The Armchair Liturgist Greets at Mass

Greeting at Mass: let’s talk about this. My associate pastor likes to make a thing of it before the ritual greeting after the Entrance Song.

This morning at Mass, the choir director invited visiting alumni to stand and be noticed. I think people get a little shy about that. Maybe with good reason. I whispered to the priest before the song began, “I think she stole your usual thunder on greeting people.”

What constitutes a good greeting? Is it enough to have a smiling face at the door, handing you a hymnal? Do parishioners need to be reminded of visitors in our midst and be nice to them? Who should do it: the priest, music director, lector, or other person? When should it be done: before Mass, just after Mass starts, or at the “regular” announcement time? Should it be omitted?

I wonder occasionally: for whom do we greet? To give ourselves a good feeling of congratulation that we are giving lip service to hospitality? Or a genuine warmth to people who don’t come regularly?

Bottom line: what do seekers and visitors in our culture really want when they come to Mass?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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11 Responses to The Armchair Liturgist Greets at Mass

  1. Liam says:

    One thing I and many (but of course not all) folks are allergic to is having newcomers stand to be identified. Extroverted oppression of the non-extroverted (which is not merely introverts); it’s not intended to oppress, but definitely is experienced that way by a portion of folks, to which the stunned reaction of some extroverts is to deny and deflect. Seen it too many times.

    Excellent questions: “I wonder occasionally: for whom do we greet? To give ourselves a good feeling of congratulation that we are giving lip service to hospitality? Or a genuine warmth to people who don’t come regularly?”

    To which I would add a caution: carefully consider and scrutinze all assumptions that undergirds thoughts of the following type – “If we [do/don’t do] X, then Y will [happen/not happen.” And especially look for hidden ego-reinforcing assumptions.

  2. Jen says:

    As another introvert, if I were forced or singled out as a newcomer to a parish, I likely wouldn’t stay for the rest of the Mass. I’m there for the Eucharist, not social hour.

    • Liam says:

      And it wouldn’t be noticed if you didn’t return. So folks who think the device of IDing newcomers is good don’t have to account for negative outcomes.

    • Liam says:

      PS: One advantage to getting to Mass very early is that you have the greatest chance of avoiding the gauntlet of greeting.

      • Jen says:

        True. But the hardcore greeter types would find you in the pew, I”ve found, even if you’re kneeling. :(

        It would be nice if parishes have a “Prayer in the sanctuary, fellowship outside” custom. That way those of us who want to be left alone can be (since Mass is one of the ways I need to recharge from being around extroverts the rest of the week), and those who want to socialize can. Win/win.

  3. leefstrong says:

    Maybe not an announcement and having to stand – as a shy fellow I would feel uncomfortable. But a greeting as you enter from a parish minister, just a hi, can make a difference and help you to feel welcome. I’ve been to Masses at new parishes where I enter, participate, and leave, and except for a partial nod or limp handshake at the sign of peace and a “Body of Christ” at Communion never get spoken to the entire time. On the other hand, I remember once as a reporter I had to cover services at a Protestant church, and I was greeted by several people each time. I felt welcome. I know at Mass I make a point of smiling at and acknowledging people around me. You never know; one little gesture might be meaningful.

  4. Known as 332 says:

    As one of a traditional bent (Todd was so kind years ago to point me to St. John Cantius when I moved from KC to Chicago), I try to get to church 10-15 minutes early to get my mind ready for the Mass and/or go to confession. The “greeting ministry” sensibility I see at other parishes (out of town, etc.) seems to often extend into the church proper, making it tough to pray when others are chatting. Even when it doesn’t, the extroverted greeting tends to make it hard to re-orient myself toward preparing for mass.
    So I would agree, both as an introvert and as one with a traditionalist leaning.

  5. Jim McCrea says:

    Introverts will most likely remain seated. Extroverts and people happy to know that someone cares enough to welcome them will stand.

    Do Catholics have to make a huge problem out of EVERYTHING? Lordy, lordy.

    • Liam says:

      “Introverts will most likely remain seated.”

      A nice self-validating assumption. But I’ve certainly witnessed seated newcomers urged to stand, against their obvious inclination. Many times. And not coming back.

      Notice the implications that it’s the introverts who are making a huge problem out of EVERYTHING. Classic denial/deflection..

  6. crystal says:

    We didn’t do this introducing of visitors at my church, thankfully (me another introvert) but I can still remember how uncomfortable it was to be scrutinized as an RCIA student/new Catholic … especially the getting baptized up in front of everyone at my small church and then getting up in front of what seemed like thousands at the big cathedral for the bishop … eeeek! :)

  7. FrMichael says:

    I think priests who routinely make such forced public introductions at Mass ought to be fed castor oil until they stop. Either that or get tasered!

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