For those of us who attend Mass regularly, the Christmas & Easter Catholics are, to be honest, pretty annoying. We regulars show up for Christmas Eve Mass, like every other Mass, but alas! we discover that our pew is occupied. Our pew. You know, we have the same place every Sunday, because that’s what we do. We have our routines, our traditions. But, no. At Christmas, we have to arrive pretty early if we are to defend our turf, as do all our regular pew-neighbors, and we never do. So, we end up sitting wherever, surrounded by whomever and they always have kids who have not been to church in a year and don’t know how to behave. The parents are not much better. Never mind the stand/kneel/sit stuff, I mean the stop-talking-during-the-consecration stuff. Seriously!
The seem like interlopers, crowding the “real” parishioners out of their comfortable pews. They know they don’t quite belong, even as they act like they own the place. Of course, they do belong, like the rest of us sinners. They are no worse than me. We are all on a journey that has its twists and turns and bumps in the road.
I was like them for awhile. Disconnected. Just vaguely Catholic, I guess. I believed, but I was lazy, distracted, not entirely sure I bought into it all. But, something about Christmas – the birth of a beautiful Child to save us from our sins – compels us to come to Mass to acknowledge our gratitude, even as we are still trying to put it all together, to figure it out. If we are sincere, that Child will touch us and will call us to Him. We will experience His Presence at Christmas Mass and come back again.
So, the annoyed church lady in the first paragraph, yours truly, will refrain from comment when half the church responds, “And also with you,” instead of “And with your spirit.” (At least until we are back in the car.) I will invite my family to arrive early (so we can find a pew together) and enjoy the choir practicing their carols before Mass. The truth is, although they put me out of my comfort zone (or perhaps because of it) I am so happy they are there. I hope that they will have an encounter that will deepen their faith and draw them into communion with Christ and His Church. I am happy when the parish church is jam-packed with souls, as it should be at every Mass. I pray that the faith, hope and joy of the occasion permeates every heart.
If they C & E Catholics are annoying, it is because they are my brothers and sisters in Christ. There is part of me that wants to smack them and tell them to smarten up. Life is short. Choose what matters. That doesn’t work, for so many reasons… but what is effective is to be welcoming to them and to pray for them, to pray that it won’t be a whole year before they return. Even if they take my pew. This is their home, too.