Ash Wednesday Mass at our little mission church was packed.
I mean, packed. Wall-to-wall people, classrooms opened for people to sit in, a couple of people brave enough to sit next to the loud redheaded soprano in the choir: that packed.
Now, I know that some of them were from our sister parish because perhaps the time (6:30 p.m.) was better for them than the Masses offered there. And some of them may be area Catholics from other parishes that didn't have an evening Mass at all, or had an earlier or later one.
But I can't help suspecting that some of them are CAPE Catholics.
CAPE, of course, stands for "Christmas-Ash Wednesday-Palm Sunday-Easter," and signifies Catholics who come to Mass those four days out of the year. Back when my girls were little and we weren't singing in the choir, I used to have to fight my annoyance with the CAPEs on those four occasions, mainly because if you got up with a baby to walk out to the vestibule you'd come back to find your family squished up in the middle of the pew and several newcomers occupying the seat you thought you'd get to come back to. Let's just say that charity is put severely to the test on those occasions. Let's also say that I failed that test frequently. :) It's hard, in the ordinary, human way, not to wish that the CAPE Catholics would not be so...present.
However, what I really want, as a daughter of the Church, from the CAPE Catholics is what the Church herself wants, which is the exact opposite: I want them to be more present. With the Church, I'd like them to come every Sunday, every Holy Day, even a weekday here and there. I'd like them to see their relationship with Jesus Christ as the most important thing in their lives, and I'd like them to realize that since He went to all that trouble to found a specific Church as the ordinary means for their--and my, and your--salvation, they can best build that relationship with Jesus Christ in the arms of that Church, who like the loving mother she is cares deeply about them and wants them to find the true happiness of knowing, loving, and serving God in this life and being happy with Him forever in the next. I want them to partake of the sacraments not just once in a while, but all the time, especially Confession and the Eucharist. I want them to be like long-lost brothers and sisters joyfully welcomed back home with the minimum of awkward questions about their absence and the maximum of loving embraces from those of us waiting for their arrival.
It's true that if every single CAPE Catholic did come home this way, we'd probably have to schedule a few extra Masses and build a few more churches and ordain a lot more priests and open more schools and so on--but wouldn't that be a happy problem to have?
CAPE Catholics, especially the ones who might have been near me tonight: won't you please consider coming home this Lent? Sure, our Sunday Mass is at 8:30 a.m., but if a confirmed night owl like me can make it, I bet you can too. Or, if not, there's probably a Catholic parish near you with a Saturday night or Sunday morning Mass that will fit your schedule a bit better. Why not find out?
Hope to see you Sunday!