I have launched out into a new venture. I have been invited by Janet Hauter to write a small article each month for the American Catholic Council’s newsletter under the heading Eye on Francis. The articles are to take off from a short phrase Francis has used recently and then reflect on how we are to make that phrase actionable in our local churches. The article below, my second for the series for ACC, is for special sneak preview for Concerned Catholics of Montana and is not published by ACC until later this month. The phrase Francis uses, Mama’s House, by the way, is not found in any of the English translations of this talk. Those translations all made it Mother’s Home but the Italian, “casa di mamma”, can also be translated “mama’s house”. I think the message he was trying to convey is done much better when it is” mama’s house.” Knowing how down to earth Francis is I would suspect he would lean to the more informal “mama’s house”. Hope you enjoy this as much as I did reflecting on the phrase and writing about it……Reyanna
“To be in the Church is to be at home, with mama; at mama’s house”
….Pope Francis during his address to the participants of Rome’s Diocesan Conference, June 17, 2014
This statement came at the end of a series of comments where Pope Francis was emphasizing the need for the church to be tender, welcoming and compassionate, never closing its doors to anyone, having the compassionate eyes of Jesus that every good mother has. I suspect it is an image that comes from his own childhood. I know it is an image from my childhood. I grew up in rural Indiana, my parents being rather poor farmers. My mother was German and a great cook. My dad was Italian and just someone wonderful to be around. Everyone knew my family in that community, knew that if they showed up at our door, one of my parents would be there at the door to greet them before they even got out of the car. The next words out of my parent’s mouth would be “Have you had a cup of coffee? Have you had something to eat?” Of course the guest knew my mom had the best baked goods around. Isn’t this what church should be? We have the best “baked goods around” in the Bread of Life. Our cup of coffee is a cup of wine that is the Cup of Love. Greeting each person in warm welcome before they even get all the way to the door, offering the Bread of Life and the Cup of Love to all is what church should be about. So, Mama’s House resonates with me.
How do we make Papa Francesco’s statement actionable? I think we need to look at our individual role in our faith communities and ask some questions. Do I go to church on Sunday and more or less isolate myself in the pew hoping that it doesn’t take long, the homily is short, the singing is bearable and there are not a lot of screaming kids? Or do I look around at folks and wonder what is going on in their lives, walk over to them extending a welcome just to cheer them a moment and look in their eyes with the compassion of Jesus? Do I judge that gay couple sitting next to me, holding hands, that I haven’t ever seen in church before? Or do I admire their courage in raising their son or daughter with them they have obviously adopted? Do I take the time to go over to them and say “Welcome to the parish. Would you like to share a cup of coffee after Mass?” Do I get involved in my parish’s outreach/welcoming organizations actively working to create an open door environment in my parish? Do I challenge a pastor who shows by his actions and words that he would rather “his” church were for the few “true Catholics” who fit his checklist of what that means? I think these are the kinds of things Francis is urging, nudging, PUSHING us to do. They are not hard things to do but they sure will go a long way to making our parishes “Mama’s House.”