Monday, October 7, 2013


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?


Henry said...

"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?"

Surely not a serious question, as no doubt we all agree that proper worship of God is good and meritorious in itself, independent of any effect it has on the worshiper. Just as the Mass is not just a community fellowship, neither does it have primarily a motivational purpose.

James J. Jeffries said...

I know there are a lot of people who would disagree with this, but I really wish Catholic parishes would just scrap the whole idea of greeters before Mass. When I am getting ready for Mass, I try to remind myself that I am about to be at the foot of the Cross and it's a bit of a job in this world of distractions to try to dispose myself properly for Mass. That only becomes harder if someone with that bright and happy grin gives me an enthusiastic "Hello! Welcome to our Church!" as I am entering. If I don't acknowledge the person, I am a sour old prune. If I DO speak back, it kind of breaks the whole tone I am trying to establish in my mind. I usually just smile, but I wish I didn't have to bother with that. I think one of the biggest problems with our modern parishes is that we laypeople have forgotten what a serious endeavor the Mass is and we've put too much of a Protestant spin on how we approach Mass. Maybe you don't see it at St. Joseph, but in most parishes, as soon as the last note plays for the recessional hymn everyone just starts chattering away in the church. There was a time when such behavior among Catholics was unheard of. If we could lose the greeters and do a bit more catechizing about what the Mass truly is, I think the effect would be most salutary.

Gene said...

Indeed, Henry. Praise and worship are, in themselves, expressions of right belief and meritorious in themselves alone. Sometimes even devout Priests and good Christians slip into the error of predicating everything upon the human response. Of course, right service follows from right belief and right worship, but the service is contingent upon right belief and right worship, not vice versa.

Gene said...

James Jeffries, I could not agree more. St. Joseph's does not have "greeters" (what a dumb designation, anyway), and the ushers respond to questions and such but are not out glad-handing everyone. Still, though, even if I am kneeling upon first entering the pew and saying a rosary or meditating, people will still come up and ask me to fill in as an usher or ask me some committee question.

John Nolan said...

The welcome into a Catholic church anywhere in the world used to be (and still is, if you know where to go) the liturgy. It is the Mass that matters.

Pater Ignotus said...

"Not everyone who says to me, "Lord Lord" will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven."

If our worship - crying out "Lord Lord" - does not lead us to love others - to do the will of the Father - we will not see God in the face.

Humans are the boundary line of all things corporeal and incorporeal. In and through us, the Law of the Lord is to be made corporeal - tangible.

A person who cannot experience, or who refuses to experience, the Father in the person who says, "Welcome," is only fooling himself if he then claims to see God in the mass.

This is one of the essential aspects of the mystery of the Incarnation that seems to be lost on those who prefer a "Jesus and Me" exclusivity in the celebration of the mass.

Gene said...

Ignotus, for a priest, you sure don't understand the nature of the Mass very well. Oh, is typical of your silly responses.

Cameron (ytc formerly) said...

PI, not having greeters at Mass--a specific instance of what you are talking about--does not mean that it is totally absent. Nowhere in Scripture does it command that we have a bunch of people doting when you come to Mass. Perhaps it would be more genuine to simply give the blessing and dismissal in a solemn way and invite people to donuts after Mass! That way, people will be happy, and will genuinely greet each other.

James Ignatius McAuley said...


While you are in Rome, you ought to see if you can obtain for yourself a copy of the Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham. It is the Liturgy of the Hours for the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Many of the hymns found in the 1960 or 1910 Roman Breviary that are presently not found in our Liturgy of the Hours are restored, and the Marian Antiphons after Compline are now restored for their proper seasons, as they are in the 1960 Roman Breviary. Te Lucis is the pre-urbanite form, as translated by John Mason Neale (who translated most of the hymns found in the book) The book also contains the music. Highly recommended!

Pater Ignotus said...

Cameron - I don't find a greeter saying "Welcome" as one enters a church to be "doting." I think it is hospitable and courteous.

And there are numerous elements of the mass, including the use of the maniple for those so inclined, that are not "commanded in Scripture."

I don't know why you would consider donuts after mass to be more "genuine" than a "Hello" before mass. In my parish, many of our visitors are travelling on to other destinations and have no time to linger. Are we to exclude them from a simple, genuine welcome due to time constraints?

And giving people a sweet, carbohydrate and grease laden pastry might be considered by some to be insulting, if not dangerous.

Anonymous said...

The Chur4ch is burning down around us and I read this drivel????


Anon friend said...

Pater, I have to say that I nearly sent the same response this morning that you have posted here--wow, who knew I would ever agree with one of your posts (usually I agree with Henry). But I DO agree that the Holy Mass, the greatest prayer of the Church, does have a radical conclusion for the believer: It should and must lead us into the greatest mystery re-presented in the Eucharist: we are transformed by the Eucharist to live the greatest commandment--love of God, AND, by its great grace, the very difficult love of neighbor. The "me and Jesus" of a reverent, beautifully-done holy liturgy is pivotal (I'm not sure you "get" that fully); it is essential in building the love of neighbor you have spent your life's energy trying to espouse. I really do understand that. I could say so much more about this, but won't right now. Thanks, Fr. And Pater-- this blog is beginning to be a growth experience...May we all grow in grace.

Gene said...

So, Ignotus, you a member of the food police, too? LOL!