Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Thursday, April 26, 2018

In January of 1999, our family completed our journey into the Catholic Church. Until that time, we’d 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 it’s 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.

Catholic seating

Climb up to the choir loft some day and you’ll 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! It’s 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 it’s 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 one’s 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 one’s bets in case one wishes to bolt. So take off your coat and stay awhile.

                                                  I’m Late! I’m 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 don’t miss a moment.

                                                          Instantaneous departures

"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 don’t know the names of people who sit nearby. Linger after Mass and introduce yourself.

                                                                 Catholic parking

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 aren’t moved, the entire parking lot is caught behind a roadblock.

Personally, I’d prefer that our parking allows us to linger after Mass. It’s not a big deal, but it’s worth considering.

                                                                              Missals

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.

Let’s face it. Most Catholics aren’t very comfortable with the Bible. We know it starts with Genesis, and that the Gospels are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but that’s pretty much it. Even if we’re familiar with Bible stories, we probably don’t 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 God’s word, which, in turn, would allow us to get to know God himself. Too many Catholics steer clear of the Bible because we don’t know where to start. Let’s 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.