We have a wedding anniversary celebration/ceremony each year at our parish. It’s a very nice thing, but for those of us who are single, it feels a bit sad, even if we know we are called to the single vocation. Is that wrong? (Appleton)
At various times through the year, we may recognize certain people at Mass, for example, grandmothers or mothers on Mother’s Day or veterans on Veteran’s Day. This can be a very hospitable and thoughtful gesture for members of our community to be honored and made to feel special.
The difficulty, of course, is the sentiment you express in your question — feeling left out. Anytime we recognize one group of people, undoubtedly there will be others who feel left out. For example, Mother’s Day celebrations at Mass can be very difficult for those who have lost their mother, those who struggle with infertility or those who have lost a child. For those who have never married, celebrating or honoring special anniversaries can feel raw and uncomfortable.
It is the same in any family. Everyone wants to feel welcomed, included and loved. But we must remember, as a parish community, that shining a light on one member of the family should in no way diminish the light and gifts of other members of the family. During special times of the year, for example, when we choose to acknowledge special anniversaries, let us also exercise sensitivity and pastoral care to those who are struggling. A simple way to do this could be with the prayers of the faithful. In them, we can remember all those who have lost a loved one, those longing to be married, those who have experienced heartbreak, those called to a single vocation or those struggling with the pain of broken marriages.
We must also remember that the Mass is “a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace and a pledge of future glory is given to us” (Sacrosanctum Concilium n. 47). The Mass is for praise and honoring God. There is a fine line between acknowledging special times of the year and how they intersect with our daily lives, and making the Mass all about us.
In our parishes, we strive to be one family in faith. While it can be hard when one group of people is honored, it should in no way lessen the love that our community has for each individual who is a part of our parish family. It is important that you acknowledge your own feelings at times like this and, in prayer, ask Jesus to help you overcome any feelings of hurt, guilt or shame that you might be carrying.
Stanz is director of Parish Life and Evangelization for the Diocese of Green Bay.