The fish is the symbol on the ornament for today. Zimmerman tells of the early Christians using the Greek word for fish, painted on houses “to tell other Christians not to be afraid, they could come here and be safe.”
I think Advent is a great time to ask ourselves if our worship spaces are welcoming, if any other Catholic could come to our parish and feel safe and have a sense of belonging.
Many parishes pride themselves on having a certain “flavor” of Catholicism. Their community may be focused inwardly on the path to holiness but do these practices allow for the expansion of the Body of Christ? Would a stranger come to mass and leave feeling like she wanted to come back? Would she paint the symbol of the fish on the outside of the church?
I think that my home parish is doing a great job of cultivating an atmosphere of welcome. Parishioners are warm and friendly. Our priest preaches on the gospel and current events as they arise. Our church doesn’t have a “flavor” but more of a vibe…come in and worship with us!
It is not a perfect place, but it is genuine and the leaders in our church are prayerfully conscious of all types of people when they plan messages and events.
We have a great outreach program and every year we collect food for the hungry at Thanksgiving and are encouraged to share what we have with those in need at Christmas. We send people to work with Habitat for Humanity, and direct a delegation to Honduras once a year to perform mission work.
As I hang the fish ornament on my tree today, I am grateful for St. Pius X church and all of those who serve us throughout the year. I think that a visitor would paint the fish symbol on the outside of our church, letting everyone know they are welcome here, it is a safe space for them. It is a place where they can belong!