Christmas provides our Church with one of its most bittersweet celebrations of the year – the resurrection of the dormant Catholic.
By Mark Reidy
Along with Easter, this time of year sees congregations swell to overflowing as families and individuals who do not make it to their parishes throughout the year, join regular attendees to celebrate the joyous moment that God became man.
It is a beautiful reunion of followers who are united by their understanding that the birth and death of Jesus are the bookends of our faith, but with this comes the sadness of knowing that those who stay away throughout the year are not realising the fullness of what they have come to celebrate.
There are numerous reasons why many who have been baptised into the Church only choose to attend on these pivotal occasions – I am personally familiar with most of them. From my late teens through to my early thirties I was very ‘loyal’ to my submarine Catholicism, surfacing bi-annually to satisfy or fulfil some deep and often unconscious desire to still belong.
My immediate justifications varied between keeping my parents happy, guilt, habit and ‘fire insurance’ (just in case there was a Hell), and they were all valid at the time, but in hindsight there was a seed of truth, planted by God and watered by my parents’ faithfulness, that lay buried beneath my blasé sense of devotion.
It is a seed that lies within us all and it is a sign of great hope that so many continue to expose themselves to at least these major celebrations, because it keeps the truth that has been entrusted to the Church, alive within them.
However, the motivation behind this article is really an invitation to our not-often-seen brothers and sisters to take the time to stop and search for the underlying inspiration of why you continue to keep your finger in the pie.
Why do you, especially in the busyness of Christmas Eve/Day, sacrifice your precious time to join others in celebrating the arrival of a child born 2000 years ago? It is not a question that you necessarily need to discuss with anyone else, although exploring the issue with someone you trust can be helpful, but it is an invitation to explore more deeply what motivates your actions.
In fact this is an exercise that even those of us who attend each week should regularly undertake. It is very easy, in our humanity, to slip into habitual attendance and lose sight of the sacred treasure that we have been given. Each of us, from those who attend daily to those who attend annually, would benefit from such self-analysis.
But for now, the only tip I have, as a lapsed dormant Catholic, is that as you find yourself drawn to the Church’s celebrations of Christmas and Easter, do not let your deep yearning for truth be hijacked by the rituals and practices that you may not understand at this time. Your sole (or soul) focus, should be on the person whose birthday you have come to celebrate. Allow yourself to be open to the love that entered the world that wondrous day and you may find that the seed of truth within you will begin to take root.
And for those who attend every week, let us go out of our way to make welcome those that we may only see at this time of year. Let them know that they are a vital part of the Body of Christ.
Let us see ourselves as the shepherd who steps out from the comfort of the flock and seeks out the lost sheep. We never know; the smile, handshake or conversation that we offer, may well be the bridge that draws them back home.