Hospitality in any parish is essential, welcoming the stranger, connecting with long-time friends, praying with those who express their needs for an ailing parent, a struggling teen or even searching for a new job. Joe Poprocki who wrote “A Church on the Move” offers these thoughts about the liturgy, from a homily given by Pope Francis, “The liturgy is really to enter into the mystery of God, to allow ourselves to be brought to the mystery and to be in the mystery.” Part of the mystery may be to say hello to others after entering the church, greeting newcomers, and more fully disposing oneself to prepare for prayer.
Mr. Poprocki offers this methodology to prepare for and begin the liturgy, “Five minutes before Mass begins a commentator comes to the front of the sanctuary, prepared with a clipboard with notes and says, “Good Morning.” [pause] Welcome to Saint Anthony parish – a community of people broken by sin, but saved by the grace of Jesus Christ. For this great gift, we give praise to God.” The choir leads the assembly in that day’s responsorial antiphon. The commentator proceeds: “Today we celebrate the Fifth Sunday of Lent. In today’s scripture readings we hear that “whoever loses their life saves it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it to eternal life.” As the preacher may focus on those thoughts. Once again the choir director or cantor leads the people in the responsorial antiphon. After the refrain, the commentator continues: “Our community of faith seeks to put the Gospel into action. To that end here are this week’s announcements such as helping out Rebuild Silicon Valley serving low income residents of our valley. The announcements conclude and the people hear, “Please silence all cell phones. Let us take a moment to center ourselves and remember we are in God’s saving presence as we prepare to celebrate the liturgy.” The people may sing a seasonal refrain followed by a period of silence. The Opening Hymn begins, and all stand as the procession enters; people do not need to be told to stand. In this way we listen to the voice of God, prepare our hearts to enter into our liturgy, fully, consciously and actively.
After Mass people mingle, talk, converse and along with the greeters at the door reach out to anyone who is new, kindly welcoming them and inviting them to share in hospitality. What would our liturgy look and feel like if we began in that way?
Lenten Blessings, Father Larry Hendel