Walmart to welcome them to the store only desingated people do that.
But we are not customers or consumers and the Church is our home and we should all be hospitable and welcoming of each other. It isn't just the greeters job or ministry. It's our house, not the priest's house. We are at home in God's Church as his beloved adopted children.
But we can "churchify" this welcoming to a Walmart experience, even if we are doing it in the liturgical context. We must be welcoming as a Catholic people, of the unborn, no matter the condition or reason for this baby, we must be welcoming of the elderly and the dying, no matter how much energy it takes from us to be so. We must be welcoming of the immigrant and those on the margins of society.
This is Catholic life at home, work and play and in our churches and in our poltical affliations. There is a connection between liturgy and life.
I like what Pope Francis said during one of his talks in Assisi last Friday. He spoke of his experience in Buenos Aires and one group of people that pained his heart the most. This group were Catholic in culture only and unlike cultural Catholics of old, this particular group had no sense of Catholic sensibilities at all. The Holy Father mentioned that the children did not even know how to make the "Sign of the Cross," something so simple and basic to our Catholic identity.
To the pope, this group of Catholics so far from the faith and our practices are people on the margins of the Church that we must re-evangelize. These are poor people, not in the material sense of the word, but in the spiritual and Catholic sense of the word.
The pope understands poverty to be both spiritual and material and that spiritual poverty is the most concerning.
So Pope Francis doesn't want us Catholics to have idols. Usually he means this in the monetary sense. But we can make idols of the Church and her liturgy. What good is it to give splendid glorioius worship to God if it does not motivate us to love God and neighbor as the greatest commandment? And Jesus' certainly expands who our neighbor is, anyone in need.
Make no mistake though. Pope Francis is teaching us a new way to be pro-life and hand on our pro-life teachings. It is based upon being a welcoming people who dialogue with each other. When he says welcoming, this means the unborn as well as others in what he calls our "throw away" society. These are powerful pro-life words. It can even be extended to artificial contraception. Isn't that the most unwelcoming drug there is?