OCTOBER 11TH – 28th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
“WHEN WILL CHURCH BE LIKE IT WAS BEFORE ALL THIS?”
by Fr. Walt Wainwright
Recently, during one of my frequent visits to Robert Packer Hospital, I was sitting in one of their many very large waiting rooms. (Any of you who have been there know what I mean about these waiting rooms). Well, it just happened that I met a couple there, from our parish and, of course, we engaged in conversation. Even though we had to converse through our masks, not always an easy task.
Well, the question was posed to me, “when is everything going to get back to normal at church? Naturally I had the perfect answer; I said, “Next Tuesday”. After a pause, there was a little laughter and we tried to get more serious about the topic. I said I have no idea and furthermore, since I am officially retired I have not authority to change things whether I wanted to or not, but oh! How I would like to.
Not too much time remained before they were called for their appointment and I sat there waiting for my turn. I continued thinking about all the things that have been changed in recent months, how our worship, while still the same seems to be in a much different setting and frankly unpleasant in many ways.
I do not like so much of what we have had to endure, though I know why it is necessary, I just wish we could loosen up on some of the regimentation. Some things I miss so much. One has to do with a practice that I have loved and looked forward to every Sunday for the past fifty-five years. It goes back to one of the first things my first pastor said when I arrived at my first assignment. My first pastor was Monsignor Richard Burns and he told me that no matter what the weather and no matter how busy we might think we were, that every Sunday before Mass we were to be at one of the entrances to church to welcome in the faithful as they arrived for Mass.
I began doing this my first weekend as an active parish priest and fell in love with it and have cherished it ever since. Maybe you’ve noticed it that I have always been in the vestibule for at least twenty minutes before Mass each Sunday ready to greet our parishioners as they entered church. That is something I miss more than just about anything else since the more restrictive measures have been put in place.
Oh! That’s something I look forward to as soon as things loosen up, at least a little. I always found it so rewarding because while it might be just a quick ‘good morning’ to someone, it was also one of the ways of coming to learn your parishioners and letting them get to know you.
I recall one Sunday, probably around 1968, I was standing outside greeting families as they entered church. One family came up with their little boy who was probably about three or four years old. The little boy greeted me very warmly with the words, “hi, Father, we saw you this morning on cartoons.” Earlier that day he saw a channel that carried a Sunday Mass being televised. It happened to be the Mass that I celebrated the previous Wednesday, to be aired that Sunday. For me it was a wonderful memory.
I’m sure there are some things that are very special to each one of us. I guess we need to be patient and hopeful. One day things will change…for the better.
Enjoy the beauty of this autumn season.