My friend, musician and composer John Angotti, recently led a retreat for a grade school near me. He asked the children if anyone wanted to sing. Liliah, a little second-grader, raised her hand and stepped forward. But then she got crippling stage fright and began to tear up. John picked her up, told her everything would be okay, and that she should just focus on him. He got her to sing “This Little Light of Mine,” quietly at first, and then belting it out on her own microphone like it was a show tune.
Who wants to go to Mass?
I don’t know why, but his story made me think of some of the people we see in our pews on Sunday. It is as if the Holy Spirit wakes up on Sunday and asks, “Who wants to go to Mass today?” All the Liliah’s raise their hands, crawl out of bed, brush their teeth, and show up at church.
But once they get there, it’s not what they imagined. It’s hard to show up for faith in front of others. They get stage fright. They don’t want to stand out. They don’t want to embarrass themselves. And yet, they are hoping something big will happen. They are hoping for a moment in God’s limelight. They are hoping to be lifted up into God’s arms and promised that everything will be alright.
Will next Sunday be their last Sunday?
And, if we’re honest, that seldom happens. If feels like nothing compelling happens. A mediocre experience is the best we can offer them. And for many, many people, their experience is worse than mediocre. For them, last Sunday was their last Sunday.
But what would happen if, this Sunday, someone spoke to the Liliahs who come to your parish? What if someone comforted that small, shaky faith that is in the hearts of most of the people who sit in the back two-thirds of the pews? What if someone could say to them, “I promise everything will be okay”?
If you are immediately thinking whoever is in charge of liturgy in your parish would never do that, I have good news. You don’t have to wait for someone else to change the Sunday experience in your parish. You can change it. This Sunday. All by yourself.
Lift people up
This Sunday, make it your mission to find the Liliah in one person you don’t know. Smile. Introduce yourself. Shake a hand. Ask a question. Try one of these:
- Do you usually come to this Mass?
- Are you a parishioner here? Would you like to be?
- Have you met our pastor?
- Have you met [someone you know who is sitting nearby]?
- Can I help you find the opening song in our hymnal?
- Can I sit with you during Mass?
- Is there something I can pray about for you this morning?
- Would you like to have coffee after Mass?
- Can I tell you what I love most about this parish?
- Do you know about our monthly book club?
As soon as you reach out to just one Liliah, you will change what happens in your parish on Sunday. You will make a difference. You will make something big happen.
Tell us how it goes
Try it this Sunday. If you are willing to try, write a quick note in the comments section below. And then please come back to this post and tell us what happened.
See also these related articles:
- This little light of mine — how to let it shine
- RCIA unwrapped
- The power of ten — how to generate great ideas for RCIA
- How to feed 5,000 on a Tuesday in Advent
- Why RCIA ministry is overwhelming — and what to do about it
Photo by Jamie Street | Unsplash