Monday, April 5, 2010

Why I Am Beginning to Like Christeasters

Christeaster, definition:  A Catholic who goes to Mass twice a year- on Christmas and Easter.

Poor Christeasters have been the butt of many a Catholic joke.  For devout Catholics, it's almost comical to see the church explode only two days of the year.  Where do these people come from??? Imagine if they went to every Sunday Mass- we'd need a church at least five times as big!

Maybe you don't experience Christeasters the way I've experienced Christeasters. Not every church has them in such great numbers that they literally have to turn away parishioners from entering the church on Christmas and Easter because they have reached the maximum capacity and it would be a fire hazard to squeeze in any more (seriously, this happened at my last parish).  Or maybe you've never had to watch the Mass on a television in the Church basement, or have had to stare at a wall (not glass) in the Church Entryway with fifty other people while standing throughout the entire Mass.  These experiences can be frustrating, no doubt, to the Catholic who really looks forward to celebrating these Feast days in the same sacred way they experience every Mass.  I've even heard one slightly bitter Catholic say everyone who goes to weekly Mass should be given a ticket and given higher seating priority than the Christeasters! I have to admit, after sitting through a few Christmas and Easter Masses in gyms, basements,  and in the back of crowded churches with Christeasters on their cell phones, being disrespectful about the Eucharist, playing video games and talking ALL throughout Mass, I have gotten quite frustrated with a few of them myself.

So why I am beginning to like Christeasters? I don't like that they only go to Mass twice a year, but I like them because they show a Church full of hope and possibilities.  They show me what our Catholic Churches could be like if ALL Catholics went to every Sunday Mass. Wouldn't it be a tremendously great thing if we had to build huge churches just to fit everyone in every Sunday?

On Easter Sunday, my family and I went to 10:30 Mass at the Expo Center. The place was packed full.  We got there a little late (the promise of good parking was not kept) and had to sit in the last row where we sat in probably the last three seats available.  Liam took out his spotting scope from his church bag to see the priest which was funny the priest really was that far away! The priest said he estimated about 3,500 people there! Amazing.  He also said that when he looks at all of us, he sees the Resurrection.  I saw it too, although I don't know if we had the same thing in mind.  I saw the possibility of what new life looks like. One study I've read showed that roughly 10% of all Americans are former Catholics.  That's about 30,000,000 people who are former Catholics in the United States alone and that's not even counting those who go to Mass infrequently.

I think it's exciting to think about Catholics returning home- even if it's only two days out of the year.  Who knows what they may experience during one of those Masses that may inspire them to come again.  It's our job to make sure their experience is as welcoming and loving as God's warm embrace.  We mustn't be like the other son in the story of the prodigal son who is annoyed with his brother who came back.  We must be thrilled with the possibility that these 'brothers' may be here to stay.
 Beware-- this kind of thinking just may lead to your Catholic Church becoming the next mega Church!


Allison said...

Oh, I looked down from the choir loft and felt so uncharitable about the moms I never see chatting up a storm with their little ones the ENTIRE mass. I need to adopt your attitude.

By the way, if 10 percent of folks in the US are former Catholics, that is
30 MILLION souls!

We need to find a way to welcome them back.

Sarah Harkins said...

You're right- 30,000,000! I thought that number looked really small. Wow, we're really going to need some big churches when they come home!

Julie Cragon said...

Wait 'til my husband hears the term Christeasters! I love this. Very well said. I passed a sign today at the huge Methodist Church on my way to work that read, "God's Welcome is Wide".

Anonymous said...

Sarah: The stadium lighting is in the shape of a huge stained glass Rose Window -- with all the people as pieces of the colorful glass!! What a magnificant and symbolic photograph. Happy Easter Season. Pax Christi.

Mandy said...

great post! I was amazed and almost appalled at the amount of people at our 9am easter service here. We had to sit in the foyer--and we were 10 minutes early for Mass-that's really early for us!!! Greg asked me what we call Catholics who only come on Easter and Christmas, and now I know--though I have never heard the term before. It was a good service regardless but I was shocked at the turnout.

RAnn said...

Our church was packed Easter morning, but I don't know how many of those were twice a year folks, and how many were just displaced. Our usual schedule is for an English mass and a Spanish mass Sat. nite. I don't know how many usually go to the Spanish mass, but English is usually full, of old people. Sunday we usually have three masses in the morning and 1 at night. Sunday nite is not packed, but not empty either. The morning masses are usually comfortably full. On Easter, we just had the vigil Sat nite (and folks either love it, or plan to be elsewhere--and Fr said it was a nice crowd but not packed) and the three morning masses. In other words, on the weekend we could expect higher than average attendance, we dropped two masses,and made one so long as to make many folks avoid it.

Anonymous said...

I've never heard the term "Christeaster" before. Around here we refer to them as "CEOs" (Christmas and Easter Only).

While there is a lot of grumblings about CEOs from the regular Sunday crowd, I personally would rather have someone there twice a year as opposed to not at all. At least they (or the person dragging them to Mass on Christmas or Easter) know at some level it is important. You never know when one of the seeds that are planted may start to sprout....

Perhaps during those specific Masses it would be worth having everyone take a minute or two and say a word or two of welcome to the newcomers and invite them to return.