It was an unusual one for me in another sense as well, because due to Proclaim 2014 I was more conscious of how someone who comes to Church only for Christmas and Easter might perceive what is going on.
And the analysis? All of the parishes scored the same report. Good liturgy, good homilies, reasonable music, soul-stirring stuff, and absolutely no follow-up opportunities for anyone whose soul had been stirred. Where it really counts we could be doing so much better.
If the powerful Good Friday liturgy stirred your soul and you wanted to talk to someone about the existence of God, or what to do about the spiritual experience you had, or about what you could do to take the next step in deepening your relationship with God there was easily found method of doing so. Even parish bulletins don't appear until Sunday.
It seems at the times we as a parish could do the greatest good for others that we are at our weakest ebb. At regular Sunday Masses we have full complements of wardens, welcomers, extraordinary ministers of holy communion, etc. But at Christmas and Easter at least half of them go away on holidays at the very time that we need double of them. This means at the very least we should be training lots of people to fulfill those roles.
It could do so much good if parishes had an A6 sized prayer card that could be handed out as people arrived, or left on the pews for people to find. Prayer cards with good artwork, a short Gospel quotation or two (appropriate for the liturgical season), information about regular weekend Mass times and sacrament of penance times, telephone and email contact information for the parish office, and a further set of telephone and email contact information for those who want to ask faith based questions. For the latter a separate gmail address could be set up which the RCIA team could access and find answers for.
But we also need to do something about striking while the iron is hot and before it begins to cool. Parishes could have a team that conducts a question and answer session after each of those four major Easter ceremonies. Certainly such sessions would need to be announced by the priest at homily time, and it would require stamina on the part of everyone because the Easter ceremonies are much longer than regular weekend Masses. Else you could make a question and answer session follow on from Morning Prayer on Good Friday and Holy Saturday and after Morning Mass on Easter Monday.
There is also something to be said for daytime and evening question and answer sessions on Easter Monday and Easter Tuesday before the holiday makers go home.
As a whole we do the preparation parts well with Lent and Advent discussion groups, but we don't have a follow-up culture of Eastertide and Christmastide discussion groups. That needs to change so that we can all ground the special spiritual experiences and insights that the Easter ceremonies bring to each of us, and let them begin to bear the spiritual fruit God intended them to produce.
As parishes we could do so much better.
Do you have any other ideas for how we could begin to develop a parish culture of follow-up after major liturgical events?
Our Lady, Help of Christians, pray for us
St Peter, and all the holy Apostles, pray for us.