Wednesday Witness: Belong. Believe. Behave.

This piece was published in the May 24 edition of the St. Michael Catholic Church bulletin.  At the time, I thought it resonated with our typical approach to welcoming people into our church, but a week and a half later, I challenge myself and everyone else to read and reflect on it in light of the killing of George Floyd and the aftermath.

People need a place to belong. They want a reason to believe.

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Two weekends ago, Fr. Richards preached a homily that has not left me. Over the years, he has talked often about the need for hospitality in our parish—and more recently, he has urged us to move beyond welcoming to actively inviting people into relationship: with ourselves, with Christ and with the Church.

This time Father presented a simple model of how to do this—or more precisely, how we often do it wrong. The model was summarized in three short words: Belong. Believe. Behave.

People are looking for a place to belong. We are made for love and community—without it, we can’t step forward in trust toward belief. And if someone does not believe—specifically, if someone does not believe in a God who loves us and has a plan for us—why would they ever behave? How can they receive a love they cannot see? Why would they follow a God they do not know? Continue reading

Stewardship Witness: The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist

Blogger’s Note: Awhile back I offered to Father to speak to the parish on the purpose of the Open Adoration events we have been hosting, and instead, he asked me if I would share a stewardship witness—a conversion story of sorts—on the Eucharist and Adoration. This short talk was delivered after all the Masses the weekend of October 26-27, 2019.

Brothers and sisters: I’d like you to ask yourself the following question: At this moment, who is the most important person in the room? Does everyone have someone in mind? OK, on the count of three, point to that person: 1…2…3…

Several years ago, I was helping to get our faith formation program going, and the director, Carol Freeman, asked a favor of me. During LIFT we were going to spend time in Adoration—silent prayer in front of the Holy Eucharist—and she asked if I would lead a closing prayer at the end.

I said I would—then spent the rest of the session trying to figure out why she asked me, of all people. I was on the Faith Formation Committee, but beyond that, I was nobody important in the parish. I looked around the church and thought, I’m not even the most important person in the room. Father’s here; he’s more important. Carol’s the director; she’s more important. Continue reading

Mass Hospitality: Welcoming Strangers to Worship

Not long ago, our pastor implemented the practice of having parishioners stand and greet those around them just before Mass begins. Predictably, the reaction was split: Some people like it as a small gesture of warmth, welcome and connection, while others think it’s unnecessary, corny or even disruptive to their preparations to worship God in the Divine Liturgy.

What struck me most among the reactions, however, was something I saw on social media: That standing and saying good morning to each other before Mass is fake in some sense and doesn’t make us more welcoming. This observation bothered me enough that I set out to determine why. Here’s what I discovered in my own heart.

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For several years now, Fr. Richards has challenged us to intentionally seek out and introduce ourselves to people we don’t know in the parish, especially people who appear to be new to the community or otherwise disconnected. I have never taken this challenge seriously. Instead, I have a list of rationalizations, excuses and cop-outs that will show up rather poorly when I have to explain them to Jesus. These are just a few: Continue reading