If we look at our church during Mass we see that it is pretty full. That’s because we spread out a bit. But if we bunched up a bit we might be surprised to see how much room there is for more people. The truth is there are many Catholics not coming to Church to give thanks to God for whatever reasons. We ought, need and indeed must try and do something about this. Each and every one of us knows a Catholic, maybe a member of your family, who has not come to Church for a long time, who may have given up on it. Maybe they are Christmas Catholics who come to Midnight Mass for the Carols or may be a paschal lamb returning to the fold on Easter morn. In England, we have what a priest friend of mine described as four wheel Catholics: they come in a pram at Baptism, a limo for Marriage and leave in a hearse when all is done! It does not matter what the reason is because firstly we do not judge and secondly we must be an invitational and welcoming community.
People fall away from the regular practice of the faith for many reasons, but I assure you there are many looking for a way back but are concerned that they might be judged, told off for not practicing, or feel God does not love them for their behavior. All of these things are not our way nor our understanding. Many still have fallen away from practice as children or teens and thus have only a child’s understanding of the faith. They all need to be welcomed back. So how are they to come back? The answer is simple and unavoidable, each and every one of us making that step to go beyond reticence and invite them. Some of us are very shy about talking about our faith to others. That is all part of the insidious privatization of religion by modern western society. No, the welcome is first into community, the Body of Christ, it is a welcome home.
To help this welcome, Bishop Robert Barron will be with the parish at the 11.30 Mass on October 2 to celebrate a Year of Mercy Mass and “welcome home” our absent friends. I implore each and every one of you to invite and welcome a Catholic who has been away from the Church for some time. Ask them to come and listen to Bp. Robert and to start celebrating again. Mr. and Mrs. Bench and their large family have taken up too much room. Let’s fill our pews with ones and twos. Welcome is a great work of mercy in this case. Just think if everyone invited just one person to come then we would double our Mass attendance…and I would not be on your case so much to sing up!!!!
God bless you and your loved ones this week and be brave…invite someone to the party!
Fr. Aidan Peter, CJ