(In an attempt to continue blogging this week, but to simultaneously cut down on blogging time, I plan to do a few "reruns." This was posted last December, in the week just before Christmas.)
They're planning their descent into the churches.
At Christmas time a lot of unfamiliar faces show up at Mass. They jostle for seats and are a little louder than the regular Mass-goers. They've forgotten when to stand and when to kneel. Most of us know we'll have to arrive early for Christmas Mass if we want to get "a good seat."
There can be a temptation to get annoyed with these people. They show up only at Christmas and perhaps at Easter ... They may not contribute to the parish, either financially or in the form of "time and talent" ... They fill up the parking lot, mash their coats and body heat against us in the overcrowded pews, and can be irritating enough that they leave us with the vague, uncomfortable feeling that we need to get to confession even though we were just there.
That's the temptation. But we don't have to give in to it. Now that I'm in the fold of the Catholic Church -- no longer a stranger and sojourner but a citizen among the saints and not-so-saintly -- I give tearful thanks for the gift of my faith, and I pray that at least one of those Christmas Christians will be touched by God this year, touched so deeply that he or she will be moved to venture back to Mass again in January. Maybe once more in the spring. Maybe on a weekly basis by June. Into the confessional by next September? Then, finally, back into full communion with our one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church.
Which one will it be? Is it that sweet woman behind me, the one with whom I'll exchange a sign of peace? The bored teenager sitting in front of us? Will it be the man who scowls as we slide into the pew, forcing him to move down and relinquish his spot on the aisle?
Since I don't know which one it will be, I pray that I will not be a stumbling block to whomever it is. I pray that I will not be the reason he goes home griping about churchy hypocrites who say they're Christians but don't act like it.
I pray that someone, somewhere, this Christmas season, will be touched by the Christ Child.
And I pray that I will not get in his way.
(This post also appears at Catholic Exchange, on their new blogging page.)