Saturday, December 24, 2016

On preaching to "Christmas Catholics."

This year, I'll be preaching on Christmas Day for the first time. As I prepare to do so, I'm mindful of the fact that there are many people who come to Mass at Christmas but seldom go to church otherwise. Thinking about how best to speak to those "Christmas Catholics," I find myself recalling some words from Father Michael Paul Gallagher, an Irish Jesuit who died last year. In this video produced in 2012, Father Gallagher speaks about the challenge of preaching to infrequent churchgoers at Christmas. He also reflects thoughtfully on what draws "Christmas Catholics" to church, even if only one day a year:
At Christmas, in church you can sometimes have more than half your congregation who are not there on a regular basis – and that’s just a pastoral fact. Why do they come? They come because of a memory – perhaps a memory of childhood; they come because, even though they might classify themselves as 'de-churched' or 'unchurched' or somewhat very unsure about faith, because they glimpse something big here that isn't just a family celebration. It's a moment that can touch them...
Whether you go to church often, occasionally, or not at all, I hope that you can experience some of the joy of Christmas. I also hope that, just a few hours from now, I will have something worthwhile to say to those who seldom find themselves in a pew, and that I might confirm for them that there is "something big here" that calls them back. AMDG.


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