As our parish churches plan for crowded parking lots and full pews, there is something mysterious yet curious about the “new Catholics.” They reappear after having been gone for a year ready to be part of the congregation of the faithful again on one of the most sacred and holy days of the year: the Birth of Christ, Christmas.
When entering, they are oblivious to the spaces they plan to sit in and worship. Also, while they are very conscious as to the effects of inflation within their own personal lives, their consciousness blurs when this is applied to supporting churches and the rising costs to maintain the House of God. Maybe their thought process is that “if I only come once a year, why should I be concerned about the ongoing expense and maintenance of the churches? Let those who use them every week be concerned.”
I wonder how much thought is given by them regarding the physical structure, the building that is called the church. I kind of suspect that they take the church and its existence for granted. Across the country, collections are held throughout the year to raise money to repair cracked tiles, warped doors, and broken kneelers, lights, and heating units that cannot run forever without the necessary maintenance. Mass books have to be either rebound or pitched and eventually reordered as handling makes them vulnerable. They cannot last forever and even the collection baskets break from use. Repair of roofs is very costly but necessary as time takes its toll on the tiles. Additionally, as churches age, expenses rise. Exterior cement stairs, metal railings, and windows require constant maintenance.
But not contributing to the finances of a parish throughout the year does leave Creasters with a certain freedom. They are free to donate based upon their conscience at Christmas. As such, many go through the motions of donating several coins or the infamous “folded-dollar drop” as part of their offering. As an usher, I have threatened to place a sign on the collection basket that would say “coins only.” But please understand. I do not judge people on the amount that they give but I do question people dressed in clothes that reflect prosperity and wealth failing to donate at all. Perhaps, however, they donated online to the church or wire transferred money to the diocese?
Be that as it is, the Christmas season is upon us. Our churches will be ready with many Christmas wreaths, trees, and flowers donated or paid for by merchants in our communities. The heat will be on, and churches will be clean and neat based upon their age and ready for the annual visit by the part-time Catholics we appropriately call Creasters, those Catholics that attend Mass either on Christmas or Easter. Gratefully we pray that our churches will still be here and open for at least another year God willing and ready for Christmas 2019.