It’s almost Easter, that rare time of the year when you, the church "regular," might be bumped from your normal pew spot. You may even have to stand.
The culprits are those unfamiliar faces that were most recently seen at Christmas. These people are visibly uncomfortable with their surroundings: They don’t recite prayer responses by rote; they giggle nervously with each other; they show up late and/or leave early.
How do we, the congregation, treat them? On the one hand, Sunday obligation is worded as such for a reason. It’s tempting to embrace the assumption that infrequent church attendees are not "good Catholics."
But if we want to consider our own selves good Catholics, perhaps it’s best to set aside such thinking this Sunday and leave that part up to God. The reasons are varied and often complex as to what keeps people away from church most of the year.
My thinking is that if they show up at all, that’s a huge start — and more good things can happen, depending on our attitudes.
What messages will you convey with your words and body language on Easter Sunday? During the sign of peace, before and after Mass? Could these moments serve as opportunities to evangelize, rather than chastise or criticize? You never know — one friendly conversation, one positive gesture might help fuel somebody’s return to church a lot sooner than next Christmas.