Skip to main content

Welcome One and All

In a little over a week, thousands of people will come into full communion with the Catholic Church. If one makes a cursory perusal of the blogosphere one sees numerous conversion stories, old and new.

One making headlines is that of Daniel Herzog, the former Episcopal Bishop of Albany, New York. The Rt. Rev. Herzog retired as Bishop of the Episcopal diocese of Albany on January 31. On March 19 he announced to his former diocese that he was joining the Roman Catholic Church.

In his letter to Bishop Love, Bishop Herzog stated that his decision was based on more than three years of focused prayer and study.

“My sense of duty to the diocese, its clergy and people required that I not walk away from my office and leave vulnerable this diocese which I love,” he wrote. “I believed that it was my responsibility to provide for a transition to the future. Your subsequent election and consecration discharged that duty and has given me the liberty to follow my conscience, and now resign my orders and membership in the House of Bishops.


The priest at Mass this morning mentioned this high profile conversion. He likened Bishop Herzog to the prophet Jeremiah in today’s first reading. Jeremiah saw his own people, the Israelites, walking a path away from God. He called on them to repent and return to God. He knew this message would not be well received, but he persevered, trusting in God’s Providence.

These dramatic conversion stories are inspiring. As a cradle Catholic I am somewhat in awe of those who definitively choose to be Catholic. Yet, the truth of the matter, is even us cradle Catholics must choose to be faithful, active Catholics. We must choose to live our lives in full communion with the Catholic Church and all of her teachings. This conversion process is often gradual and subtle.

Falling away from the Church can also be an almost imperceptible process. Day by day challenges and choices define our faith. If we do not allow our Catholicism to direct these decisions, we find ourselves standing outside the Church, perhaps wondering how we got there. It then becomes very easy to dismiss the Church as irrelevant. Yet by the Grace of God, a remnant of faith often remains.

We will see this remnant this Sunday, Palm Sunday, and even more so next week on Easter Sunday. Numerous Catholics who only see the Church when it is decorated with poinsettias or lilies will be in the pews with us. I implore you to welcome them with charity and not the least hint of condemnation or condescension. Open your arms to the return of the prodigal sons and daughters. Your gracious hospitality may be exactly what is needed to soften a heart and make it receptive to grace.

Here are some practical suggestions:

  • It is going to be crowded. Arrive early.
  • Slide to the middle of the pew. Nothing is gained by giving latecomers a self-righteous scowl and making them climb over you to get a seat.
  • Share your hymnal or missal with a smile!
  • Since cars will have overflowed the regular parking spaces and will have improvised a space in every nook and cranny, exercise the virtue of patience. Leaving Easter Mass and encountering a cacophony of snarls and honking horns will not entice a C&E Catholic to return next week. Consider your good humor in this situation a form of evangelization.
  • For those of you who plan to give your young children Easter baskets filled with chocolate candy: Do not present these treats until after Mass. Because Santa arrives overnight and children wake up to Christmas presents, some have extrapolated this to the Easter Bunny. However, you will not elicit a joyful “Alleluia” when your child leaves chocolate fingerprints on your pew mate’s white linen suit. My solution is to have the baskets ready to go but hidden in my room. Dad loads kids in the car. I place the baskets in a prominent place in the living room then join him out in the car. When we return from Mass, the kids are wide-eyed and amazed because Easter baskets have miraculously appeared. This also puts the initial focus of Easter on Mass. Treats are an afterthought.

So let us prepare to welcome our brothers and sisters who are entering the Church. We also will welcome our brothers and sisters who have been away. By welcoming these we will truly be ready to joyfully welcome our Risen Lord.

Comments

Ebeth said…
Denise! Well put! I love your comments on welcoming our prodigal sons and daughters back as well as new comers. My pet peeve is having to crawl over stubborn faithful.
Melinda said…
This is fascinating--I live in Albany and I hadn't even heard about this story. Hm.
Kelly said…
Wonderful thoughts, Denise. Thank you!
Oh, you pricked my conscience.

But I do have to say, in my defense, that the "middle of the pew thing" is just not viable when you NEED to sit on the end, in order to escape to the back with a noisy toddler or baby. I figure it's better to have people climb over our family, than to subject the entire congregation to a fussy little one, as invariably happens at the longer, crowded Masses! :-)
frival said…
Well said, Denise. This post really made me think about a whole range of things. I must tell you, you've given me quite a present for this Holy Week and I'm sure you didn't even mean to.

Popular posts from this blog

Parent Letter from a Catechist

I am going to be teaching seventh grade CCD this year. We do most of the preparation for confirmation during this year since Confirmation is usually scheduled for the fall of the eighth grade year.I have composed a letter to the parents to try and keep them active in their children's religious education. I thought I would post it here and get your feedback before I send it out in a couple of weeks.

I am privileged to be your child’s seventh grade CCD teacher for the 2006-2007 school year. This is a very important year. We will focus on your child’s preparation for confirmation. Of course, you have already been preparing your child for this sacrament for many years. You are the primary catechist for your child. You show how important your Faith is by making Mass attendance a top priority and by family prayer.

Confirmation is one of the Sacraments of Initiation. It is a beginning. It is not a graduation. This year we will work to solidify the foundation of your child’s Catholic Faith.…

Dispelling the Myth of the Travel Dispensation

One of the fun things about having a site meter on my blog is I can see which posts garner the most attention. I can also see how people find my blog. One of the most read posts from my two years of blogging is this one that discusses finding Mass while traveling. I would like to think this post is so popular because it is so well written. The truth of the matter is that it generates so much traffic because I use the words “travel dispensation for Mass”—as in “There is no such thing as a travel dispensation for Mass.” I would guess that nearly a dozen times every week, someone googles “travel dispensation for Mass” and finds my blog. I wonder how many of these folks are poor souls trying to assuage their Catholic guilt with evidence of a justification for missing Mass while on the road.

I know that when I tell my seventh grade CCD students that attending Mass every Sunday is a commandment (one of the top ten!) and not just a pretty good idea they are amazed. Missing Mass has become so …

United Breaks Guitars

This guy is really talented and what a creative way to get your message across. I think he captured the "indifferent employee" perfectly. They don't just work for airlines. I think I ran into them at Walmart on Friday!