Flower Catholics – As a child, I did not know the term but I remember well adults grumbling about them. Flower Catholics, or Flower Christians, are the lily-poinsettia church goers. They show up twice a year and take the pews of those who show up faithfully every week. They sit proudly on their hard wooden benches while regular church goers stand in the back craning their necks to see what is going on up front. They sit. They stand. They kneel. They follow motions from childhood memory or by repeating the actions of those who attend regularly.
They fill the hearts of those who call themselves faithful with uncharitable thoughts.
I know because I have been on both sides.
I Am the Flower Catholic
I am a devout Catholic. I go to Mass every Sunday and sometimes more. I stop by a Church to pray almost every day before going to work. I say the Rosary almost every day and read my Bible almost every day as well. I do my best to follow what God asks of me, to come out of my comfort zone, to live and speak the Gospel with Truth and Love.
And I almost never attend Christmas or Easter Mass in parish where anyone knows me.
For all anyone knows, I am a Lily-Poinsettia Catholic taking the pew from those who deserve to be there.
It began when my husband left 13 years ago. I would go to Mass hoping for something. I am still not sure what that something was, but I could not find it.
I was distracted by glowing, happy families. It pained me to see the excitement in the eyes of little children holding dad’s hand as they skipped up the church path and know I was not allowed to hear from or know where my children were until it was “my time.” It hurt to hear wives complaining about the amount of work they had to do when I had so much to prepare with almost no help or funding.
All of that hurt. It still does, but what hurt most was the laughter with which people would ask me where my boys were and the awkward silence that would inevitably follow.
We lived in a small town. Everyone knew what our family was going through. I wondered why they would ask such thoughtless, heartless questions. I was jealous and uncharitable toward them and how wrapped up they were in their seemingly perfect celebrations.
I found it easier to avoid questions all together.
I attended Mass alone in distant parishes where I would be seen as the Flower Catholic. I would be seen as not deserving of a seat in the pew. I was the one thought to be following motions I did not understand. I was the one…
If Flower Catholics Only Knew…
Regular Mass goers guess at why people show up at Mass once or twice a year, but our job is not to guess. Our job is to minister.
If Flower Catholics understood what is happening on the altar, they could not stay away. Jesus in the Eucharist would call them as He does to me and countless other souls more faithful than I. Our job is not judgement but outreach and what better time to do it then when fallen away Catholics return Home!
If Flower Catholics understood that every part of the Mass is meant to bring Christ to people and people to Christ, they would be enthralled by the Mass rather than dulled by it. If they knew readings are the Word of God Himself directly from the Bible, they would listen intently and hear words meant to soften their hearts. If they knew the altar is elevated to mimic Jesus’ climb to Golgotha, the “place of the skull,” they would watch more intently. If they knew the priest’s words are those spoken by Jesus at His Last Supper, they would consider the power in them. If they knew what we is said before receiving the Body of Christ, “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed,” is based on the Roman soldier’s faith, we would wish we were more like that ancient man. If we understood a piece of bread miraculously becomes the living Body of Christ not through man’s actions but through Jesus’ words, “This is my Body which will be given up for you,” we would be hungry for that which cannot be placed on festive tables or under adorned trees.
Yes, I am a Flower Catholic
I look at the list of things above and wonder how much of it I truly understand. What is more, I wonder how much I truly treasure or even appreciate. The truth is, not enough.
I am a Flower Catholic, not because I go to a far away parish each big holy day, but because I so often get caught up in my own self that I forget there is a judge even greater than the wise King Solomon and He knows my wounded heart. I forget that I, who go to Mass faithfully, who says a distracted Rosary daily, who skims my Bible to check it off my To Do list, who gossips and envies and lusts and judges and…and…and…
I am a Flower Catholic and am not deserving of a spot on a hard wooden pew in my home parish or any other.
And yet, I am called, like a child to the magic of Christmas, to be again a little child in Jesus’ arms, to accept the kingdom of God through Jesus born unto My Mary.
Although I am a Flower Catholic, I am offered, not just a spot on a pew, but a seat at the banquet.
The Truth About Flower Catholics & What We Can Do About It
The truth is, none is worthy to be sit on a hard, wooden pew, yet each of us is called. No matter how righteous we think we are, we each have miles of pathways and numerous doors that need opening before we are worthy of attending Mass, never mind God’s eternal banquet. Each of us is an undeserving, but very Loved, Flower Catholic.
As a teacher I am often told I may be the one reason a student comes to school each day. Sometimes there is so much going on in a student’s home he or she may find it difficult to believe school can do anything for him or her. He may be facing abuse, addiction, trafficking. She may be experiencing self harm, overwhelm, or poverty. All of these are compounded by isolation. A loving teacher can offer the child hope and a future while a mean or indifferent teacher may be the reason a student skips class or drops out all together. This is even more true since the pandemic.
All that is true of schools is true in our churches with far greater consequences and rewards.
Humanity, all of us, are God’s students. We are His children. Each of us faces what the rest cannot imagine. We each have obstacles that exist in the past, present, or future and are specifically designed to bring us to Heaven but that also interfere with our getting there.
Sadly, some allow trauma, sin, and sloth to lead them away from the Savior and Church rather than to Him through it. It is only by the Grace of God that I have been called to Him rather than falling away as I would do under my own power. If you attend Mass regularly, it is only by God’s Grace that you do so as well.
This Christmas, we must put aside pride and indignation and reach out to Flower Catholics. Be proactive. Greet people warmly. Welcome strangers. Feed the hungry. Live the Beatitudes. Be the reason a stranger on “your” hard wooden pew chooses to return and find what he or she is looking for rather than her excuse to turn away.
Advice to Flower Catholics
First, let me say welcome! You are Loved here, if not by the parishioners then by the Lord Himself. He is always your reason for coming, not us. Please excuse those of us who do not greet you as you wish and deserve to be greeted. Please excuse those of us who do not treat you with the warmth and Love you deserve to be treated. We are still a sinful people. We are a work in progress; some of us are slower than others.
If you are a Flower Catholic you have a great responsibility. You are a guest in the Lord’s House where His children gather regularly. We laugh together. We mourn together. We complain and have fun together. We are a family, and we are hoping to expand our family! You are welcome in join. In fact, we want you to join!
But understand it takes time. As a guest, please introduce yourself rather than wait for us to do so. Make eye contact. Shake hands. Exchange names. Take the first step.
Then be sure to return.
This is the key. Many weekly Mass attendees have seen too many Flower Catholics come and go. We are wary of forming friendships that do not come to fruition. We feel used when others seek Mass only on celebratory days. We have hard hearts but want them to be open to you. Show us we can count on you.
Most of all, take an interest in what is going on in our Father’s House, our Home, the Church. Ask why the priest does certain things. Comment on the artwork the stained glass windows, the Tabernacle. Ask for explanations on the Sacraments, especially on Confession, penance, and Reconciliation. If you find someone who does not know or does not respond with Truth and Love in their hearts, pray for that person rather than be insulted. There may be many reasons for one reacting in such a way.
Seek first, not to make human connections, but connections with the Body of Christ in the Eucharist. Soften your heart. Open your mind. Prepare your soul. Know you are Loved and with Love comes great responsibility.
Single Moms and Dads: Perpetual Flower Catholics?
I am adding this note here quickly because as I reread what I’ve written I realize how often single moms and single dads feel like Flower Catholics in our own home parishes. We are the ones overlooked, the ones left awkwardly hanging when asked about children or holiday plans, the ones who feel like we do not fit in. We are often overwhelmed, abused, and isolated.
We are the ones who intensify and personalize rejection, real and perceived. We are the ones who cry alone who wave goodbye to our hearts as they drive down the street leaving us alone in the dark. We are the ones who cries when no one sees, the ones who collapse on the bathroom floor unable to go on another day, the ones who wish for the end of our suffering one way or another.
I understand all of that. I have been there. I have done each of the above, some more times than I care to remember.
I am also here to offer you hope. In God’s Kingdom, there are no Flower Catholics. You are welcome. You are Loved. You are a full fledged member of the Body of Christ. All you have to do is keep going another day. Pray. Pick up your Bible. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your opening and aid your understanding. Seek the warmth of your Guardian Angel. If you have fallen away from the faith understand it is your responsibility to return, not for the sake of those who will judge but for the One who IS Judge, for the One who Loves You and invites you to His banquet.
I know how difficult the holidays can be. I promise you are not a perpetual Flower Catholic. Come to Jesus as a child comes to the Kingdom of God. See all there is to Christmas that reaches far beyond this world.
Know you are welcomed in the pew and at the banquet. You have a seat reserved for you if only you will take it for you are Loved beyond measure. Now pick up your Cross and begin this day anew as a Baby in a manger once did long ago. For in your nothingness, you are given all that is lasting, important, and eternal.
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