Young people smile as they participate in a pro-life youth rally and Mass at Capital One Arena in Washington Jan. 18 before the annual March for Life. (Kevin J. Parks/CR Staff)
While texting with my Jewish friend, Deb, on a Sunday morning about our afternoon plans, I told her my husband and I would pick up her and her husband after church. She texted back, “Ok. Have fun in church!”
Have fun in church? I don’t think so. We Catholics don’t attend church to “have fun,” not a common concept we’d typically relate to Mass attendance. Some may equate church with a solemn quiet hour of slower songs, reflection and the occasional wordy homily – which might seem like the reverse of fun. Some people – like my kids did every Sunday growing up – even say church can be boring. I say you will get out of it what you put into it!
As my husband and I were sitting in the pew, I thought, wait, can we have fun in church? The more I contemplated the concept, the more I thought … hmmm, why not?? So I looked around and considered nine ways I have fun in church:
- Shaking hands at peace I find enjoyable and lively. It’s fun to perceive how everyone handles it differently: some look you in the eye, some race past the action to shake as many hands as possible, some hold up two fingers symbolizing the peace sign, some take your hand in both of theirs, some say words other than “peace be with you” and some people even chatter a bit during the sign of peace. Even now, when we can’t shake hands during the sign of peace because of the coronavirus, we can still give a smile or friendly nod to our neighbors at that part of the Mass.
- Taking my husband’s hand to hold onto it at various times – just for fun – is fun. Makes me feel like a teenager. I love holding hands with my husband, and what better place than church to be that connected with each other?
- Serving during a liturgy as an usher, extraordinary minister of holy Communion or lector can be fun. Although these days I am not active as I was in my previous parish, I remember how much I enjoyed both ministries. Yes, I had fun narrating the readings and distributing Communion. I felt extremely honored to handle the host.
- Listening to some priests lead with, or include, a joke or anecdote in his homily is always fun. Sometimes their wit is even funny!
- We cannot chat in church, shhhhh, but we can smile all we want. Making eye contact with my friends and fellow parishioners and greeting them with a smile, a quick wave and an eye twinkle is feel-good fun.
- Singing is fun! Even though I cannot carry a tune and probably sound dreadful to the people in front of me, I sing my heart out anyway. Hymn lyrics can be quite beautiful.
- Playing around with a baby or toddler in the next pew is fun; s/he is not paying a bit of attention to the homily while I’m trying to, so I figure attempting to elicit a smile or giggle while I do crazy things with my eyeballs, might distract the kid from crying.
- Writing my next Catholic Review column in my head is fun as I notice or “feel” something during Mass … because church inspires me.
- And lastly, after Mass is fun as we head downstairs in the gathering hall “to gather.” My husband knows I’m not going to rush to the car three minutes after Mass. I make a cup of coffee, avoid the doughnuts and chat with my St. Leo’s friends. I meet new people and enjoy lingering and mingling.
I like to think God has a good sense of humor. So who says we can’t have fun in church?