Tuesday, August 5, 2008


“Good morning and welcome to Saint Soandso parish.”

I have always been bothered by this sentence uttered at many parishes at the beginning of the Sunday Mass. I suppose to many it seems polite but there is something about it that does not seem to ring quite true. Admittedly I get a little nitpicky at times but hope you do not mind the occasional odd rant. So here we go.

(Rant Part I)

The first question to ponder is exactly who is welcoming whom. Supposedly the majority of people being welcomed ARE the parish. (We welcome us here.) It comes across to me like a spouse being greeted at the door not with, “Welcome home!” but with the distinctly different, “Welcome to MY home!” One would think that the spouse might think, “On the one hand I was welcomed but is this not my home too? I’m sure that is what was intended but it doth seem odd.”

Perhaps in most ordinary circumstances this would not be too much of a gaff, but so many places have the difficulty of “parish” being seen as something one joins and from which they expect service. That is not the Catholic mindset. As has been stated here repeatedly (apologies if you are becoming tired of hearing of it) we do not join a parish, we become part of the parish. It is not an institution designed to provide services, but designed to give us all a framework through which we praise God and do our ministry.

(Rant Part II)

The second problem is that there are no Catholic strangers at any Mass. Ever. Anywhere. They are home. They are home whether they are at Mass in China, Zimbabwe, England, or Akron. (Notice Akron has been elevated.) No Catholic is a guest. That is why questions arise concerning the “Stand Up and Be Recognized” rite also practiced. Sure, there may be a member who came a long distance to be at Mass with us and I suppose there can be made the case that we are simply recognizing a “family member” that we normally do not have the opportunity to see. (I know however if I were in a Church and they were calling out for visitors I would be sinking under the pew hoping not to be seen.)

If one were to add this rite to the Mass I would be very wary of the wording so that it in no way seems that the persons are outsiders who are joining us today but family we have just not had the chance to see.

It may not seem like a big deal (and perhaps you think it not) but I do stress the importance of careful wording with anything associated with the Mass. For example, there is nothing inherently wrong with referring to the Sacred Species as the Bread and Wine. But in an age when too many Catholics do not understand what the Church teaches about the Eucharist, to solely use that terminology is a detriment. That is the point of this rant. There may be nothing inherently wrong with the above greeting or “rite,” but we should be awfully darn careful that we do not inadvertently teach something that we are not.


Anonymous said...

Yes, I am with you all the way here! Funny...I just got an email from my Liturgy Comm friend this morning regarding your top point but adding to it; why must we announce each "hymn" as though it is a calvary charge?

And whenever I've been in parishes that asked for "visitors" to stand up, I didn't, and actually, I don't think I ever returned to those parishes, either. We're all DEFINITELY Home no matter where we go to Mass; but I've never considered it the way you do here. Thanks!

Unknown said...

BRAVO! I liked your rant, in fact I found my self nodding to the whole post.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree. I think the greeting thing was born from a self-consciousness that we Catholics are not as welcoming and chummy as the Protestants.

I am way more peeved about mission statements. Um, don't we all have the same one? If there isn't a Catholic Mission Statement Generator like the one below, there should be.


EegahInc said...

Well, as long as we're nitpicking....

At my parish, after the "welcome", we get a specifically worded invitation that goes "As is our custom here at blahblahblah we ask you to rise and shake hands with your neighbor, greeting one another by name." After that, the mass begins.

Am I overreacting or does this take a little away from the sign of peace which comes later? I guess I just prefer big build-ups to climatic moments.

Anonymous said...

Well said!! One girl from our youth group that had just returned from Australia said she thought the coolest thing was the mass because even though everyone spoke different languages it was still the same mass and everyone was able to follow along and participate. I thought that very amazing and heart warming that she had that as one of her main memories.
As far as referring to the Sacred Species as the Bread and Wine, I cringe when I hear people say that and have been known to correct them!!


Odysseus said...

“Good morning and welcome to Saint Soandso parish.”

Oooooh! I hate this. My parish does it, of course.

Anonymous said...

Father, I think your rant is right on target!!

eegahinc - When I go to parishes (the rector at the Cathedral in the Archdiocese where I live does this annoying thing at the beginning of Mass) I remain kneeling, hands tightly gripped and eyes shut. If I am inturupted - I politely tell them I am ALREADY speaking to the Guy I came to talk to, am trying to listen and worship Him. Then I shut my eyes.

Luckily, at my parish, they start Mass by ringing a bell and the priest and servers enter the Sanctuary from the Sacristy and Mass begins. Love that!

Anonymous said...

Very good rant!
When I was Protestant, I was a greeter at the door, and one day a woman came in from the Catholic Church--at that time I knew nothing about Catholics--but the woman said she was coming here now because the priest did not visit her when she was sick--How absurd! Like you said, many people think a church is something you join and they will receive services. But we are here to act like Jesus--we come to serve, not be served.

Now that I'm Catholic, when I went to New York to visit my daughter, I felt so out of place, but when I went into a Catholic Church--I was home, and felt home--ahhh, what a nice place to be.

Anonymous said...

I've often had experiences of visiting differnt parishes, whether locally or, more recently, in Akron.

* waving * Hi, Father V.!

But it's true...it was already Home. I LOVE that about being Catholic!

Anonymous said...

I disagree!

The greeting session before mass was a big reason why I chose St. Sebastian Parish a few years ago. It gives one a sense of feeling welcomed, and not snubbed by parishoners. It makes for a more friendly & welcoming parish --which is always attractive. It brings us together as a community.

Fr. V said...


Thanks for that - I hope peope feel free to disagree with me. Everybody is different and is looking for different things. Like I said, if it is done, just be very careful how you do it.

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

I swear at one parish I go to for Mass, this very thing happens. "Before we begin this CELEBRATION, let us stand and greet one another"

I absolutely DESPISE that! I'm not at Mass to look at the people around me, but to adore God. Having the meet and greet eliminates the Sacrifiicial element of the Mass which the Mass is first and foremost.

2nd and more important, we're Catholic, the Mass is the same (ignoring those who ab lib the texts) everywhere you should feel at home in any Catholic Church (though some of the modernist one's now, I understand the reservation on some people's par) Having someone talk with the new comers AFTER Mass is appopriate as is the custom at my parish.

Thank you Fr. for this rant :)

Enbrethiliel said...


In my parish, it happens during the homily. Father begins his sermon by asking everyone to turn to the one next to him and say something. It's usually "Good morning," but one time it was, "Someday you, too, will die." (Okay, now that one was pretty funny . . .)

Anonymous said...

Father V.
When we go back to our family home for a celebration isn't it nice to hear, "welcome home" or "we're glad that you could be here with us" or "how nice to see you"? They can be whatever words that you think appropriate but they are nice to hear. Would you go to a birthday celebration for a family member and walk in and immediately start the "Birthday Song" and have the cake without greeting your brothers and sisters? Isn't that what we are, brothers and sisters, family, celebrating the Mass together? So why would you want to sit with your head down, as some commented, (there is a time for that) why not join with your Church family and celebrate as one?
We all have so much to learn and understand about the Mass, some old things are new again, as you said, (nice to hear the bells again and Tuesdays are so much more meaningful) but we might need someone to tell us the whats and the whys and then we might understand the reasons behind what we do or should be doing.
So glad that you are here Fr. V. and "Welcome to the St. Sebastian family"!
God Bless You.........

Anonymous said...

I must disagree as well, not to bore anyone here, I have posted my feelings about this topic on my Blog, please feel free to check it out and responded.

Anonymous said...

I came from a Parish in Columbus, OH where everything was 'touchy feely', the sign of peace lasted 2-3 minutes, and it was more social than prayerful. Like Fr. said, there is a fine line... we need to keep the reverence at the Mass. If we feel like socializing, there's always time for that afterwards.
Just my thoughts...

Anonymous said...

Yes, the "sign of peace", what exactly is it meant to be? Certainly not a break in the solumn and beautiful Mass to say hello and wave to folks all around the Church. Shouldn't that be a time to pass along, in a manner fitting into Liturgy of the Mass, the peace and love of Christ that we feel within ourselves (as K.A.W. so nicely writes)?
It seems that we have to find that "fine line" and work on it and with the help of prayer and understanding, we will!

Anonymous said...

Late to the comments, but wanted to add that we were on vacation near Louisville, KY recently and the lector asked all visitors to stand before Mass...also they requested us to remain standing until the cards could be given to us to write our comments on...that was a new one. Anyway, I was good, I didn't write any comment about how the Eucharistic prayer was "changed up" by the priest .... or that the fact that we were singled out in the first place ...

Anonymous said...

Well so much of this is a matter of taste, and then folks go about contriving rationales for what they LIKE . . . it's all a fashion show. Number 50 of the current GIRM permits the priest or deacon to introduce the mass of the day to the assembly, certainly this can be done in a welcoming way that is neither trite nor undermines the greeting dialogue as in "The Lord be with you . . . GOOD MORNING." We'd be better off if we let the Rite speak for itself.