Thursday, December 26, 2013

About Those Catholics....

It's been years since I went to a Christmas morning mass. I prefer one of the masses offered on the Eve and usually the one with where a traditional choir sings. The other Christmas Eve mass is the one they call the children's mass with contemporary music...but I shan't go into that right now because the visions I have dancing in my head concerning children's masses are not of sugar plums.

Normally on Christmas Eve all is planned and that includes mass but this year things turned out a bit different making it impossible for me to attend until the Christmas morning. We had last minute changes in plans for the Eve but no matter, as long as I was able to attend mass on Christmas morning I could go with the flow.

It was apparent that most parishioners had gone to mass the night before since the pews were more empty than not at the 10 A.M. mass. There were many unfamiliar faces at the mass and sometimes it's too easy to see these people as Catholics who only go to mass on Christmas and Easter. Were they all CE Catholics? I have no idea and quite simply I don't even know if any of them were CE Catholics at all. One thing I noticed about a lot of the strange faces is that they were sitting alone in the pew with no one around them. I include myself in this. Without going into it, I have been attending mass by myself for several years now. I wish it wasn't so but it is.

The priest mentioned at the start of his homily that he was very pleased that we had taken the time out of our morning to see the importance of celebrating the birth of our Savior by our attendance at mass. When I looked around again and saw those people sitting alone a thought came to me. Yes, some Catholics only attend Christmas and Easter masses without bothering with all the other Sundays and Holy Days of the year, yet if some of the strange faces I saw this morning were CE Catholics then something didn't make sense.

Why did they bother coming if they were in fact CEC's? They were sitting alone with strangers around them so there was no one to impress with their attendance. Obviously attending mass on Christmas wasn't a family tradition for them since they had no family member sitting with them. They could have told their families they were going to mass and skipped out for an hour to go have breakfast and return home pretending to have been a good dooby by going to mass. Could it be we assume to much by what we see without knowing the full story?

It became obvious to me that these solitary worshipers were probably not the CEC's I assumed they were, since someone else seeing me alone in the pew could have come to the same conclusion that Christmas mass would be my last mass until Easter and it would not have been true. Yes, we sat alone and worshiped with strangers that morning because we made worshiping God in the Eucharist a priority, the priority this morning. As I said, they and myself included were not there impressing anyone with our Christmas attendance for no one would have known otherwise if we had not come. Did we all attend mass every Sunday? I have no idea but one thing I found is that they deemed it important enough to be there that morning.

Perhaps this was the day they decided to turn over a new leaf of repentance by attending mass. Perhaps it was the last vestige, the last thread from their conscience telling them to come. Perhaps they were there alone because they were visiting family and friends for Christmas and they made a point of seeking out a parish to make sure they attended mass even if no one came with them as part of their Christmas celebration as practicing Catholics. The point is we don't know their whole story and should give them the benefit of the doubt. Yes, we all know CEC's and yes, we see them going up to communion, but assuming that most of the ones we do not recognize, especially at Christmas mass, are CEC's is not being charitable. As a matter of fact we should all be kneeling there beating our breasts asking God to "...have mercy on me Lord, a sinner." instead of assuming the worse of those around us. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Shopping for Christmas and Being Pleasantly Surpised

Like many others I found myself at the department store this weekend looking to buy some gifts for the family. It was so packed with people that I considered turning around and going back home before I even parked the car. I think I lost three pounds just walking from my parking space to the store entrance just from the distance. This was my third stop of the day on my shopping excursion and my last. I walked around erratically about the store with no clue as to what to get anyone. Once in a while I would eye an equally lost shopper and our gazes would meet and acknowledge silently our futile attempts to find that perfect gift. We would smile a bit and shake our heads as we continued forging new ground in the hunt.

I expected to be jostled around carelessly in this throng of people as someone reached for this and that unaware that someone was at their elbow. Not this time. People seemed to be more considerate of those around them this year so as not to be offensive in act or word. Actually the shoppers seemed subdued, not with the fatigue of shopping, but from some underlying feeling that things were different this year. I can't put my finger on it as to why it seemed like this, but it was.

More often than not a 'Merry Christmas' was heard from one shopper to the next. I helped one woman get an item she could not reach and as we parted she said 'Happy Holidays' to me and I replied with a smile 'Happy Holy Days'. She looked at me for a moment and replied 'Merry Christmas', also with a grand smile. This was turning out to be a day I hadn't expected. No frenzy, no dour faces and above all a seeming gentleness towards other shoppers.

I've made a point of saying Merry Christmas to people even if they wish me Happy Holidays and I find that there is a kind of sigh of relief when they hear it and repeat it to me, especially if they are employees of the department store. I'm sure they've been made aware to wish people a Happy Holiday rather than Merry Christmas for fear of offending shoppers. Maybe that's it. Perhaps people are tired, but not from the shopping but the fear of offending others with their own belief and celebration of Christmas.

I look at it this way. People are offended by all kinds of things, legitimate or not, and I will not let my life be controlled by overly sensitive people simply because they do not believe as I do. If in wishing someone Merry Christmas I encounter someone who tells me that they do not believe in Christmas I have a ready answer. I will tell them that I DO believe in Christmas and what it means to me and I wish them the peace that I have found in this celebration of His birth. If they are still offended by that then there is nothing I could ever say that will please them. I move on.

If we are to evangelize then Christmas shopping is the perfect place to start. After all, we are buying gifts not just to reciprocate with another for buying one for us but to represent the gift of His son to us and this ultimate gift can be given to others with a kind act or word said with a smile. We are being coerced to keep silent in our faith. That is the PC thing to do we are told. God tells us to go out and teach all nations. He never said it would be easy or that we would have an attentive audience but just go out and teach the Good News. I did that yesterday.

Merry Christmas