Today is professional development day for church workers here at the Café, and given the proximity to Christmas I’m not doing any research work today for the post—other than recollect some helpful professional pointers I learned over a quarter-century of active Church ministry.
One: no matter how many Sundays in Advent you announce warnings that your 4 PM Christmas Vigil Mass will look like a stampede for free Super Bowl tickets when the doors open at 3 PM, you will still get the running of the bulls at Pamplona at 3 PM.
Two: As a corollary to number one, a number of parishioners will complain they didn’t get “their” seats.
Three: If you have a second or overflow Mass in another facility like a social hall, and you temporarily hide the collection in the refrigerator for later retrieval, don’t defrost said freezer till you’ve checked it carefully.
Four: Have a strategy in place when one of your “royal families” sends one person to reserve the front two pews at the 4 PM Vigil. (And when you come up with a good one, kindly share it with us.)
Five: If you have a visit from Santa before Christmas Eve Mass, make sure he sticks to the pastor’s script and hasn’t had a few dips in the egg nog beforehand.
Six: If parking is usually a problem in Ordinary Time, for Christmas you want to have a chorale in the lot singing either “Let There Be Peace On Earth” or “We Are Farmers, bum bum bum bum bum bum bum.”
Seven: If you take the time to correct everyone at Christmas Masses who receives communion in a liturgically inappropriate fashion, you’ll be at it till January 7.
Eight: If you are a pastor, do not schedule yourself for both Midnight Mass and 6 AM Shepherds Mass.
Nine: Have your furnace or air conditioning vendor on speed dial on Christmas Eve.
Ten: Keep a roll of scotch tape in the sacristy so you can tape the identifying card or tag to the right present. Trust me, does that ever save embarrassment.
Eleven: Rein in the diva cantors.
Twelve: (For pastors) I would wait till the church lot clears before you transport all those bottles to your car or over to the house.
Thirteen: After your church has offered hundreds of hours of confessions during Advent, someone will ask at ten minutes to midnight.
Fourteen: Yes, people do call for the time of Midnight Mass.
Fifteen: Someone will complain of being allergic to poinsettias.
Sixteen: Somewhere in the Christmas sermon there will be the mandatory inclusion of the word “materialism.”
Seventeen: There is no aroma anywhere exactly like the empty church immediately after Midnight Mass.
Eighteen: If history is any teacher, there will be folks in church watching the Chargers and the Raiders game on their phones this year on Christmas Eve.
Nineteen: Eating Christmas cookies for dinner during the Christmas Eve schedule does save time but results in the worst heartburn during Midnight Mass.
Twenty: Someone will demand to know why you don’t have a Christmas Mass in (insert any language).
Twenty-one: All savvy Christmas church announcements from the pulpit contain a reminder that it is not too late to make a sizeable gift for year-end tax advantage.
And this really happened to me once: I was shutting down the church for the last time after the final Christmas morning Mass, when a man I recognized as a very irregular attendant came into the sacristy and said that he had accidentally dropped a $100 bill in the collection plate, and could he swap it out for a $5. You don’t want to know what I said.