In January of 1999, our family completed our journey into the Catholic Church. Until that time, wed spent most of our lives as evangelical Christians. The journey was far more difficult than any of us imagined, but we quickly fell in love with the sacraments, prayer life, communion of saints and liturgies. These have been wonderful years.
People often tell us that converts look at the faith from a unique perspective. Perhaps its true. As a convert, there are a few things about Catholic life that irk me, and while most are minor, I think they are worth considering.
Climb up to the choir loft some day and youll see what I mean. When a Catholic arrives for Mass, s/he proceeds to the row of choice, genuflects and slips into the pew, positioning himself or herself as close as possible to the aisle. As the start of Mass approaches, it becomes increasingly difficult for people to find a seat because the aisle seats are all taken. The options are to climb over people, or to stand. Many choose to stand.
My solution? When you slip into a pew, move to the middle! Its a charitable way to welcome other worshippers.Wearing coats during Mass
Years ago I wrote a column about why this bothers me. Rarely have I received so much feedback about a column.
Most people said that its a habit, a throwback to the days when churches were cold, but that seems like very old news. A few mentioned the lack of coat racks, which is valid. To me, assuming the church is warm enough to be comfortable, it seems downright rude to wear ones coat during the celebration of the Eucharist. The Mass is the most glorious dinner party we will ever enjoy, and one certainly does not wear an overcoat throughout a dinner party. To do so gives the impression that one is hedging ones bets in case one wishes to bolt. So take off your coat and stay awhile.
Im Late! Im Late! For a Very Important Date!
The rabbit in "Alice in Wonderland" had it right Mass is a very important date.
Anyone can have a bad day. In my parish, people used to joke about the "9:05 a.m. Mass" because so many parishioners arrived late. It happens. But when it becomes habitual, we leave ourselves no time to settle down and prepare to encounter the God of the universe. We should approach Mass with the same enthusiasm that we approach a big concert or show, arriving early so we dont miss a moment.
"The Mass is ended. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord." "Thanks be to God." Then we bolt in order to beat the snarl of cars in the parking lot.
I find this puzzling. We gather for Mass as the Body of Christ the family of God. It is a privilege to spend a few minutes with one another at the conclusion of Mass. Besides, most of us sit in the same place week after week, yet we dont know the names of people who sit nearby. Linger after Mass and introduce yourself.
Think "funnel." Many parishes lack sufficient parking, so communicants jam into the parking lot in a funnel shape, aimed toward the exit. The problem, of course, is that this type of parking requires immediate and I mean immediate departure at the conclusion of Mass. If a few carefully placed cars arent moved, the entire parking lot is caught behind a roadblock.
Personally, Id prefer that our parking allows us to linger after Mass. Its not a big deal, but its worth considering.
Missals are throwaway Bibles. I hate them. They demonstrate poor stewardship of money and environmental resources, and they rob us of a fantastic opportunity to become acquainted with the real thing.
Lets face it. Most Catholics arent very comfortable with the Bible. We know it starts with Genesis, and that the Gospels are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but thats pretty much it. Even if were familiar with Bible stories, we probably dont know how to find them.
Now, imagine pew Bibles and hymnals instead of missals. As the lector reads, "A reading from the letter of St. Paul to the Philippians," he or she could give the page number, or we could use the Table of Contents. At first it would be unfamiliar, but we would quickly grow comfortable with Gods word, which, in turn, would allow us to get to know God himself. Too many Catholics steer clear of the Bible because we dont know where to start. Lets start at Mass.
My musings are not intended to pass judgment, but rather to invite us into deeper union with God. Pick an idea and try it!
Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer.