I don’t really have a question, it’s more like I just need to vent. I hate how every holiday the church is packed to capacity with these Catholics who never bother to come to Mass the rest of the year. It’s the same thing each Easter and Christmas. There’s always those entitled people that come to church an hour early to “save” an entire pew for their families with purses and coats spread out all over the place. It’s just a nightmare, especially for me because I have anxiety issues and don’t do well in large crowds. Sometimes I’m tempted to not even bother going to Mass on the big holidays because it’s such a miserable experience. There, I feel better already just getting it off my chest.
Dear Just Venting,
I’m glad getting all that off your chest made you feel better. Unfortunately, I’m probably going to make you feel worse again.
Yes, Easter Masses are a trial of our patience and endurance and yes, the liturgy is extra long and the church is extra crowded. But you know what is much, much worse … being publicly crucified for the sins of all humanity.
I understand having anxiety can exacerbate an already stressful situation. I’m not heartless, but I am practical. I don’t have anxiety issues but I share your dislike for crowds and the stress and inconvenience they create. To eliminate a lot of that stress, I plan, which gives me some control over the situation. Part of that plan involves arriving an hour early. And because I don’t expect my family to be inconvenienced by my personal issues I save them a seat so we can sit together as a family when they arrive separately a little later. So those entitled people taking up seats in the pew … they could simply be feeling as stressed as you, but differently. Who knows, right?
Arriving early also saves me the hassle of fighting the parking lot traffic and ensures I get a pretty decent seat up front … where I can’t see the congregation behind me and wonder to myself “Where were all these people last Sunday?”
I want you to do something for me; re-read what you wrote — “I hate how every holiday the church is packed to capacity…”
Do you really? You hate it when the church is packed to capacity because it triggers your anxiety? You hate it when the church is packed with souls because it causes you stress? You hate it when you’re inconvenienced by a bunch a new faces you’ve never seen before in church? Would you prefer an empty church on Easter? You ask, where are all these people the rest of the year?
Here’s the thing, people tend to travel on major holidays to visit and be with out of town relatives. It’s a given you’re going to see faces at every Easter and Christmas Mass that you never see the rest of the year, because they live in the next state over. I try to refrain from assuming other folks’ Mass habits.
Here’s another thing … I could never get my Protestant family inside the walls of a Catholic church on any other Sunday except Easter and Christmas. Easter and Christmas are special and they want to be with me and my son. My constant prayer is that my family will come back to the Church they left as teenagers. Until that day comes, I am proud to have them be a set of unfamiliar faces in a packed-to-capacity church full of other unfamiliar faces. Easter and Christmas may be the only exposure all those “strange people” get to Catholicism and we owe it to them not to scowl at them in judgement.
Personally, it sounds like to me you’re the source of your own anxiety by making what everyone else is doing your concern. If you want a way more enjoyable experience next time, focus more on why you are there and less on why everyone else there, and try giving thanks for every single soul that is in that overcrowded church.