Monday, August 17, 2009
Yesterday I wrote about the fact that I do indeed recognize our large Catholic family, and I love it. Even with all the dysfunction, we are a family and as they say, the Church is a hospital for sinners.
Yup. We're all a bunch of hypocrites, and that's why we go to Mass; because we hope that maybe one day we'll become Saints instead of hypocrites.
It always comes up, though, people who want to visit a parish and want to be made to feel "welcome".
This attitude has always mystified me.
As a child we had our home parish, but on vacation, or if going to an event in the city, every Catholic parish we attended was like ours. We knew what to expect. No, we didn't know the people at those parishes, but something about those places made it seem like another home.
I was always very shy and hated being singled out for attention. As an adult, although I'm no longer shy, I STILL hate it when I visit a new place and people get in my face to "welcome" me to their particular corner of the world.
We've all been there; it's the parishes where the hospitality committee has gone wild and people entering the parish are greeted by a phalanx of ushers and extraordinary ministers and other random people.
"Well, Glory be! Welcome! Welcome! Can I get you another handshake or would you like a nuggie, too? Whatever makes you feel at home! WELCOME Come back again!."
If I'm visiting a Catholic parish, I don't need to be "welcomed". It's already home. To me, this kind of effusive greeting is completely overkill.
When I, for example, enter my brother's house, since we don't see each other daily of course there might be hugs and hellos, but it's pretty low key. But I can't remember a single time in my entire life where I went home and found it necessary to receive some kind of effusive welcome to my house.
One of the things I most appreciate about being Catholic (besides the Sacraments, besides knowing I'm a part of the Mystical Body, etc!) is that, no matter where I go, I'm home. And because of this, it is astonishing to me that someone feels the need to jump into my path as I'm trying to prepare myself for the great paschal mystery, interjecting him or herself to "welcome" me to a place I've considered home ever since I was baptized as an infant.
There is nothing that makes me feel LESS welcome than someone welcoming me to my own home. THAT makes me feel like an alien. It makes me focus not on the Mass which is universal, but on the location and the people, and it takes my attention off of God and places it inappropriately.
We don't attend Mass to get to know our brothers and sisters in Christ. There is another time for that, and perhaps if the greeting ritual from hell were moved from the entrance to Mass to the entrance into the community rooms AFTER Mass, it would be a different story.
Yes, I know we live in a culture where people want to be coddled and their every need and desire met no matter where they go. I know we have a culture of entitlement and we are doing damage control for generations of Catholics who don't know the first thing about their faith, and sadly, most don't even seem to care.
I realize that it is, unfortunately NECESSARY in some places to have this army of overenthusiastic greeters (some of whom clearly see it in the same way I do but are doing their duty anyway) because it is this superficiality that keeps people in the Catholic Church.
Seriously...one of the biggest reasons cited for those who fall away from the Faith is that they aren't "made to feel welcome".
I HAVE to wonder if a big band greets them every time they go home?
What I love is being able to freely and quietly walk into a Catholic church, having prepared myself for the Mass. Maybe I'm meditating on the gospel, or just plain looking forward to praying morning prayer before Mass beings. I am in "relaxation" mode, the spiritual equivalent of entering my home actively trying to open myself to what God desires..and that can only be done in perfect silence.
Instead, someone has to overzealously "greet" me and "welcome" me into that place, and it is, in fact, a violent ejection from interior prayer and recollection.
This problem isn't going to go away, and I've just resigned myself to it. Because some people in their misunderstanding about what Mass is about need to be coddled, it means I have to die to myself and, as much as I hate it, I have to be willing to be coddled into my own home.
I live for the day that the Mass will be properly understood, that people will place the effusive greetings AFTER the Mass, so that prayer can remain sacred and socialization can remain soclialized.
Is that too much to ask?
Let the flaming begin, just please turn me over when I start burning on one side. Thanks.
NOTE: I've decided to add this caveat, because I know from experience how many people just LOVE being "welcomed" at their parishes and actually CHOOSE their parishes on the basis of this greeting routine. I'm NOT asking you all to agree with me! It's commonly misunderstood in the blogosphere that people have two choices: agree or disagree. I'm not looking for EITHER of those options. This post is a plea for UNDERSTANDING.