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Monday, August 17, 2009

Welcoming Parishes

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. 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.


James Marcus said...

So true.

Warren said...

Well, I could agree with some of what you said.

But on the other hand...

I have been Roman Catholic since 2002, and I have found almost all the parishes I visited and tried to make a home in were very "unwelcoming".

What I mean is that I expect that The Eucharist, received by someone with a correct disposition, ought to create a character within that person, and thus within that community that celebrates mass together, of hospitality.

This hospitality is what inspired those who said of the early church, "See how they LOVE each other!".
This hospitality is what brings a person who is outside a community, inside, and makes them feel that they are recognized and valued as a person.

The mass is sacred, and "welcoming" parishes that try to turn mass into a kind of social gathering have lost the focus on Mass. but as several speakers at the recent 2006 eucharistic congress pointed out, Eucharist which does not change the world, which does not change our hearts and our minds, and our behavior, is a truncated, incomplete mass, also.


Mike said...

Usually I agree with you, but I have to put in my $0.02 on this.

If you have a dog, a child, or a spouse, you certainly are welcomed when you enter your own home. If it bothers you that people are happy to see a new face enter the church, ignore them. They don't know you are meditating. As far as they know you are a lost sheep coming home and they want to rejoice.

Adoro said...

Warren ~ I agree. But I don't see "hospitality" as being "in your face" forced socialization in the degree administered without a way to escape. Not EVERYONE is a type-A personality no matter HOW much we love Jesus or receive graces from Holy Communion.

That's why I speak of proper PLACEMENT of this. And also why I accept the fact that some people NEED that crap.

Mike ~ Sure, I have a dog and she greets me by turning inside-out with joy when I get home. But...she's a dog. And a a child.

I don't need that kind of a greeting from an adult and in fact, I find it a bit creepy.

I also agree that upon entering a parish, they don't know I'm meditating, which is why, as I said, I suck it up and "die to myself". But...why is it that no one can seem to UNDERSTAND that one MIGHT be meditating in preparation of the most amazing thing to happen ever, on the face of the earth?


We are such a self-absorbed culture that I find the fact that we are forced to deal with the status quo instead of work to CHANGE it is seen to be unacceptable. "You're not warm and fuzzy enough."

No, I don't find Mass to be warm and fuzzy. Jesus Christ DIED for our sins and we're about to be present at that sacrifice, so close that blood is dripping on us.

I don't find that to be an appropriate time for forced happy glad-handing soclialzation.

I DO think that hospitality AFTER Mass, when one has had more silent time with Our Lord and has absorbed what they they have been given, to be a better time for glad-handing joyfulness for THAT is how it's supposed to work.

Adoro said...

FYI ~ As I wrote this post I was remembering a post from a priest I know who spoke of this very thing and discourages "welcoming" speeches for this very reason. I'll email him to find the link as I can't seem to do so on a search.

His article was amazing as I'd never before considered it before and it's taken me about 2 years to finally "get" what he was saying. And I totally agree, if only I can find it!

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

Sometimes i think you invade my head ;)...i feel the same i'm an introvert so the greeting ritual from hell is penance for me...God willing this will change soon

Brother Charles said...

I cracked up reading this post, because it took me back to my own seeking before I was even a catechumen. When I went to different churches, someone would always try to make me "feel welcome," shake my hand and put a hymnal in it, ask me a hundred questions, etc. I'm naturally shy, so it didn't do much for me.

When I went to my local Catholic church, nobody seemed to care about me. It was dark and and quiet and nobody welcomed me. People were praying before the service instead of visiting with each other. It got my curiosity, because I had never seen people praying before.

Now I know this can't be generalized, but it was my providential in my very particular experience.

Thanks for the post.

Regina said...

I read both of your posts, yesterday's and today's- and I really appreciate your forthrightness. And I agree as well. As I have gotten older and have been this way and back a number of times with the Catholic Church, the one thing I find I need most is a reflective spirit when going to Mass. I get in my car, I drive, no radio, just thinking about the Mass. I get there, walk into church, put my veil on, and head on inside.
I am there to welcome Christ, not the other way round. Once I open myself to Christ, which is an on-going process for me, then, when it's appropriate, I am able to welcome and be welcomed by my fellow parishioners.
I figure I just don't have as much time as I used to, so I prioritize a lot when going to Mass now...
And thanks- yo have a great blog.

Melody K said...

I think there is a middle ground between an effusive, all over you like a cheap suit, greeting; and completely ignoring your existence. Actually at most parishes where I have attended,it is pretty low key. They have families or individuals who take turns being greeters. They say, "Good morning". I say "Good morning". Short and sweet. It happens in the vestibule, I don't think it disturbs anyone's meditation out there.
The practice I don't care for in some parishes is the greeting right after Mass starts, before the entrance hymn, of everybody greeting everybody around them. They do that back in my hometown. I regret to say that I have turned to my brother and said something smart-aleck. Yeah I know. Purgatory time. (To non-family members I am polite and decorous.)

Hidden One said...

You didn't ask for it, but I agree with you, Adoro.

Frankly, what makes me feel most welcome upon entering a "foreign" parish is spotting the tabernacle. Preferably quickly and preferably because it's located centrally.

Karinann said...

I love, "I am already home." And for those who need to be welcomed, they should know that we have been welcomed by the only One who really matters~after all it is His house.
Thanks for sharing this.
God Bless!