The Christmas rush has taken on a whole new meaning at St. Maur Parish, where tickets were issued to control crowd numbers at its annual Christmas Eve children's Mass.
Last year the children's Mass in Rush, in northern Dublin County, was so crowded that one girl fainted from the heat. Many were concerned about elderly people and young children forced to stand in the aisles.
The introduction of tickets for the Mass made national headlines at the end of November after some parishioners contacted RTE radio to complain that access to the Christmas Eve Mass was being limited to regular Mass attendees. They argued that Mass should always be open to all, whether they regularly attended church or only at Christmas and Easter.
Under the ticket distribution scheme devised by the parish council, tickets were available only from the sacristy after Saturday vigil and Sunday morning Masses the first weekend in December.
One of my seventh grade CCD students expressed his frustration with all these extra people at Christmas Mass. “They are sitting in my pew, they don’t know what to do, and they talk through the whole Mass”. Fair enough. Those of us who attend Mass every Sunday can feel quite inconvenienced by the sudden crowd. After all, where were these people during Ordinary Time or even Advent? They were hitting the snooze button while we were dragging ourselves out of bed to get to Mass.
But look at the opportunity for evangelization we have at Christmas and Easter. These are seeking souls. Do you think they will keep seeking from the Church if we glare at them as they squeeze into the pew? Welcome them. Smile. You know it is going to be crowded so arrive early and move to the center of the pew. No one enjoys climbing over a dozen knees to get to his place. Help them find their place in the hymnal or missal. I know the song says “O Come All Ye Faithful”, but a more accurate though admittedly less melodic phrase would be “O Come All Ye Who Seek To Be Faithful”.
Reach out to the “C&E” Catholics. Perhaps next Christmas they will feel like one of the regulars.