At Christmas Mass, give the gift of hospitality

| December 18, 2013 | 0 Comments
CNS photo/Daniel Sone

CNS photo/Daniel Sone

You can count on two things when you arrive at church for Mass on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day: The pews will be more crowded than usual, and there will be a lot of new faces sitting among the regulars you see there every week.

Christmas, like Easter, is a time when churches host an array of visitors, including out-of-town guests as well as those who may only come to Mass a few times each year. There may even be a first-timer or two among the worshipers.

How you interact with these folks stands to make a lasting impression on at least what some of them think about the parish and, more broadly, the Church itself.

Evangelizing opportunity

Hospitality is an important part of our Catholic tradition and it’s been a key theme of Pope Francis’ pontificate. Most recently, in his apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel,” he wrote that the Church must be a place where “everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel.”

We should be creating a hospitable atmosphere every Sunday for each person who walks through the church’s doors. But Christmastime affords a special opportunity to make people feel welcome and wanted.

During a recent interview on “The Rediscover: Hour” on Relevant Radio, Conventual Franciscan Father Richard Kaley, pastor of St. Bonaventure in Bloomington, highlighted a few, small things Catholics can do at Mass in that regard:

  • When you take your seat in church, move to the center of the pew to make room for others so they don’t have to climb over you.
  • Greet them with a smile, and wish them a “Merry Christmas.”
  • Introduce yourself. You may see them again sometime, and it’s nice to be able to put a name with a face. A personal greeting makes people feel welcome.

And, if you’re a pastor, consider taking a few extra moments before and after Mass to wish people a blessed Christmas and invite them to come back the next week. At

one parish in the archdiocese, the pastor ends every Mass by telling the people they are always welcome there. At another, the pastor stands outside after Mass, greeting people, thanking them for ­coming and telling them he will see them next week.

Most pastors know that a little hospitality can go a long way — especially at Christmas and especially for someone who may be considering a return to the Church after being away for a while.

Be friendly, be welcoming. They’re small gestures, but they contribute to a good experience of liturgy and parish community.

And, the gestures also may plant a seed among some to take the next step in their faith life and make an intentional effort to grow closer to Christ and his Church — not just one or two days a year, but every day of the year.

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Category: Commentary