At a time when Pope Francis has captivated the planet, creating the most positive energy around the Catholic Church in decades, sometimes on the local level, the Church struggles to get out of its own way.
My parish, sadly, is becoming an example of that. When the presiding priest punctuates the Eucharistic prayer by admonishing “the people in the choir loft” to kneel in reverence, it’s not a joyful moment of celebration during the Mass. (It’s also not the first time he’s interrupted the prayer to chastise members of the congregation.)
Of course reverence is important! But embarrassing parishioners who are 1) attending Mass and 2) performing a ministry isn’t the way to go. One of our members then expressed feeling too intimidated to ask Father for permission to bring Communion to the choir; and one of our musicians, a teenager, previously has expressed being afraid to receive the Eucharist from our pastor.
I know for a fact these are not bad, mean-spirited men—not on any level. But I wish they would put more focus on making our community a positive, warm place for Catholics of all ages to feel at home. And I wish that, especially during Advent, our parish could exemplify the peace and wholeness of our faith.
At the end of Mass, one of the announcements noted that very few stewardship forms had been returned to the rectory. It’s not a leap of the imagination to figure out why that might be.
As members of Catholic parishes, we have to find a way to maintain our traditions, our practices, and our culture without compromising a spirit of openness and hospitality.
If Mass is a celebration, then we have to make it feel like one. As Pope Francis shows us daily, joy draws people to Jesus—and to the Church.