I went to Mass at a parish not-my-own today, and as always it was a good experience, spiritually and professionally. I feel like I always learn from visiting other parishes, from what they do better than we do, and from what they don't do as well as we do. This parish had beautiful music, and helpful guides for the Mass parts (although the congregation was about 50% successful on the whole "and with your Spirit" thing).
Mass has been an emotional experience for me lately, because there is so much going on in our Archdiocese, and things are very tense among those who are paying attention. Those of us in the know (and it's not that we know a secret, the word is out about the upcoming changes, but somehow every time I mention it to a non-staff person, everyone seems surprised) can feel the anxiety like a weight, as we look to the future without a real vision of where we will be a year from now.
So while I sat there in my pew, surrounded by strangers but feeling at home, I thought about all the different people there and how varied their situations are. It reminded me that at any given Mass, any one or all of these people may be in the pews:
People who are stressed out and need to hear something hopeful
People who are elated and in the throes of a new love with God
People who are mired in doubt
People who are solid and strong in their faith
People who are hearing God's voice through the music
People who are doing internal exegesis on the Gospel
People who are on the verge of giving up on their faith
People who are back for the first time in years
I could go on, but you get the point.
I know this is true, because at various times in my life, I've been each of those people. It's sort of awe-some to think about the challenge of reaching out to all these people in all these situations, and more, but it's possible for God. Even though the movement is the Holy Spirit's, I want to always remember to be hospitable to all the fragile souls who fill the pews in our church every week.