Monday, December 19, 2011

We Miss You, Really

Downtown Beverly

One of the benefits of having been in the same parish for a while is that I not only know the faithful parishioners fairly well, but I have also come to know the not so faithful parishioners.  Perhaps, I bump into them at the occasional party or as I'm walking down the street.  Maybe it is a police officer who always stops to talk to me or the owner of a local restaurant who consistently shows great kindness to me.  Sometimes they express remorse or guilt for not coming to church.  Other times, they might make a joke about lightening striking them.  Other times, they don't mention it.  Sometimes, I mention it.  "We miss you.  Don't wait too long to come back."

As time passes, I've realized something about these people and me: I really and truly miss them.  The other day, I met a high school student who comes only occasionally to Mass.  I really didn't know him at all.  We chatted for a little while as we were working on some project together.  Afterwards it struck me that having spent an hour or two with that kid, I miss him.  I miss that he is not with us more.  Our parish would be so much better with him.  The cop whom I always invite to church: It isn't because I'm trying to coerce him into fulfilling his responsibility.  I invite him because I know it would be good for him, good for our parish, and good for lots of other people.  I invite him because I miss him. 

I've learned that a lot of parish priesthood is meeting people on their turf--literally and figuratively.  When they see that the priest is interested--truly interested--in them, then the proposal to return to the Church is more easily accepted.  And, in the instances where it has not yet been accepted, I think these persons see in their friendship with me that the door still stands open to them.  Our encounters serve as a reminder to them that the Church loves them and wants them. 

As Christmas approaches, I'm thinking and praying for these persons whom I truly miss.  Some of them I've met many times and am happy to be called their friend.  Others, I haven't met yet.  But, I miss them nonetheless.  I hope this Christmas they discover what they've been missing.  And, I hope that I find what I've been missing: them.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Father Barnes,
    During this Holy season of Jesus birth we can only feel wonderful in our faith.Your blog is inspirational to read,its a wonderful tool for a enlightened member of the clergy,as you are..
    We miss you and St Marys at Christmas.
    Your faithfull parishioners down in sunny Florida,
    Ron & Loretta Smagala