September 13, 2007

Lending a Helping Hand

With September 14th arriving tomorrow and with it the implementation of the Holy Father's recent motu proprio emphasizing a greater use of the extraordinary form of the Mass, a lot of people may be sitting at Masses that will be celebrated in a manner that will be entirely new to them.

The other day, I had a post on all the items I bring to Mass these days so I'm ready to participate.

But, what about the person who does not have their own Missal to bring to follow along with? What if the parish does not provide them?

Clearly, there are implications for this beyond the extraordinary form. What about someone who is exploring the Sacred Mysteries of Holy Mother Church for the first time and they really have no idea what is going on, or why, during the Mass?

I want to state that I am not a fan of people talking during the Mass and explaining what is going on as it unfolds. It's too disruptive to the people in the pews trying to pray.

However, I think many of us have seen situations where we KNOW, or we can tell, that the people next to us are new or are just plain lost as far as what is happening.

Years ago, I was in London for a week and I decided to attend Evening Prayer at St. Martin-in-the-Fields: a world famous church to be sure. But, it is an Anglican church. Here I am, Ms. Catholic, sitting there, enjoying the sung prayer but with no idea what was going on or what they were saying. The woman next to me could see I was lost and confused. She leaned over and handed me her Book of Common Prayer, open to the correct page and with a little smile she pointed to where they were. I mouthed thanks and followed along. Afterwards, I handed her Book back and we exchanged pleasantries. It turns out we were both visitors. She was an Australian visiting London for a few days. See why those Aussies are renowned the world over for their kindness?!

But, that's my point, how many of us quietly and subtly try to help the newbie? At my small parish, newcomers stand out quite clearly. Fortunately, we provide Missalettes at the door. However, a visitor may not know they are available and may walk in and sit down without it. Are you in a position to slip away and obtain one for them, or better yet, hand them yours? If you see they are confused as to when they should stand or kneel do you make some kind of subtle, friendly, indication to them that in this parish we usually kneel during the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei? Or, we have an Archdiocesan Prayer for Vocations that you may not be familiar with, and hand them a print out? Or hymns for this Mass are in the hymnal and I already know the words to O Sanctissima but I can see you don't so here you can use the hymnal I have or you can follow along with me.

Let me reiterate that I'm not adovocating helping people in a way that disturbs the Mass, but there are subtle, quiet, ways that you can probably help. A smile with eye contact, or a simple inclination of the head, goes a long way towards making someone feel welcome-no words required.

After Mass, invite them downstairs for coffee (if your parish has after Mass hospitality) or speak with them outside to see if they have questions. Introduce them to Father. Take them on a small tour of your parish. If you have an Adoration Chapel stop by that.

You don't have to be intrusive or push anything on people that they aren't ready for. But, if our Faith is going to grow and if our Mass is going to return to its intended properly celebrated state-everywhere-then those of us who know what is going on need to be ready to extend a helping hand and hospitality when it's called for.

Oh, going back to my St. Martin-in-the-Fields visit. After Evening Prayer a gentleman, who was obviously in the employ of the church in some capacity, (I must have just screamed Yank visitor to everyone!) approached me. In an extremely thick Cockney English he said something that I had to ask him to repeat 3 times. I still couldn't make it out. I shook my head, smiled, and left. I was 10 minutes away before I was able to construct what he said. Doh, he was inviting me downstairs for coffee!!!!


Blogger Ma Beck said...

I completely agree with your post, and would just also suggest that a Missal (mine is St. Joseph DAILY Missal, circa 1954) can be purchased at eBay for around ten bucks. That's what I got mine for. Best purchase I ever made.

September 13, 2007 3:30 PM  
Blogger Ray from MN said...

Ma is correct. Don't be obsessed about having a 1962 edition of your missal.

The only change made in the 1962 revision was the addition of St Joseph to the Eucharistic Prayer. That kind of change is what pencils were made for.

September 13, 2007 7:42 PM  
Blogger Jeffrey Smith said...

Why not just drive them out like scapegoats? That's what the church does anyway. Get rid of their illusions before they're permanently damaged by Catholic nonsense.

September 14, 2007 6:45 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

jeffrey: I see you are back (or still?) in your dark place. I'm praying for you.

September 14, 2007 8:04 AM  
Anonymous tvs said...


This brings up one of my peeves -- if you choose to spend 15 minutes after communion praying, forget the fellowship! Most of the coffee and donut folks have left before the final verse of the recessional (unless they stayed to applaud the choir.)

How do you reconcile being welcoming to the newcomer with being welcoming to Christ in the Eucharist? I struggle....

September 14, 2007 4:40 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

tvs: You raise an interesting point. No, I don't think you should be more "welcoming" to other then you are to Christ. I, certainly, would not recommend that someone shorten their prayers.

September 14, 2007 8:13 PM  

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