Meet and Greet Before


Meet and Greet Before Mass

This question has come up in many different places. Frankly, I have almost no opinion on this matter. If asked to do it, I would gladly do so. But I've wondered about some of the intense negative reaction this suggestion received. I do agree with many that one needs to preserve the integrity of a sacred rite. But I also think about Jesus's admonition that "If you have something against your brother, leave your offering, reconcile with your brother, and return to sacrifice." In a sense something like this can give us a moment of reconciling with our neighbor. I won't stir the pot. This is an issue that seems to stimulate deep feelings. But I will present a cogent thought on the matter from a relatively new blogger, Mr. Lugardo at Rosa Mystica.

What I would like to ask many of you is how do you reconcile your utter disgust with having to descend from the Mount of the Transfiguration for the apparently wretched duty of having to acknowledge your fellow Christian with whom you are about to enter into the deepest communion of Christ's flesh in the Eucharist, with St. Justin's assertion in his description of the liturgy in the year 155 (no, I did not leave out a digit there, we're talking about the second century) that the Christians, when gathered to worship, exchanged a kiss?

This is a profound moment when we are about to receive the blessed Sacrament. It makes sense to take a moment to wish peace to our neighbors at this time. And an appropriate way to outwardly (remember, we Catholics are all about physical expression of spiritual realities) demonstrate peace to a stranger is through a handshake, and a more intimate sign may be appropriate for those with whom we may be more intimately acquainted or more closely related. Mind you, I'm not talking about laughing and joking, and as I've stated elsewhere, having a great big "love-in". I mean taking a moment, in the Presence of the Lord, to acknowledge and share a loving sign of peace with our neighbor.

I think this succinctly spells out my thoughts. I have no objection when the Pastor asks me to do so, just as most of us have no problem sharing some "sign of peace." Yes, it can be abused. Yes, it can lead to nonsense. But it seems that one of the problems Catholics have when viewed from outside is that we so strongly value the sacred we appear not to value the individual. Go to almost any protestant Church and you will be made warmly welcome--in most cases embarrassingly so. Never, in any Catholic Church I have visited, have I felt that I was anything more than another person to be dealt with, however politely. I have never had anyone greet me in a parish not my own, no one talk to me or welcome me. Perhaps I've just chosen bum churches, but I've been to literally hundreds and with the exception of the Old Cathedral in San Antonio (at what I refer to, and not condescendingly nor contemptuously, but lovingly, as the Mariachi Mass) has anyone gone out of their way to do more than thrust a bulletin at me. Catholics, in general, do less to make one welcome than any other Christian religious group I've met with. (And I've met with a few, let me tell you!)

So my point is not necessarily to support this gesture before Mass, but that the reaction I see to the suggestion of it seems to delineate a place where Catholics could use some improvement. I love the Catholic Church and I love the people of the Catholic Church, but I think that every Catholic should attend an Evangelical Easter Sunrise Service or a standard service in nearly any mainline protestant Church. It gives one a substantially different notion of what community is about.

Ask yourself a pointed question and answer as truthfully as you can--if you were new to an area and you experienced a horrible disaster, would you rather count of the "community" of most Catholic Churches or your local Amish or Mennonite community for help? In your answer you will find the key to what community is really about, and why it so rarely surfaces in many Catholic Churches.

I agree with everyone about preserving the sacredness of Mass. But sacredness does not require isolation. In fact, if we are all members of the Body of Christ, sacredness requires incorporation--literally. So the exchange of a greeting and the acknowledgement of the existence of other people outside the circle of your family is probably not a terrible intrusion, if done appropriately. Again, all things must be done properly and in their place.

I realize what I've said is likely to be controversial, and I also understand that there are very good Catholic communities and individuals within the communities. But I would also like to say that personal experiences suggest that we could all do with improvement. (That all includes me, as I rarely take the effort to do any of the things I've outlined here. I'm as guilty or more so than anyone else). I mean no offense, and I would be delighted to hear that my impressions are largely incorrect, so please write and tell me.

One last note--it has also been my experience that my welcome in largely hispanic communities has been much warmer and much more gracious than in largely anglo communities. Perhaps part of what I'm indicting is that famous "American Individualism" that leads us each to forge our own way to salvation. Perhaps not. Again, my report is anecdotal, so I await other comments.

Bookmark and Share



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on August 29, 2002 11:35 AM.

"Be Not Afraid" An excerpt was the previous entry in this blog.

A Welcoming Salvo to is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

My Blogroll