Thursday, April 14, 2005

Holier than thou

Doing the seating chart for the First Holy Communion Masses here at our parish is worse than doing the seating chart for my wedding reception.

I had a mom call me yesterday to ask me to make sure that she was sitting near the front of the church because she and her family actually attend Mass every weekend. She couldn't bear the idea of being seated at the back of the church when people who "don't care about religion" got to sit near the front.

I was pretty stunned. I had never had someone call me up to demand such a thing before . I tried to make the point that I pull the names randomly and that perhaps seeing their child make their First Communion might bring some of these families back to the Church. She was not hearing it. She said, "I'm not putting you in an awkward position." Well, yes, actually, you are, ma'am. So,I told her I'd see what I could do.

But as I gave it some more thought, I got more angry about the whole exchange and how I handled it. I remembered how I heard on a local talk radio station at Christmastime a few years ago about a Catholic pastor who was giving tickets to the Christmas Masses to his active parishioners to make sure that they had somewhere to sit at the very crowded Christmas Masses.

Sounds good on paper, yes? It's only fair, we say. We contribute to the collection every week. We deserve a place to sit over those C and E (Christmas and Easter) and A and P (Ashes and Palms) Catholics. And they're not really Catholic, are they, if they don't go every week? We take our religion seriously. We deserve a pew near the front. (Some might argue that real Catholics sit in the back anyway, but that's a topic for another entry;) )

Well, what would Christ say to this woman, to the parishioners who came up with the tickets for Christmas Mass idea, and to the pastor who implemented it? He would say, "Get over yourself. Yes the Church is crowded. Yes, I know you are here every Sunday, but are you listening to anything I am saying to you in the Scripture readings? Obviously you are not paying much attention while you are here. You should be as glad as I am that these brothers and sisters of yours are even in the church and that their children are in religious education. No, they are not perfect. Then again, neither are you. You don't deserve to be closer to the altar than anyone else. You don't deserve a seat in the church more than anyone else. I love all of you the same."

Doesn't Our Lord tell us in the scripture that the last shall be first and the first shall be last? Doesn't He tell us in the parable of the prodigal son that Our Heavenly Father rejoices with all of the angels in heaven when the child who was dead returns? Doesn't the Good Shepherd leave His flock in search of the lamb who has gone astray, and when He finds it, He places it on His shoulders and carries it back into the fold and rejoices? Did he not lay down his life for His sheep?

Why the nitpicking over where you're sitting in the Church? Isn't the most important thing about the day that your child will receive the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist for the first time? And that your child is now admitted to the Lord's Banquet? This is a deeper level of his or her relationship with Christ, and if you're so religious you would get that and it would not matter.

It's time for me to take a walk over to the Rectory to let our pastor know that he can expect an angry phone call on Monday. Because I am leaving this lady exactly where chance had me pull her name: square in the middle.

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