The Dispatch: More from CWR...

Opinion: All are (maybe) welcome

The Church’s response to the pandemic has been about 80% terrible. And now Christmas is soon upon us.

Detail from "St. Francis of Assisi Preparing the Christmas Crib at Grecchio" (c. 1297-1300) by Giotto di Bondone []

So my oldest landed in his former town of Atlanta this morning and tried to go to Mass.

Good luck with that.

No entrance without a ticket, and even then you had to be there forty-five minutes early.

Garbage. Complete and utter garbage.

The Church’s response to the pandemic has been about 80% terrible – the 20% being the ministers, ordained and lay, who have heroically visited the sick in hospital, care facilities, and homes, and the parishes that have remained open – in some way – continuing to communicate the truth that yes, we all need Jesus and Jesus is Here, in this place, in this world.

But that 80%?

Are you even ready?

Do you even remember that it’s Christmas, and even in normal years, your numbers multiply to the point at which you’ve got to double up Masses and hold them all over the property? That this is the time of year in which the lost, the disaffected, the questioning, the broken, turn up?

Because they’ve heard this rumor that there is actually an answer to their questions, a reason for their being, a meaning to their suffering and One Who Loves? And maybe that One who lay in a manger in Bethlehem dwells among us still and the place to meet him again is in this place with a cross on top, light streaming from windows, doors….open?

And that this year, a year of confusion, displacement, suffering, fear and death…that pull might be even…stronger?

Are folks involved with these matters aware that even in a normal year, practicing Protestants regularly show up to Christmas Mass, especially Midnight Mass, because their own churches don’t do much for Christmas, especially if it’s not on a Sunday? And this year, far more Protestant churches have gone completely virtual and remain so, and so those hungering for flesh and blood religion, for fellowship, to be fed…might hear that the Catholic church down the road still seems to be in business and might be a place to try to experience that?

And so what are you going to do about it?

What are the ticket-taking, pew-roping, reservation-demanding Catholics powers-that-be that be going to do about it?

Are you going to find a way to actually be welcoming and get these folks through the doors at which they’ve gathered so they can be touched and moved by the Lord they are sincerely seeking?

Or are you going to position your sour-faced ushers Ministers of Hospitality at the door, arms crossed, offering not much more than “Sorry. Tickets required. Had to get here early. Merry Christmas. Stay safe.” Clubby, insular, satisfied and yes, using the word of the year…safe.

If the rules are strict and the will to work around them is weak, are you at least going to have true ministers of hospitality at the door, recognizing the lost and the seeker, ready with prayer and more information and an invitation to please, please come back to this place – even tomorrow, when the people are mostly gone, we’ll be open, Jesus will be here and we will be here to pray with you at the end of this horrible, frightening year, to be in the quiet where, almost unbelievably, peace and more unexpectedly, joy can be found?

To be clear, the question I pose here is not…”Why don’t you open up?” But rather… “What are you going to do when people show up?” Or, call or inquire. “Sorry. No ticket? No, you can’t come in. Merry Christmas and stay safe out there!”

What will we do?

Where will we be?

Who will we be?

(Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on the Charlotte was Both blog and is reposted here with kind permission of the author.)

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About Amy Welborn 33 Articles
Amy Welborn is the author of over twenty books on Catholic spirituality and practice, and has written extensively on gender issues at her blog, Charlotte was Both.


    • This is going to be a very rough Christmas. Those who worship twice a year must be welcomed. But since they are not regular parishioners, they probably do not know about the restrictions, tickets, reservations, masking and the like. I wish my parish would: 1. Issue a press release about the rules this year; 2. Actively promote the rules on social media; 3. Encourage parishioners to similarly promote what to expect this weekend.

      We’ll still have the Christmas visitors, and turning them away is inevitable, giving our beloved church more than one black eye.

      • If ‘visitors’ have to be turned away, whose fault is that? If the ‘visitors’ didn’t take the trouble to look into the conditions in the Parish where they are, and have to be turned away after just showing up – whose fault if that?

        I live in Maine, I’ll be in Boston for Christmas, I want to go to Mass on Thursday afternoon or evening, and so I am making inquiries NOW about when and where to go to Mass. Given the conditions today it would be ignorant for me to do it any other way. Just showing up and expecting to be able to just go in any Church and have a seat is unrealistic and not too bright.

        • Except what about those people whose hearts are suddenly touched by repentance at Christmas and yearn to go to Mass? “Sorry, there’s no room for you” would be a horrible thing to do to them.

          “Just showing up and expecting to be able to just go in any Church and have a seat is unrealistic and not too bright.”

          I am trying, and failing, to think of any time in 2000 years to which that applied.

        • Thank you. I am constantly stunned by those who have problems with tickets for church, masks, social distancing, etc. Which all have been initiated to help stop the spread of Covid. What is the problem with tickets? If a church can only seat so many, due to keeping safe distances from each other, then issuing tickets for just the number you can safety have at one time makes good sense. I am tired of all the whining.

  1. Spot on. Unfortunately, few in the Church hierarchy are interested in evangelization any more. The term “minister of hospitality,” will be twisted into an Orwellian-type meaning. We get two or three big chances to evangelize every year and we are going to squander one this week.

  2. Our bishops have been telling us for months that the Church and her Sacraments are not essential. Your temporal well-being is more of a concern than your eternal salvation.
    What are the chances that these same bishops will get in line for the Great Reset ?

  3. Deplorable, of course, but it doesn’t address the ongoing problem of those individuals and groups intent on creating the Kingdom of God on Earth, and who thereby feel justified in purging the Church of “undesirables” . . . you know, those who don’t think, act, dress, talk, work, etc., etc., etc., as they do or in ways that they find acceptable, or whom they just don’t like. You know, the individual or group that prevents them from having the perfect Church, society, government, world, or bowling league in the here-and-now, and that the Church, society, government, world, or bowling league would be better off without. Don’t talk to Those People. Don’t look at Those People. Don’t acknowledge their existence in any way, and maybe they’ll just go away. . . .

  4. What I’m going to do is either attend a 4pm Christmas Eve outdoor Mass and Christmas play where my grandchild is portraying one of the angels or if the weather doesn’t cooperate, sit in my truck outside of church and listen to the Mass on the loudspeaker. If the temperature is decent we can also sit outside under the awning and we can always receive Communion at the church’s side entrance.
    Every Sunday we have a number of older folks and those suffering from illnesses participating in the Mass from outside the church. Yesterday I saw a gentleman with one of those medication pumps over his shoulder genuflect to the ground before receiving Our Lord.
    If a pastor is resourceful, there are ways to get through this. If things should become more difficult and churches are actually locked up, I guess we can go back to clandestine Masses like our ancestors did.
    I think God is trying to get our attention. We have taken too much for granted for a long time.

  5. Thank you Amy, an excellent post, badly needed.

    Seeing how the “Mass situation” is, maybe I better go to the massage parlour, or the tattooist or the bowling alley (“/sarc”) they’re all approved.

    Over in the UK, many pusillanimous prelates actually support the godless politicians, may the Lord save their souls.

    Things will only change when the plates come back after the collections with just a few dimes …

    … and as for “Ministers of Hospitality” – what the heck are these ?

  6. Jesus was born in a stable, and preached in the dust, so if the outdoors was good enough for Him there’s no reason a service can’t move outside, if possible weather-wise. Obviously, our elderly parishioners might not be able to handle the cold unless they sit in a car or tent. If Gavin Newsom or Cuomo wants to arrest you on Xmas Eve then let them, that would be the ‘cherry on their sundaes’ in their power grabbing year of brow-beating and hypocritical secular behavior.

    Temperature checking may be a viable option, in crowded cases. I know, I know the asyms.

    It perplexes me why the leadership has not come up with acceptable and safe ways to get the Eucharist to the faithful who are afraid to attend Mass or cannot. I haven’t even read where they see this as a serious problem, I’m sure they must discuss it.

    Merry Christmas all and please pray for us St. Nick!

  7. The USCCB, speaking truth to power, announced this morning that the “old-school” and “now-irrelevant” model of The Holy Trinity—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit– has morphed into Gates, Fauci, and The Mask. President-elect Joe Biden, when asked to comment on the news, congratulated the Bishops on their “moral courage” and added “The Church is at last aligned with Science!” It is reported that Gates, Fauci, and The Mask made an appearance at the Bishops’ Conference to wild and sustained applause, and that the new Holy Trinity will be flying to Rome later this evening to meet with their boss.

  8. Sorry to say this author is not living in reality. When churches are limited to 50%-10% capacity this Christmas. Reservations/Sign up for the Christmas Masses are the only charitable way to go. Also why should the regular Attendees of Sunday Mass not have room for them at Christmas Mass just because someone who does not belong to the Catholic faith or doesn’t come to Mass but on special occasions shows up? What part of “We are in the midst of a Pandemic” does the author of this article not understand? It is being lovable, welcoming and joyful to have sign up at this time so we can worship our Messiah-Redeemer-King who is among us, in person at the Holy Mass!

    • You should never have to sign in or get a ticket to attend Mass. We must follow the lead of the King of Kings and welcome all strangers and turn away no one from Mass. This must be the one place where people should never be judged based on facial coverings, communist social distancing, and whether one cough is too much. Leave people in peace. They are coming in to meet the Eucharistic Lord who said, “Do not be afraid”. How dare we ever turn them away from meeting the Divine Physician when there is a purportedly raging pandemic. That they are coming to Mass should tell us that they are turning to the Christ’s presence in the Church for solace and peace in an insane. How pitiful and heartless would it be for us to leave them in the cold because of their lacking a ticket or lacking a facial diaper. God have mercy on us all!

  9. Satan wants you to keep the evangelism inside your 4 walls……Jesus wants you to go out to all nations to evangelize. Lost people search for Christ as eagerly as a thief seeks out a policeman…….not gonna happen! If the Catholic leaders would quit acting like Pharisees and line up their catechism with what scripture teaches, the Catholic church could be a powerful force in this fallen world. Jesus rebuked those hypocrites (“church leaders”) and picked lay people to spread the good news of His incarnation, death and resurrection. You people have to decide if you want to remain Catholic ( a follower of Rome) or a Christian ( a follower of Jesus Christ).

      • Christians follow and worship Christ only, as the scriptures teach. Catholics follow the traditions of Rome, idolize Mary, angels, saints, etc. Oil and water don’t mix!
        Read the scriptures…from Genesis to Revelation. Old Testament pointing to Christ, New Testament resting in His work on the cross and coming again for His people (Christians).

        • Barb, you genuinely have no idea what you are talking about. You might read actual Catholic sources instead of relying on the uninformed or lying statements of people who hate the Church.

          We do not “follow the traditions of Rome.” We follow the Traditions of the Church. I remind you of 2 Thessalonians 2:15: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle.” If you have a problem with Tradition, take it up with St. Paul for one.

          “idolize Mary, angels, saints, etc.”

          We don’t idolize Mary, angels, or saints. We revere them. We venerate them. We do not think they are gods; rather, we know that they are close to God and have done His will. Here is a good explanation:

          “Read the scriptures…from Genesis to Revelation.”

          Read them? Honey, it’s Catholics who wrote them. It’s the Catholic Church that decided which books should be in the Bible. It’s the Catholic Church that preserved the Bible, copying it carefully by hand for all those centuries before the printing press and before most people could read, teaching it, reading and saying much of it in the Mass throughout the year.

          “Old Testament pointing to Christ, New Testament resting in His work on the cross and coming again for His people (Christians).”

          Of course. And the Christians of the early Church were Catholic.

    • You appear to be unfamiliar with the content of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and mistake the behavior of men for the inestimable treasure of Catholicism. That is a great tragedy but you have it within your hands to go much deeper. At a certain point we stop blaming others and take responsibility for ourselves by God’s Grace.

  10. As a “Wise Man” once said years ago: “Symbolism Over Substance”.The author has hit paydirt with this short essay.In the Blue States ruled by tyrannical Governors of the socialist/democrat stripe.The Catholic hierarchy of these states has meekly rolled over
    and begged for a few crumbs from these secular monsters ruling over their flocks.There are very few strong Sheppard’s or even sheepdogs to keep the wolves at bay in these states.

  11. The praxis we presently witness merely reflects the character of a post-conciliar Church in the throws of an attempt at self-extinction. Who requires a “pandemic” when the entity is willing to do itself in?
    The utter lack of supernatural faith manifested by the worldwide episcopate over the last year is mortifying and dispiriting to be sure, but it has served the purpose of shedding the masque. It is separating the men from the boys, the real women from the little girls.
    Now maybe, just maybe, we will approach a time when authentic renewal and reform will eventually be engendered instead of the fraudulence perpetrated upon the faithful since 13 October 1962? That authentic renewal and reform will be constituted by a restoration of the faith theologically and practically. Romper Room Katholicism has served no purpose but to dishearten and disperse the faithful — but perhaps that was its motivation all along.

  12. Open the doors and go about doing what the church is suppose to be doing. If you believe in Gods goodness and protection then what better place can we all be but in church with Him. I truely believe God chose the day of my birth And He will choose the day of my death. No government, No politician and No virus is going to kill me unless it is His will that it be done. So give up the fear, gather with those who believe and trust in Him and just wait and see. I bet His love and protection will follow you.

    • God certainly chose the day of your birth and he will choose the day of your death. But does that mean that you cross busy streets in the middle of the block without looking for traffic?

  13. We don’t deserve it but nonetheless I pray that God will rid the world of the coronavirus on Christmas. It would be a great gift and a sign to those who have forgotten or never knew about the great gift Who is the reason for Christmas.

  14. Reading this I am thanking the good Lord I live in PA. At my parish our church has been opened for all regular Sunday Masses, Daily Mass and Sat. Confessions. The pews are separated by “ribbons”. We must wear masks and receive Holy Communion in the hand. The normal capacity is about 800. Each Mass is sparsely attended, perhaps a hundred or so, daily Mass about 15. All the others who could attend sadly stay away, how many watching “virtual” I wonder.

  15. It takes time to make extravagant plans for mass gatherings and so this article is several weeks too late for any pastor who has not given it any thought.Its true that at my parish attendance is way down since we re-opened. But seating, by state mandate, is limited by law. The media has succeeded in frightening most out of their minds. .Our parish will be first come first served. I have no idea what marching orders were given to the ushers when and if we reach capacity.A lot of parishes are operating on a shoestring in terms of volunteers. Our parish skews to older parishioners. We have experienced a severe shortage of Ushers, Ems and Lectors since re-opening.They are afraid. Those of us who came back and are willing, are working double time. We have added several extra Masses for Christmas and Christmas Eve and will also be broadcasting at least one Mass on the parish website, as we did during the closure. I agree that its awful to turn people away from church. Yet unless the Pastor is willing to face arrest or a massive fine, its hard to see what can be done about it. The Bishops have long ago abandoned their flocks spiritual health to pander to govt officials who feel the body is more important. With a recently discovered new strain of virus, its clear this state of affairs, of govt interference in religious matters, if unopposed, can go on for years. We, and the church hierarchy in particular, must push back.

  16. Our Church will allow a max of 37 people to attend Christmas Day Mass. There will be no Mass on Christmas Eve. We were told by a steward to email her on the 8th December to request a place at Christmas Day Mass and she would decide who to offer a place to! This person, sadly, since being appointed a steward has become very authoritative, her personality has been changed. I didn’t bother to plead with her for a place, I booked a place for Christmas Eve Mass at a Church in another Parish.

  17. More news from the latest meeting of our USCCB. A few hours after that wonderful on-site Manifestation of our Church’s Brand New Trinitarian Model—that manifestation being an unexpected appearance by Gates, Fauci, and the Mask— things quieted down significantly as the good bishops continued to conduct important—indeed, utterly crucial– Church business. Meanwhile, as one U.S. bishop after the other spoke truth to power, an electronic radar-like baseball detector was inadvertently switched to the ON position when a distracted but righteous prelate, deep in contemplation about Climate Change, strolled right into it. The contraption likely had been left in the building, accidently, by a sporting goods enterprise. Anyway, no balls were detected. It should be noted, however, that Bishop Strickland had left the site before the machine was switched on. When he returned, the machine exploded.

  18. I am blessed. My diocese and priest do not turn away people. The church is open for those who will come. So far it has worked, social distancing and all. I do not see that turning people away furthers the message of our Savior.

    • Our parish is open as well.
      I have some complaints about my parish, but we are open. Some folks wear masks, but otherwise we are the Harbor of Sanity in the Hysterical Ocean.

  19. Thank you. I am constantly stunned by those who have problems with tickets for church, masks, social distancing, etc. Which all have been initiated to help stop the spread of Covid. What is the problem with tickets? If a church can only seat so many, due to keeping safe distances from each other, then issuing tickets for just the number you can safety have at one time makes good sense. I am tired of all the whining.

  20. I think those who complain about a little bit of inconvenience in having to pre-book their Mass ticket are not looking at the big picture here. I live in Australia and we have little Covid-19 with less than 1,000 deaths mostly due in part to the stringent lock down measures, border closures between states, contact tracing, booking in for large gatherings – Masses, cafes etc. The US has a horrendous death count from Covid-19 plus many thousands of really sick people with Covid who have not died but may be very ill for a very long time. Why are you complaining about a small amount of inconvenience when the reason behind it is valid? Wouldn’t you rather live in a country where the death count was low and the actual cases were low? We are grateful that our governments both federally and locally took such hard measures to keep us safe. Bet you wish you were in our position right about now. If these measures were not in place BEFORE Covid-19 then no-one should think there is a sinister motive behind these measures. We are supposed to follow the laws of the land as long as they don’t contravene God’s laws and in this case they don’t.

    • Australia is a big island with a population about the size of New York and New Jersey combined, with an area some 46 times as large as those two states. That can’t have hurt.

      There are 12 countries with more deaths per 100,000 in population than the US, at least some of which have had much more stringent lockdowns than the US.

      “Why are you complaining about a small amount of inconvenience when the reason behind it is valid?”

      You may consider not being able to go to Mass a “small amount of inconvenience.” I don’t.

      “Wouldn’t you rather live in a country where the death count was low and the actual cases were low?” “Bet you wish you were in our position right about now.”

      Not if it meant a)being smugly self-righteous and b)seeing nothing wrong with losing massive amounts of civil liberties on the theory that “oh, nobody could possibly have sinister motives.” I hear China’s rate is even lower than Australia’s (assuming they’re telling the truth, and I wouldn’t bet on it) – after they did things like weld people into their homes.

      • Leslie, I am specifically referring to the inconvenience of having to book in for Mass. I pointed out the obvious that there are inconveniences and one being that fact. Covid is inconvenient for the whole world. If you took my observations as being smugly self righteous, then you misinterpreted my words. That’s your problem. Here in Australia we haven’t missed out on Mass except for about 6 – 8 weeks during the worst part. We could still book in for private confessions. Maybe that is different in the US? We just go online or ring the parish office and make a booking. It’s not that difficult but it is different to what we are used to. I agree that if you were denied Mass indefinitely, that would be a problem but are you being denied Mass or is it just inconvenient to have to book? Australia being an island does have advantages but it didn’t stop the Spanish Flu in 1918. The returning soldiers brought the disease to our shores. Covid-19 is not a conspiracy against Catholics or other Christians. Some opportunists may have taken advantage of the situation but that’s in the minority. You can only say you have lost your civil liberties unjustly if that continued well after Covid-19 was under control and from what we are hearing about the situation over there, it’s nowhere near that point yet. Maybe it’s too soon to make such a dramatic statement? In the Spanish Flu in Australia, what you could refer to as “civil liberties” were suspended until the disease was under control. Schools closed, shops closed, churches closed, many people lost jobs and if you didn’t wear a mask you were put in jail. It ended though AFTER the crisis passed. I feel confident that this too will end.

        • Civil liberties aren’t contingent on whether a virus is under control. The government’s responsibility is to protect our freedoms, not limit or suspend them.

    • You are wrong on just about every count. The lockdowns, bans on large gatherings, and contact tracing have accomplished little, if any, good, and have had massive negative side effects. You omitted the equally worthless mask mandates. Both the positive Covid case totals and the death counts in the US are overstated. To the degree that they are real, they have been racked up and aggravated with the foregoing measures in places.

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