Michael J. Sheehan Archbishop of Santa Fe
Shame on those unjoyful Catholics who attend Mass with the expression of school kids who have been sent to the superintendent’s office. Like hooded monks, they keep their eyes to themselves and act as if you were the only ones in the church. The handshake of peace is their reluctant nod to as few others as possible—then they quickly climb back into their shell. At the end of the service, their “thanks God it’s over” attitude is confirmed by the way they get out as soon as possible. Canon Stuart, one of my favorite priests, told of an incident which had an impact on him. One morning his secretary showed him a picture in the newspaper obituary of a man they recognized. For years they had noticed him sitting alone at daily Mass. They knew nothing about him, not even his name. As a result of this, at the end of each Sunday Mass, this priest now tells the congregation, “Before you leave, take five minutes to meet someone you don’t know. Find out something about them and tell them about you.” The effect is exciting with the church suddenly become alive with happy talk as fellow Catholics come in contact with one another. They are selfish hoarders of a duffer bag filled with the treasures of our Catholicism. This is a magic container because God is constantly refilling it with more than we give out.
What can we Joyful Catholics do to humanize a Mass? I suggest before the Mass begins, make a point of shaking hands with someone you don’t know. And broadcast smiles at those around you. When I first tried this, the result was mostly shock. But later I found that previous recipients would now acknowledge me with a smile, a nod or even small wave. It broke the ice. St. Ambrose once said the beauty of the Church consists in hearts that love Jesus—it is bound in knowing Jesus as the source and power of all that is good and exalting him in our thoughts and actions. More recently, Dom Ancar Vonier, O.S.B., the abbot of Buckfast Abbey in Devon, England, who died in 1906, advised us, “Begin with goodness, with sanctity, with the thought of God, and that you are the children of God. What should affect you is the power of Christ, the power of sanctity.” Following the advice of these two men, let us Joyful Catholics be the sparks that enliven the Church. (And let me have your thoughts about this: firstname.lastname@example.org)
A Must-See Movie
Every Joyful Catholic should see the 4-star film Of Gods and Men. Be sure to go with friends because this is a show you will want do discuss later. I was surprised to have three Protestant friends, who had seen the show, call to recommend it to me.
Other recommended Catholic blogs
- “The Role of Catholic Media Today” by Gregory Erlandson in the March New Oxford Review.
- “Annulment Nation” by Jeff Ziegler in the March The Catholic World Report.
- “Get Closer” by James Martin, S.J., in March 31 issue of America.
- “Theo-Poetics, Merton, and Mary: The Center Holds” in the spring issue of Spiritual Life.
Those Frigging Militant Moslems
- On March 20, Muslim extremists burned down 69 Protestant churches in southwestern Ethiopia. The cause of this demoniac action was the rumor that in one of the churches the Qua’an had been flushed down the toilet. Thirty homes, a school and an orphanage were also burned down, and 10,000 Christians had to flee their homes.
- In Egypt, least 13 people died in a sectarian row when Coptic Christians protested against the burning of a church on the outskirts of Cairo.
The first to send the right answers to email@example.com will receive a gift copy of Light Reading for Good and Wayward Catholics.
1. Who was the man who first broke all Ten Commandments?
2. Who was the first American-born canonized saint?
3. Before coming a disciple, what was Matthew’s profession