I went to Mass 3.25 times this weekend! I am so Catholic!!
Well, the first two were on Christmas Eve, of course, at our own parish. At the 4, which was packed to the gills, I served along with Scott as a Eucharistic Minister. It was so great to walk down that center aisle between walls of happy people. One little girl, in her mother's arms, waved at the whole procession, parade-style.
At the 6, the families of the kids in the choir bunched up in the pews on the choir side of the church, so as to get a good view of everyone in their Christmas finery and curls. I sat with one of my favorite families, entertained by their littlest one throughout the Mass, and snapped pictures of the twins who were baptized at that Mass. It was a real family affair- the family of the twins are well known to all of us, with a 7 year old in the choir too. I found tears in my eyes several times during both Masses, feeling overwhelmed with gratitude for being part of this great parish, surrounded by so many people who I know and love.
(A quick plug here for total community catechesis: in former parishes, I got to know just about everyone in middle school and high school, and sometimes met their parents, but usually didn't... but here, where whole families and every generation is involved, I know kids and their parents and their grandparents and their aunts and their little brothers and sisters. It's an amazing blessing to me.)
Christmas morning I leaped out of bed (ha) to go to a 9 in Maine with my family. The contrast was amazing. There was nary a baby or toddler, which is understandable for Christmas morning, but it added to a general feeling of... seriousness, I guess. The music was solid, the lectors were good, the Altar Servers did a fine job, the homily was solid and all- there was really nothing to fault it- but, it was pretty subdued overall. It made me thankful for my parish. Oh and the most striking detail: out in the narthex was a hand-written sign that said "DO NOT LOOK FOR BULLETINS- THEY ARE FOR SUNDAY AND HAVE BEEN PUT AWAY." This is the kind of thing that totally blows my mind when I see it in churches. It's an old habit, I think, to resent visitors and CAPE Catholics (you know, Christmas/Ash Wednesday/Palm Sunday/Easter only). Even our wonderful pastor used to hold the bulletins aside for Christmas, until we convinced him this year that a great bulletin is an opportunity to evangelize to those visitors and CAPErs.
The next morning, we tried to make it to a parish in New Hampshire on our way home, but made it just as people were leaving. Well, the fact is, most people weren't leaving- they were lined up in the center aisle to receive a blessing of their family from the priests. One bunch at a time they stepped up, formed a little huddle, and were blessed. Many of them gave the priests a hug, and all of them walked away smiling. Scott kept saying "look, everyone is SMILING!!" He stopped a family and asked them about it, they said it was for the feast of the Holy Family, but that they do "stuff like this all the time here." The last position on their parish staff list is "Evangelist." I've gotta give that guy a call.
We left that little church thinking how much we want to go back there someday. I hope people feel that way coming to ours.