C & E Catholics

I spent my formative years after my return to the Catholic Church (after ten years away) in a parish staffed by the Paulist Fathers. I must say that some of their charism -- evangelization in particular -- rubbed off on me. This is never more clear to me than on Christmas and Easter, when all of the C&E Catholics (as a priest friend of mine lovingly called them) come out of the woodwork. You know, the people who were raised Catholic and consider themselves Catholic, but generally get to church twice a year on the big holidays.

Several years ago, I remember ministering as an usher at Midnight Mass with a friend. We were overwhelmed by wave after wave of smiling unfamiliar faces, all dressed up and ready for their one Church experience of the year. One of us commented at the end that it was like holding an Open House, except that all of the people coming are complete strangers. What the Paulists helped me to realize is that this is a good thing. By inviting people into our house on our big night, they get a chance to see us at our best. They get a chance to experience God and celebrate with other people. They get a chance to tap into those deep desires ... the desire for community, the desire for relationship, the desire for God.

Tonight I went to 9pm mass (no midnight mass at my local parish). There were many C & E Catholics there. The tip off is they are all dressed up and fumbling with the missal. They also try to sing the songs and say the responses, but don't quite know the words or what comes next. Perhaps most importantly though, is their earnestness. They WANT to be there. Often times they have brought along a significant other who doesn't seem to want to be there quite as much. And yet they are there. Who knows, perhaps they will come back?

For the Church, they are an opportunity and a challenge. An opportunity to reach out and invite inactive Catholics home. But they also represent a challenge ... what are we inviting people back to? Inspiring and meaningful liturgies? Homilies and community that call us to be people of light, life and love? Or something else entirely?

In any case, as I was sitting at Christmas eve services this evening I found myself praying for all those in my parish and in every parish across the globe who were drawn today by something, by the celebration of the birth of Jesus. May their hearts be touched, may they find their deepest desires somehow reflected in the community gathered, and may they find peace, hope and love.

Merry Christmas!


Unknown said...


Where was this Paulist parish you were talking about? It wasn't Portland was it? A shot in the dark but just seeing if you know a Paulist in the NW, Fr. Jim Kolb?

Susan Rose Francois, CSJP said...

yes it was in portland, st philip neri on the east side. Fr jim is at st elizabeth of hungary on the west side