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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