Sometimes it’s funny what you see and what you don’t see. Now, that is different from what is visible and what is invisible, a distinction made clearer when the translation of the Mass improved a few years ago. In the Creed, we used to say that God the Father was the maker of “”all things, seen and unseen.” More accurately, now we say “all things, visible and invisible.” There are genuinely invisible realities, spiritual realities; but oddly, among things that are visible, not all of them are seen.
Last week I reflected on all the people who had poured out their time and effort on the great work of worship that was our celebration of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus. Or, more accurately, I tried to get them all. It’s hard to do; I don’t want to run credits, like the end of a movie, when the key grip and the best boy and the caterer’s driver all are listed. But the work itself bears noting; and the folks who do it are people that you know, or may meet, and a few names mentioned here and there testify to the reality of their work.
But I was also aware of two works that I failed to include in my list, and I wanted to mention them now, since it is likely you didn’t see them.
The first group you did not see is the counters. Their work is nearly invisible for good reasons: security and discretion. The count the sacrificial offerings that people give before the altar of God, more commonly known as the collection. We have to protect that precious cargo from anyone who would divert it from its intended purpose – the service of the parish – and so it is a hidden work. But it also remains hidden because it’s none of anybody’s business how much or how often you or anyone else offer to God. Hidden though it is, the work must be done, and records must be kept, so that all the funds go to the use for which they are intended, and all the givers receive records of their giving. Their work is vital but unseen.
But there is another group: our ushers. Their work is hidden in plain sight. You see it all the time – or do you? Of course they pass the baskets into which you place your offerings, vital work indeed. But did you know that the offertory can be one of the most time-consuming elements of Mass? The more better ushers we have, the more quickly and smoothly it is accomplished, and the less “dead time” accumulates there at the middle of our liturgy. You may not have known how much it can affect you and everyone else if this work is done well and quickly – or not.
They do more: they help. They help everyone. They help people in and out of the church, they help people find a seat, they help visitors orient themselves when they enter our church and get what they need to worship with us, including music material. They help with the doors, and they help when there is a problem. It is a sacrifice: they make themselves available to make Mass go better for everyone. Usually, you don’t even notice. You don’t see them!
But I want you to look for them over coming weeks, for a simple reason: we don’t have enough of them. We need help! We need people to help with ushering duties. Please, identify one of our current ushers and offer to help. You might have trouble finding the usher, because you haven’t really seen the ushering going on; but once you’ll look, you’ll realize you that work was right in front of your eyes all along.
It is the perfect work for someone who likes to keep a low profile. The funny thing is that most people will not even see you do it.