Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 21, 1934 when Father James J. Kane offered Madison's first Mass in Madison's Memorial Town Hall.
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Christmas Day is coming soon, so it’s time to prepare for those “visitors from the east.” No, I don’t mean the Magi, the mysterious visitors who “traversed afar” over “field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star,” to pay homage to the child Jesus. (How often do you get to use the words traversed, moor and yonder in the same sentence? Thank God for traditional carols and hymns, without which our modern day vocabulary would be reduced by now to nothing but grunts and screeches.)

The visitors who will be coming soon are the folks who attend Mass only on Christmas and Easter. Maybe they should be called “Chreasters”? (Pronounced “kree-sters.")

I conducted a scientific survey recently (which consisted of talking to three people after Mass, one of whom was myself), and I discovered that those of us who attend church on a regular basis often can be a bit resentful toward the twice-a-year Chreasters.

“Holy mackerel,” we grumble as we drive into the church parking lot. “There’re no more parking spaces! I’ll have to park on the street.”

Then, once inside the church, we mumble to ourselves, “Hey, who are those guys sitting there? That’s my regular pew.”

For the rest of Mass, crammed shoulder-to-shoulder with total strangers in an unfamiliar pew, we barely pay attention to the joyful liturgy. Instead of having our souls and spirits in tune with the Lord as we celebrate one of the two most momentous events in world history, the Incarnation or the Resurrection, we instead sit there with clenched teeth and bad attitudes.

Sometimes a similar attitude is present even in the sanctuary. Over the years I’ve heard priests and deacons remark, in far too sarcastic a tone of voice, “Well, I haven’t seen some of you since last [fill in the blank: Easter or Christmas]. We do this every week, you know.”

Hmm, I wonder if the obvious annoyance expressed by regular church-goers might be part of the reason the Chreasters only go to Mass twice a year?

We know one thing for sure about the Chreasters: they haven’t given up completely on the idea that Jesus is important. Oh sure, maybe they’re at church on these special holidays because they were practically dragged there by their spouses or children. But plenty of people nowadays never go to church—no matter how much their loved ones beg—because they have completely lost their faith.

The Chreasters still have a spark of faith smoldering somewhere deep inside. That’s a good thing! Jesus himself said faith the size of a muster seed can move mountains.

Is it possible that the smoldering spark of faith inside some Chreasters gets extinguished when they get the cold-shoulder treatment at Christmas or Easter Mass? Are some of these twice-a-year Mass attendees about to become never-again Mass attendees because the devoted followers of Jesus seem to be just as indifferent and unfriendly as the people out in the cold, cruel secular world?

Let’s try something different at Christmas Mass this year. When we see folks we’ve never seen before, instead of ignoring them or giving them an icy smile that clearly sends the message, “And just who are you?!” let’s offer a big, welcoming smile and sincerely say, “I am SO glad to see you here!”

They may be so startled by our hospitality, they’ll have to check twice to see if they accidentally drove to the wrong church. No matter how afar they traversed over field and fountain, moor and mountain, we need to make them feel at home. Who knows? They might surprise us by coming back next week.

Bill Dunn is a recovering atheist who resides in Torrington. He loves Jesus, his wife and kids and the Red Sox (usually in that order). He can be reached at MerryCatholic@gmail.com.

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.