Amy Welborn has a great reflection on the gift of an unlocked church. As Catholics, we seem to talk a lot about how to be more hospitable. After all, we're competing with the Protestants. They welcome people with coffee and donuts after services, potluck dinners with Jell-o, all sorts of family fun nights and movies and free food and praise bands. What do we have? Well, we have the Sacraments. But what good are they if you're not already Catholic?
The thing is, turning our church into a year-round carnival doesn't work. People don't become Catholic because we have Jelly Donuts when everyone else just serves plain old glazed. They become Catholic because we have Christ physically present in the Eucharist. Our tabernacles are what we have to offer - our churches are our invitation to the lapsed and the un-churched.
That's why it's so tragic when they're locked. Imagine you're considering returning to the Church, and you happen across a quiet country chapel. You're looking for a sign from God...and the door is locked. You can't slip in to pray anonymously, to light a candle and begin to make peace with your Lord. The door is barred unless you come during regular business hours. If you were looking for a sign, the message you get is "Go Away!"
I've encountered locked Churches before-- not as dramatically as in the example above, but just when I've been running early for an appointment and wanted to slip in, light a candle for a suffering friend, and spend a few quiet minutes with God. It still hurts a little when the door is locked, even though I didn't really need it to be unlocked and I understand concerns about vandalism and sacrilege.
As Catholics, we need to be committed to keeping our churches open. They need to be oases of peace and places of love and forgiveness. As parishioners, we should work towards open churches. We'll need volunteers to "church-sit." There may be days where the only people who visit are the scheduled sitters. But we have a great gift in the Eucharist, and we make a mistake when we hide Christ away and meet the world with donuts instead.
Any group can provide pastries-- only we can share the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ our Lord.