Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
This weekend all of our children receiving First Holy Communion will be with us for the first time in the sacrament of the Eucharist. Congratulations to all our children, and thanks to our catechists, teachers, Sisters, and all parents who have taken the responsibility to make sure that the Eucharist is a part of your children’s lives. It is a most precious gift; the greatest gift that they will ever receive.
For the rest of us it is a time of reflection, as maybe we can recall the day when we received Communion for the first time. I can remember the day. I can remember how important it was for me and my family. It is our prayer that this grace-filled time for our parish might serve as a reminder and a renewal for all of us to consider the impact and effect that this sacrament is capable of having on our lives, if we are paying attention and really making ourselves available for God in Holy Communion. We place so much importance on the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist — and well we should. But the sacrament requires a two-way offering of self, and we must also be really present to him, with our whole selves, giving ourselves to him as much as he is giving himself to us. Thank you, Jesus, for this great gift, and for renewing us.
Recently there has been some discussion about proper order at Mass, and what to do about those who arrive late and need to be seated. Our policy of kindly asking people to wait until in the vestibule from the start of the First Reading through the Gospel has been misunderstood as an inhospitality, and so I wanted to give a clarification.
Ushers are asked to kindly ask people to wait during the Liturgy of the Word and not enter the church to look for seats. If this has not seemed kindly to you, I am sorry. But what we have found is that many people arrive late, and in the middle of the readings, look for seats (which unfortunately are usually in the middle of rows) and by the time all are seated, the readings have passed by and people don’t know what they were. At the time of the Liturgy of the Word, there is only one activity that is appropriate: people are listening. In the pews, in the vestibule if that is where you are at that time. We put in a new, really good speaker there so that no one will miss anything. Attentive to the Word, it is the practice of our ushers to immediately invite everyone to enter the church and find seats once the Gospel has ended and the homily begins.
Please do not consider this a lack of hospitality or a process of policing the congregation. It is a courtesy to all, so that the Liturgy of the Word might have its integrity. We realize it is sometimes outside of peoples’ control to arrive on time with all the traffic and scheduling issues we all have, but for many, this Liturgy of the Word is the only Word of God that they will hear proclaimed all week long. There is something holy about this process — the Word of God is alive and speaks to our hearts in ways that sanctify and transform us. Truly the Presence of God in his Word, and his Word-made-Flesh in the Gospel. The readings aren’t terribly long, usually, and the vestibule is also a good place to listen for those who arrive late.
I have noticed sometimes that people wait from the very start of Mass in the vestibule, and this is not required — please, until that First Reading begins (greeting, penitential rite, Gloria, opening prayer) — please, come in and find a seat. Hopefully an usher can assist you.
And — to all those who remain in the vestibule for the whole Mass — from our vantage point at the altar, there are almost always many seats available in the pews, usually up front. Please do not be self-conscious, we would like you to come inside and join all of us at the Mass. Please don’t stay apart.
Attendance is so important in the celebration of the Mass — otherwise, we could just watch it on TV. Please, know your place is here with us and you are welcome.
May God bless you.