You will discharge your labor well if you perform with gaiety, quietly, courageously, constantly.
Bishop Joseph Fenwick (1846)
For us joyful Catholics, the first chapter of my book Light Reading for Good and Wayward Catholics presents a problem that raises its ugly head every time I go to Mass. The chapter is “Why Do We Catholics Behave the Way We do?” And, so far, no one has given me a plausible answer.
Canon Stuart Wilson, a priest in London, told of his secretary commenting about a picture in obituary section of the London Times. “Why,” she exclaimed, “I recognize that man. He has been going to daily Mass for twenty years, and we never knew who he was.”
Now at the end of each Mass, Canon Wilson tells the congregation , “Sit a bit longer and get to know a stranger sitting nearby.” When this happened to my wife and me when attending his Mass, we introduced ourselves to a young woman next to us. She told us she was from Australia, in England studying to be a nurse. We learned about her family, and we told her briefly about ourselves, Fifteen minutes later when we reluctantly said goodbye, it was with a loving hug. Wow! To think this happened in a Catholic Church.
For ten years I have been going to an early Sunday Mass, which is not overly crowded with most of the parishioners sit in the same pews. With my instilled Southern Hospitality, I disturb the tranquil waters by smiling at those around me. I usually get flash smiles in return. When I’m feeling brassy, I will occasionally say, “Good morning.” Half the time, I get a muffled reply. One old fellow was so shocked to hear my voice that he quickly looked down to be sure his pants were zipped up.
While inside a structure dedicated to a leader who instructed us to love our neighbor, why do we behave like cloistered souls?
(And what are your thoughts?)
Returning to the church for the Saturday 5PM Mass, the young priest was stopped on the sidewalk by an ancient parishioner who said, “Would you mind helping an old lady up the steps?” He gladly obliged and when they neared the church door, she asked if the monsignor was saying the Mass. When he smiled and said that he was doing the Mass, she said, “Would you mind helping an old lady down the steps?”
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