Parishes report that Easter Sunday and Christmas Mass are the highest attended services of the year and our congregations are made up of people at many different places in their spiritual journeys. As ministers we have a whole litany of terms for people who do not attend Mass regularly: “Chreasters” and “Eastmasses” for those who attend Mass at Christmas and Easter and “PACErs” for those who attend services on Palm Sunday, Ash Wednesday, Christmas, and Easter. These labels—along with other labels such as “fallen away,” cafeteria Catholics, conservative, and progressive—reflect that Catholics form a pretty complex demographic that is not homogenized in any sense of the word.
In this day and age, cultivating an attitude of warmth, generosity, and welcoming is critical in order to reach those on the margins. When we communicate in ministry, we must always have conversations that are pastoral. Pastoral conversations are not about making a point or proving that we are right. Rather, the goal of such conversations is to engage people as Jesus would have us do, without labels and without agendas. As a Church we must often sacrifice what we want to say in order to listen for what is being truly communicated by the person who is before us. Is there a place for fraternal correction? Of course, but fraternal correction is most effective in the context of relationships where there is trust and openness and ongoing cooperation with the Holy Spirit. Our conversations as ministers must get to the heart of the matter because that is where conversion occurs: in the heart. Labels don’t matter; people do. In fact, labels can become an obstacle to evangelization. Instead of trying to figure out which camp people fall into, let’s follow Christ’s example and understand their needs and meet them where they are.
When you are tempted to polarize the Kingdom of God by using divisive labels, pray the following prayer for an open heart. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom and the ability to encounter all with humility and love.
Blessed Are Those Who Conserve and Those Who Liberate
Blessed are those who conserve the truth of the Church’s teachings, for their efforts will bring clarity to those who are confused or in doubt.
Blessed are those who conserve the beauty of the Church’s artistic patrimony, for their work will blossom in the hearts of those aching for a glimpse of God.
Blessed are those who conserve the Word, for their lips will guide those longing to hear God’s voice.
Blessed are those who liberate the teachings of the Church, for they will bring the Good News alive to new generations.
Blessed are those who liberate ancient practices and insights, for they shall see new life and appreciation bloom.
Blessed are those who conserve and those who liberate.
Blessed be God. Blessed be His Holy Name.