My husband and I are always amazed at the different atmospheres of churches we have visited. We have attended Mass where we felt the real presence of Our Lord through His people, the music and it's presiding priest.
We have been in churches where we felt an enormous sadness when we walked in the door. There was one parish where we attended that I always felt like crying. It's a beautiful old-fashioned church, but the years have taken it's toll. The walls look like they haven't been cleaned since it was first built and the tiny congregation attending gives the feeling of a funeral Mass.
There was one church in particular that was pretty disturbing. Two of our children picked up the "bad vibe" immediately. Number 1 son was waiting for us outside and got an odd sense that it was just "a building." He really couldn't put it into words except that it just didn't feel like a church.
My daughter walked in and immediately knew that we shouldn't be there. She was right. We were treated so rudely we never went back.
My husband and I have been attending Mass at a particular church for nearly a year now. Most of the people are very friendly and the homilies are consistently good. The music is also very pleasant. Every week, we look forward to going and we both feel like we've received something that we can take out into the world.
Our choir sang over the weekend at a parish where we've been before. From a choir's perspective it's just about perfect. You walk in, you plug in and you are good to go. A quick sound check is all that is needed. There's a lot of room for people and instruments.
After Mass the priest acknowledged us and thanked us for providing the music. The people were gracious and asked when we were coming back. I still haven't come down from the high!
So how is it that we can go to different churches where Our Lord resides and get all these different impressions? My husband and I came up with only one answer: The pastor. The pastor sets the tone. It's not just the homilies, it's how he shepherds the flock. He sets the example and people will follow it.
Let's pray today for the pastors. For the good ones who are truly blessed in their role as shepherds and for the others, who probably need our prayers even more.