Mass “of Belonging”. Wherein Fr. Z rants.

If you were in St. Petersburg, you could have attended a “Mass of Belonging”.

From The Tampa Tribune:

Sacred Heart Catholic Church celebrates inclusion with ‘Mass of Belonging’

TAMPA — Frank Sammartino and Don Sullivan said they did not feel welcome at Catholic churches in New Jersey.

At first, the men, both 72, said they didn’t feel wanted at several churches after moving to Tampa. That changed in 2006, they said, when they first attended Sacred Heart Catholic Church on North Florida Avenue.

On Sunday, Sammartino and Sullivan were two of hundreds of parishioners who attended Sacred Heart’s “Mass of Belonging,” held at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts.

The event was held several days after the conclusion of Pope Francis’ widely-covered first visit to the United States.

A gay couple who have been together 45 years, Sammartino and Sullivan said they were grateful to have been accepted at Sacred Heart.

“By the time we reached here, I had just about fallen away from the Catholic Church,” Sullivan said. “I couldn’t find a parish where I felt I belonged.”

Sammartino nodded.

“From Day One, they opened their doors up to everybody,” he said.

Sunday’s mass — which saw members of each of Sacred Heart’s six congregations under one roof — celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Franciscan Friars at Sacred Heart Parish and the birthday of St. Francis of Assisi.

Father Kevin Mullen, provincial minister with Franciscan Friars Holy Name Province in New York, […]

What rubbish.

I don’t know a church anywhere that “excludes” anyone.  At worst… or perhaps at best… there are places where nobody pays any attention to you at all.  That’s not so bad, unless you are so used to being cooed over and affirmed in your wonderful just-the-way-you-are selfness that not being the center of attention makes you feel uncomfortable.

I fear that “welcome” is now code for “Even though you know you are in the state of mortal sin, go to Communion anyway!”

Reception of Communion has shifted in meaning.

If people don’t feel welcome, it’s not because of the Catholic Church.  If people feel “unwelcome” (whatever that means) it’s probably because of the guilt (even residual) they feel because of their sinful behavior. They know they shouldn’t go to Communion because of their own sinful behavior.

But no one is telling them that they are not welcome.  On the contrary!  Even the formally excommunicated are supposed to attend Holy Mass.

In more and more places, as catechism weakens and the acid marinade of shifting mores unbinds the fibers of our Catholic identity, Communion is not the reception with awe of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ the Savior, but rather “You’re okay!”

Communion has come to mean, “They put the white thing in your hand and then we sing the song!”

I will return to my cantilena.

The only true renewal in the Church will take place with a revitalization of our liturgical worship.  If that isn’t at the heart of a program to renew the life of the Church, we are wasting our time and distracting ourselves from the true goal of heaven.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Liberals, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Our Catholic Identity, Sin That Cries To Heaven and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. juergensen says:

    Are KKK and Nazi “welcome” at the “Mass of Belonging”?

  2. Stephanus83 says:

    As long as the Priest didn’t offer communion to everyone regardless of sin, then I don’t see this as a problem. We have to get sinners to come to Mass in order to give the Holy Spirit a chance to work. If sinners never come into our churches then our churches can never become the hospital for sinners that Pope Francis speaks about. I wasn’t there and I didn’t read the whole article, so as long as communion wasn’t handed out to all regardless of sin, then I don’t see it as a problem. We can have different opinions though and that’s ok. If communion was handed out to everyone, well, then I retract everything I wrote. I also understand that the Holy Spirit can do His work at any moment He wants, but getting a sinner into Mass is a prime opportunity for a soul to be touched by something.

  3. ray from mn says:

    Their regret at not belonging is very real, to them. They MUST be acknowledged and celebrated and treated as royalty. Ignoring them is a very real slap in the face.

  4. aviva meriam says:

    Is anyone else bothered by mass being held at a Center for the Performing Arts?

  5. Iacobus M says:

    I understand where you’re coming from, Stephanus83, but I think that more than the reception of Commmunion is involved. As Fr. Z points out, everyone is already welcome in the Catholic Church. It would appear that the whole purpose of the “Mass of Belonging”, however, is to assure people that their sin doesn’t separate them from God. That’s not what Jesus says: his last words to the woman caught in adultery are “go and SIN NO MORE” (John 8:11). Unless those who are conducting the mass make it explicit that sinners “belong” but that their sins most assuredly do not, well, they had better start practicing how to swim with a millstone around their necks (Luke 17:2).

  6. LarryW2LJ says:

    I live in New Jersey.

    About a month ago, one of our young priests gave a homily where he, without-a-doubt, no-holds-barred re-affirmed Catholic Church teaching that marriage is reserved for one man and one woman.

    Pretty basic, stuff, eh? I found out subsequently, that quite a few angry comments were left in the Parish “Comment Box” where people felt our young Associate was being confrontational and exclusive.

    Seems to me that if you can’t take the heat, it’s time to get out of the kitchen. You’re either Catholic, or you aren’t. Yes, we’re all sinners and we all have a long way to go – but at least TRY to live by the tenets and beliefs of our Church. If you fall short, you’re in good company, as we all do.

    But to stand there with your arms crossed while saying, “No, it HAS to be MY way”….. well, God DID give you free will. Just remember that doesn’t mean He’s going to be enamored with some of the choices you make.

  7. DisturbedMary says:

    Frank and Don are old enough to have learned about sin the Baltimore Catechism way. Looks like they still have enough of a spark of guilt from what we used to call conscience to project their own guilt onto the Catholic Church. At their age and being within 20 yards of the Pearly Gates, perhaps they should forget about the welcome wagon, and get a copy of the life of Christ to read together. This is the life of the innocent victim and what it truly means to be unwelcome and offended.

  8. acmeaviator says:

    The gates of hell may not overcome whatever remnant remains of the Church – cloistered in some isolated wasteland in the near future – but to say that the gates of the Vatican and the current Church are not nearing collapse is to be blind to reality.

  9. acbprop says:

    FYI, the Straz is in Tampa (downtown, 1/2 mile from Sacred Heart), not in my hometown of St. Petersburg. I know it’s confusing–Tampa Bay Rays (in St. Pete), Tampa Bay Lightning and Bucs (in Tampa). Diocese of St. Petersburg includes Tampa. Those of us in St. Pete would have had to cross a bridge to get to this Mass, which is WAY too much effort.

    As usual, can’t do justice to what the fine folks at Sacred Heart were trying to accomplish with 12 inches of precious newsprint. Read this for a better description:

    I know some of us are resigned to smaller church of the elect few who embrace all the Church teachings. (Big Sigh.) But how about a larger church that does the same? The reporter could have easily led with a young family who was drawn to the Mass. The homo angle is typical journalistic trolling. Ignore it. Cudos to Sacred Heart for trying to save ALL souls. Hard to evangelize when all you do is preach to the choir, which is getting pretty sparse at my particular parish. . . .

  10. Receiving Holy Communion for many adults has now become an act of protest against the Church. Like the reverse of a fast of protest. Like Nancy Pelosi they think they are stickin’ it to Magisterium, but they are hurting themselves and the Church as a whole when she is permitted to do this in public.

  11. Wryman says:

    “Everyone welcome” is Newspeak for “We will never mention the church’s teachings on sexuality here.”

  12. jaykay says:

    Stephanus83 says: “… but getting a sinner into Mass is a prime opportunity for a soul to be touched by something.”

    I agree, and from reading the article in the link it seems that the Mass was intended as an “outreach” Mass for everyone. However, one would get the strong impression from the article that it was actually focused on homosexuals, by the way it opened up with extensive (in the context of the overall length of the article) coverage of two homosexuals and their stereotypical whinging about “unwelcoming” churches. So the impression was strongly conveyed that this particular church was celebrating the homosexual lifestyle which, it seems to me, it wasn’t.

    Nevertheless, “getting a sinner into Mass” should never in any way entail glossing over or, worse, endorsing, a sinful lifestyle (I’m not in any way suggesting you’re implying that, Stephanus83!)

  13. yatzer says:

    I know what they mean as “belonging” isn’t what we usually mean. They are looking for approval, not acceptance. OTOH, it does bring to mind that most Catholic Churches I have belonged to were impermeable to new people unless the newbie had money and/or connections, An ordinary schlep of a Catholic (me) had a snowball’s chance of making friends, and friends are important.

  14. acricketchirps says:

    Stephanus83, I don’t see how he could avoid distributing communion to everyone regardless of sin. If he had warned against those in a state of mortal sin profaning the Sacrament that certainly would have be seen as unwelcoming. If he had simply refrained from distributing congregational communion that would have been strange to those attending and certainly would have been noted in the story.

  15. Gregorius says:

    This is actually another reason for Summorum Pontificum. From what I hear, there are many ‘queer’ folks with ‘high-church’ sensibilities who are otherwise lost to the episcopal church. More TLMs would be a draw to them and be an opportunity to feed them with true doctrine vs. the temptations that other ecclesial community would offer.

  16. Kerry says:

    Somewhere there must be a Far Side cartoon, two little devils wearing clown hats and blowing horns, in front of a large gate with a sign, “Everyone Welcome”.

  17. Kerry says:

    And streamers! Confetti!!

  18. donato2 says:

    I have never understood the concept of the need to “welcome” people at Mass, or the corollary of feeling “unwelcome” or “not belonging.” Over the years I’ve attended Mass at many out of town parishes while traveling, including a number of parishes in foreign countries. I’ve always felt that the local parish church is a home away from home. No one needs to tell me that.

    At many new Mass parishes there is the (very annoying) ritual of asking “visitors” to stand or raise their hand so that everyone can give them a round of applause. Why anyone would find this appealing is totally beyond me.

    Of course the “Mass of Belonging” at issue here goes more to doctrinal issues. “Feeling unwelcome” in the liberal lingo means “the Catholic Church calls my favorite sexual act a mortal sin.”

  19. TimG says:

    In response to Stephanus83….are you trolling? If not…I don’t think anyone is saying we shouldn’t have sinners come to Mass. We all are sinners and all should go to Mass. If we are in a state of grave sin then we shouldn’t present ourselves for Communion. This article is obviously written with an agenda in mind…
    1) The article states “Mass of Belonging”. We can’t say for sure what that means since it doesn’t quote who coined the name, but it surely lends itself to a Progressive “all inclusive” theme. To Fr Z’s point, no other Mass is not inclusive so the name itself implies something that it shouldn’t.

    2) I didn’t read the entire article either, but from the interview shown, clearly the gay men are implying that this particular church is something other churches are not. This is not acceptable….it is yet another attack on the Catholic Church to say “see, this church is more Progressive. You other Neanderthals need to get with the program!”

    The whole situation is sad and pretty basic, really. Please affirm me in my sin and make me feel better! Because we all should make each other feel better about ourselves!

  20. andia says:

    Not being a gay man, I can’t speak to what makes them not feel welcome. I can tell you that I often don’t feel welcome in Church communities –and it rarely has anything to do with Church doctrine, priests ( or bishops) or wanting to be the center of attention.
    Many parishes have a demographic the congregation wants to serve, and they make it known in many ways. I have never seen a priest who would turn anyone away from attending Mass. but for those who want to fit into a community, there is often a feeling of unwelcome if you don’t fit a certain demographic.
    There’s a reason why the Church Lady was a staple on SNL for some time. In all honesty, the folks who fit that profile come from all walks of life, all religions and both sexes. They make life miserable, not only for the priests and ministers, but for all those who don’t fit what they want.
    You can rant and rail all you want about how this is something that has more to do with me ( or the others who are made to feel unwelcome) but it happens weekly, all over the world.
    I would never want a Mass of welcome, however. To me that’s more than a bit over the top.

  21. Blaine says:

    Yup, I live here. Where I have to drive 45 minutes each way for the one TLM allowed (yes, I know, but no pastor will) in the county.

  22. Lin says:

    Liturgical reform and mandatory catechism classes. The progressives find that prescription too harsh. Not welcoming. I have always felt uncomfortable during the sign of peace and I am very sociable. I just don’t like socializing in the middle of Mass! I’ve been to some Catholic Churches where everyone greets their fellow parishioners at the beginning of Mass, too. Yikes! The “spirit of Vatican II” has let far too many Protestant practices into the Mass. Pray the rosary! It’s going to be a long month!

  23. iamlucky13 says:

    For better or for worse, a very large number of people have developed an expectation, I suspect based on evangelical protestant stereotypes, that they’ll be actively welcomed into a church, like joining a club (even though they were already formally welcomed at their baptism). Ignoring that fact simply because those of us raised in the Church naturally feel at home in any Catholic church will not help draw in those with preconceived notions of what being welcomed means.

    We don’t have to be hugs-and-high-fives evangelicals, and I think it’s not only inappropriate during the Mass but cruel to single out visitors for attention they may not want as some priests do, but it is still very effective evangelization to make an effort to greet and get to know new people in a simple, friendly, non-ostentatious manner (preferably outside of the nave so as to not disturb others or forget the Lord’s presence).

  24. A.D. says:

    What the heck! This is the church I was baptized in as an infant. Sad that it has come to this.
    This Sacred Heart is in Tampa. There is also one in Pinellas Park across the Bay, just north of St. Petersburg. No way would that happen there! Saints preserve us!

  25. Grumpy Beggar says:

    Fr Z said:

    “If people don’t feel welcome, it’s not because of the Catholic Church. If people feel “unwelcome” (whatever that means) it’s probably because of the guilt (even residual) they feel because of their sinful behavior. They know they shouldn’t go to Communion because of their own sinful behavior.”

    Unequivocally, on the money Padre. That’s how it is for every single one of us concerning sin and sinful behaviour. Unfortunately too many of us stop short of the confessional. And if we could just muster up the courage to go, well . . . Is there anyone who can say that they don’t feel they belong to Christ the moment they step out of confessional , forgiven of all their sins ?


    Kerry says:
    “Somewhere there must be a Far Side cartoon, two little devils wearing clown hats and blowing horns, in front of a large gate with a sign, ‘Everyone Welcome’”.

    FOCL (thanks for the smile)

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  27. Matthew says:

    Our Diocese of St. Petersburg. Our bishop is almost 75 and retiring soon. I pray for him every day.

    I often end up in the Diocese of Venice down south on Sunday for some odd reason.

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