I’ve come to the humbling realization that I need to be less possessive about “my” choir loft. As most people, I prefer having my workspace a certain way, but when your workspace is the back end of a church, that’s not really an option. So I’m starting to let curious kids come up, verbally invite people to sing with us, encourage the children’s choir any way I can, and not grump when last week’s papers are left on a seat.
It took 16 years to get to that realization, and at Sunday 8am (and pre-coffee) Masses, I still frequently end up a less than welcoming grump, but I’m working on it. It’s not “my choir loft”. It’s Jesus’ house, and I just get to play music there.
I cannot be like a pirate burying my treasure and scaring people away. Because the treasure and gifts I have are not mine to hide.
As a kid, I remember being moderately terrified of all the various “ministers” at Church. The altar society was scary, the sacristan was scary, the parish librarian was scary, and mind you, I was a pretty fearless kid who regularly talked to strangers and probably terrified my poor parents. I had almost forgotten my childhood apprehension of members of parish ministry, until a few weeks back, I attended a wedding rehearsal. Whooo-ey, the parish Wedding Coordinator was a terror. It wasn’t an off day either; the photographer told me that her colleagues had warned her about the Coordinator in advance. Suffice it to say, I don’t think this particular woman should be in any sort of position where she has to deal with people. Not her charism.
Especially when it comes to events like weddings, funerals, and catechesis, it is so important that the people involved in those apostolates are compassionate and welcoming. For a majority of people, a wedding or funeral might be the only time they set foot in a Catholic Church. If they are greeted with hostility and annoyance, how likely do you think they’ll be to come back?
Coordinators, teachers, musicians, we are the face of Christ to so many people. For better or worse, we represent the Church in our own little way. Yes, it’s our responsibility to protect the Church/Liturgy/teaching from hurt or error, but very seldom is the occasion when we will have to do that in an aggressive way.
The Director of Religious Education at our parish is an absolute master at this. She has a deep love for Christ and His Church, won’t settle for any foolishness but has the ability to make any person feel at home in Church. I’ll never forget, one day a young man in his twenties walked into Mass with his hat on and a coffee in his hand. I elbowed her in a fairly judging way to point the fellow out. Instead of tattling on him to an usher, she went down herself, gently explained the protocol, and invited the young man to come to sit by the railing upstairs so he could see better. She provided him with a Missal so he could follow along, and we all continued with Mass.
Of course non-Catholics, young Catholics, and new Catholics aren’t going to know exactly how to behave in church. We have a lot of customs that aren’t exactly intuitive. We don’t get to fault anyone for not knowing.
Every single Catholic, whether they are in any sort of ministry or apostolate or not, has been given innumerable gifts, but they aren’t for us to keep to ourselves. Me, I’ve been given the gift of music, and I have a duty to share that with the People of God. I’ve been given the gift of a lovely space to play that music and a wonderful parish to work for, and I need to be open to collaborating with other people in that space. I’ve also been given the gift of knowledge, which I have a duty to pass to my children. I have the gift of a home, that I need to welcome others into. Nothing that God has blessed me with is for me alone.
We make music so the liturgy is beautiful for others to attend. We clean the Church so others have a lovely place to worship. We serve the Mass so Father can focus on his job and be more present to the congregation. We usher so the congregation is able to attend Mass smoothly. We read so others can hear the words of scripture.
We do not own our gifts, our ministries, our apostolates, or possessions. We are only stewards of them. Let’s not get possessive about our little gifts, and act as if others are just going to mess them up all the time. If you’re in parish ministry or run an apostolate, yes, absolutely make sure you are doing your job well, but never forget, that you are doing that job not for yourself, but for others.
So musicians, next time that family asks you to play “Eagle’s Wings” again for a funeral, smile and say “of course”. Cleaning ladies, next time you have to vacuum up cheerios off the church floor, thank God that a family is bringing their kids to Mass. Whenever your apostolate ministry causes you aggravation, offer it up, don’t lash out. Because to many people, you are the representation of the Church. You and I know what a wonderful gift we have been given in the Church and Her multitude of varied treasures, so don’t miss any opportunity to share that with a world that so desperately needs it.
May we all be good stewards and help people to find that great treasure, that pearl of great price, instead of keeping it hidden for ourselves.