Blog/CYM Blog

Late but Welcome

No one likes to be late to church.

In my 23 years of experience showing up late to church is just plain awkward. There are several reasons for this. You make a loud noise. No matter how hard you try, there seems to be a loud sound that accompanies you when you finally sit down. You can’t find a seat. We have all had this happen; we walk into Mass and we can’t find the person we’re meeting or a seat to sit in, so we stand at the back of the church trying to look natural, while inside we are frantically looking for a seat. Or, perhaps the worst of them all, the Priest or Deacon stares you down or loses his train of thought when you walk in. You stand there like a 5-year-old who has been caught with their hand in the cookie jar. 

Awkward as Usual

Recently, my fiancé and I were on our way to the last Mass offered in our area on Sunday. As we hurried to the chapel, we read through the readings and the Gospel, and when we finally got there we tried to be smooth… We came in… and then… yep you guessed it… A loud noise, at least what felt like loud to us.

Then what happens? I locked eye with the priest. In my mind I was saying “I am so sorry! Just imagine that I did not come in late!” We scanned the chapel for a seat. There were none except for the three on the front pew right in front of the ambo. So we had to make the decision of walking to the front of the Chapel and sitting front row or discreetly sitting under a window in the back. We chose the window. We did not want to disrupt anyone during Mass. 
 
We slowly walk over to the window seat as the priest talks and to our surprise it IS NOT A SEAT BUT AN AIR VENT BLOWING COOL AIR. Yep, we were now sitting on a vent participating in Mass. We just smiled and laughed at how ridiculous we both looked. We settled into our cold seats for the readings and homily and as the Liturgy of the Eucharist began we found ourselves kneeling on a hard stone floor. 
 
At this point we have the awkwardness of coming in late, sitting on a vent, trying to sneak into the communion line without anyone noticing, and the feeling of grinding our knee caps on stone. Let me tell you this is one experience I will never forget. 
 

A Meal with Jesus

As the Liturgy of the Eucharist continued I was reminded of the story told in the Gospels about Jesus feeding the 5,000. This great miracle that Jesus did on that grassy mountain was a shadow of the full Eucharistic celebration that we have today. In my mind I was transported back to that place. I imagined myself listening to the words Christ would have spoken as He lifted the baskets of bread and fish to be blessed by His Heavenly Father. I thought about the excitement that would have ensued when people saw this miracle. 
 
What a great thing to witness. Too share a meal with Jesus Christ. Too share a meal with the Savior of the world. This is what we do each time we come to Mass. We share a meal with our Savior. He invites each of us to His banquet table. 

Late to the Table

As I sat there I chuckled to myself because my fiancé and I were the typical late family members. We had come to the mountain late. We had to find our place, get settled in and take a look around so we could join in with our community of believers. 

We wanted to be at the banquet that Jesus has called us to participate in. It didn’t matter that when we walked in there would be awkwardness or if we would be uncomfortable; if people around us would feel uncomfortable or look at us as less than being prompt, good Catholics. We desired to be close to Jesus. We desired to hear from our God in the Mass. We were willing to be late and be uncomfortable. 
 

No Sufficient Excuse

As a youth minister, I often hear teens (or parents) say “Well by the time I would have gotten there the first reading would have been done. I’m not going to go at all.” This shocks me because this same person turns on a TV show mid-season and can follow along, but they miss one reading at Mass and throw in the towel. 

We as Catholics have so many tools to help us. There are apps, books, websites that give us the readings for the day. They tell us about the Saint for that day. They help us understand our Faith more.  
 
I always try to remind teens of these things and also tell them — if you are trying to make it to Mass and are going to be late, then be late! Better late than never. Read the readings beforehand. Pray a simple prayer to help you focus. But, I beg of you; do not miss the banquet.

Heaven and Earth are meeting each time the Mass is said. Our God, our Savior, our King is coming to meet His people. The community of Faith is coming together to declare the Name that is above all other names. They are coming together to say NO to a world that teaches lies and learning about the Truth that will save the world. 
 
In no way am I advocating that people should make a habit out of being late to Mass. But, if they show up to Mass late because of a crazy morning, or because they overslept through the alarm, we, as leaders in our church communities, can not make them feel ashamed! Christ’s arms are open and welcoming, just like they are open to the person who is at church 30 minutes before Mass praying the Rosary. He delights in us all. How much more do we need to delight in every member of our communities?
 
When I was kneeling on the hard stone, I had the thought of Jesus saying to me… “Better late than never Joey. I am so glad you are here. Let me introduce you to some people. I think you will like this community.”

Remember that we are a family, a family of believers. We show grace, patience, kindness, and support to each other. That means we show those same things to the people that come to Mass late. We show them that they are welcomed. They are loved. We should rejoice when someone walks into Mass. We should move over so they have somewhere to sit.

Image via Flickr, CC 2.0, Logo added

About the Author

Joe Frangos

Joe Frangos is the current Youth Minister at St Paul Catholic Church in North Canton, OH. He is the typical 23 year old who is trying to figure out what adult life is all about. He loves anything Italian and family. He loves working with the teens in his Parish and he couldn’t have asked for a better calling from God! When he is not planning a wedding, hanging out with teens or his family, he can be found either at the local Starbucks or watching Netflix!