By Father Guillermo Trevino
I read a story/picture post on Facebook that, whether true or not, made a great point. This person was late to Mass with their children. Everyone stared at them as they entered the church. The ushers said, “Come earlier, next time!” A person in the pew did not want to be distracted and said, “I’m not getting up, go around me!” As the person who was late sat down, their cell phone rang and the priest said, “Please turn off your cell phones!” It was the worst morning ever for this person.
Nervous and on edge, this person decided to go to the local bar. There, because of nerves, he dropped a beer bottle. Everyone at the bar helped to clean up the mess. Still nervous and feeling ashamed, he discovered that his cell phone battery had died. The person next to him loaned him a battery charger and the bartender connected it to the wall outlet. The frazzled man started to cry saying, “I just had the worst day ever!” The neighbor gave a hug. The story ends with a question, which (place) do you think this person comes back to, next Sunday?
If we are honest, and I am just as guilty of this, we can scare people away by our actions in church. We can also bring people to church by treating them with the love, dignity and respect that they deserve. We do not know the whole story. A lot of people who are not at church are trying very hard to make ends meet. Maybe they work on weekends. Maybe the children have a tournament out of town. Maybe they forgot the Mass times. Whatever it is, we should be happy that people are making time for the Lord.
Two weeks ago, at Mass, I said something I never say, “Thank You for coming! It truly means a lot to see you here.” Though I may have thought about it before, I had never said it. It is good to say how we feel, especially when it is good. Let us be like the people at the bar, helpful, especially in the House of God, our churches.
(Father Guillermo Treviño is pastor of St. Joseph Parish in West Liberty and St. Joseph Parish in Columbus Junction and chaplain at Regina Catholic Education Center in Iowa City.)