Byzantine Catholics and Coffee Sundays
I love going to Mass, but I have learned that there is much more to the faith than just going to Mass. There are Coffee Sundays! Yes, those fantastic Sundays where everyone gets to drink coffee from styrofoam cups and eat desserts after attending the greatest moment in human history. Surrounded by the Angels and Saints, we attend the most epic of all mysteries…and then, as the smell of the incense fades, another smell emerges from the bowels of the Church basement. COFFEE. Truth be told, Coffee Sundays have always weirded me out, and I think I’m not the only one. I am a bit of an introvert (despite what my resume might say), and meeting, greeting, and mingling is one of my least favourite of all the things. So going downstairs for coffee after Mass freaks me out. Yes, I acknowledge I have a problem. I’m not even a coffee drinker (mea gulpa). I realized, especially after experiencing a Byzantine Catholic community a few weeks ago, the very reason why Roman Catholics have failed Coffee Sunday and why it weirds me out.
Sacred Heart Byzantine Catholic Church in Livonia, MI is a small Byzantine Catholic Community, yet, really appear to have a big heart. I attended a Divine Liturgy after the warm invitation I received from their pastor three weeks ago, and I have to admit, the parish is doing something right. I have attended a lot of parishes throughout my life, and have spent a lot of time questioning “what can make or break a parish?” I think that one of the main reasons why people leave the church is because they do not feel welcomed. I have not had a lot of experiences with many Byzantine Catholic communities, but after attending a five different Byzantine Catholic communities, I can say without a doubt that they are the most welcoming group of Catholics I have ever met.
As soon as the Liturgy was finished, we were personally invited to come and join them for “Coffee Sunday”. Each time we have gone, we are not just given coffee and some cheap donut holes (Timbits for our fellow Canadians), but have been fed REALLY well. You would think in the Roman Catholic Church you would see more little Italian grandmothers saying “Look at you, you’re fading away. Mange- Eat. We feed you, now.” Nope. But the Byzantines? They feed you! They introduce themselves (a novel idea), and they truly make you feel welcome by inviting you into the life of their parish.
So, what’s the point? The New Evangelization is never going to emerge if we do not love each other and become authentically Catholic Christians. As I sat with Fr. Marquis, the parish priest of Sacred Heart in Livonia, and met with a ton of parishioners during their Coffee Sunday, there was a comment on how it was apparent by his homily, and bulletin, that he was committed to the spiritual growth of his parishioners. He said that he is working to help build his church and help it to grow. I asked what is he doing to make that a reality, and he said, “it is by by being authentically who we are that this parish will grow.” He then asked, “Have you ever wondered why we paint a portrait of Jesus from the waist up on the ceilings of our churches?” We shrugged. “Because the rest of Him is on the floor.” I then realized that this is exactly the reason why I felt so welcomed, loved, and appreciated by this parish. It was because the priest, along with the parishioners realized that they were the Body of Christ, and reached out and welcomed us, just like Jesus. It is time for our Roman Catholic parishes to realize this as well, and put it into practice. How do we make this a reality when so many have become accustomed to the typical Coffee Sunday experience? Perhaps, it is time for us, who are young, to show our more wise Coffee Sunday forefathers just how to transform our parishes from the basement up and be the welcoming faces we have all longed to see.
Check out Sacred Heart Byzantine Catholic Church here