On Welcoming People
Why do Catholics so often sit at the back of the church building for liturgy? Certainly, for many it has become a matter of habit and that is why they do it now. But how did the habit start? Need the same (bad) habit continue on every occasion when there is a gathering for liturgy (or for a general meeting of church people)?
An analysis of this at the back of the church reality would probably indicate that it has more to do with human psychology than a lack of faith.
When we enter a strange location, or a location where we feel that we dont belong where the action is, or a situation where we are not sure of the established procedure, the natural, defensive response is to sit unobtrusively at the back.
When people are not sure of where they are supposed to be or of what they are expected to do, the safest place is at the back.
This natural tendency is not bad. At a liturgical function it does not necessarily indicate a lack of faith or a lack of commitment. But it might say something about the way people see Liturgy.
Perhaps it is saying that there is still an expectation to be passive when it comes to Liturgy. The action happens up front, almost on stage. People might think that they are there to watch and listen: to hear Mass.
Oftentimes people seem to feel that they come to Liturgy to watch from the pews, perhaps sing a bit and make a few routine responses. To sit at the front, where they cant simply follow the crowd, could lead to embarrassment, as by themselves they are not even sure of the exact times to sit or stand or kneel! Have you noticed how unsure people are of these basic movements when they find themselves having to sit up front at a nuptial Mass or a funeral Mass!
Many of these problems are avoided when a small group gathers in a circle, where there is no second row, let alone a row at the back, to celebrate a Sunday Liturgy without a priest, without the Eucharist.
The essence of the Liturgy can be the proclamation and sharing of the Word. In that communal action, in faith, we can perceive the presence of the Lord Jesus and draw inspiration, guidance and strength from our Communion with Him in that way.
In welcoming people it is important to put them at ease, allowing them to feel that they belong. This can surely be the case in an open, Catholic gathering.
It is good to explain to the visitors what is going to happen and why; that they will not be put under pressure but are welcome to participate along with the regular congregation.
It can be said that any visitor brings the special gift of her or his presence and a message, perhaps
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