In From the Vine

By Elizabeth Tomlin


Photo by Brendan Berger on Unsplash


When was the last time you visited a new parish?  Did you feel welcomed by an usher holding the door, or the smile of the Eucharistic minister?  Or did you feel anonymous, or worse, like a burden to the person you had to scoot past to get to the center of the pew?

As we are gearing up for Spring Break, I have started checking Mass times in the cities my family plans to visit so that we can be sure to make it to Mass. As I googled Mass times I was reminded of an experience we had last summer when we spent a week at the shore in Cape May, New Jersey. The community at St. John Neumann Parish greeted us with such warm hospitality that visiting that parish is one of my favorite memories from the summer.

As Spring Break quickly approaches, I want to share some hospitality tips that the parish at Cape May Shared with us. 

  1. Greet Everyone – Even the Tardy! As we scurried into the church three minutes before Mass was to start, two ushers greeted us with huge smiles and held the doors for us.  One said, “We’re glad you’re here.”
  1. Smile at the Kiddos. My five year-old, George, was not quiet at this Mass, and he had ants in his pants. He asked tons of chatty questions and even sang a Christmas carol.  Yes, Deck the Halls in August.  And he flossed in the pew; you know the dance!  I feared that the woman in front of us would be irritated.  Instead, she smiled winked at George. 
  1. Praise the Effort. When Mass ended, an elderly gentleman approached George and said, “You were very good today.  It must have been really hard to sit so still.”  He then handed George a one-dollar bill and added, “You should buy yourself a little treat.”  George was ecstatic! 
  1. Give Generously.  After Communion George and I stood in the back of the church because he could not sit still any longer.  When Mass ended, George watched as people deposited their neatly folded bills into the poor box.  Always inquisitive, we chatted about helping the poor.  George nodded but resumed exuberant dancing.  He even attempted a handstand. 

Your Hospitality Will Be Rewarded in Ways you Never Anticipated

After Mass, as we headed to the parking lot, George exclaimed, “I know what to do with my dollar!  I’m going to give it to the poor box!  Do you have another dollar?” he asked.  I nodded.  “Well, can we put another dollar in the candle box and say a prayer for someone?”  I agreed that we could. We returned to the church, where George carefully placed his dollar in the poor box.  I handed him a new dollar, which he deposited in the candle donation box, and he lit a candle.  George said he was going to pray for our Aunt Pat “and for all the people of this church.”  Of all the prayers, George chose the Fatima Prayer . . . George style:

George’s Fatima Prayer

Oh my Jesus

Forgive us our sins.

Save us from the fires of health.

Lead all souls to heaven,

Especially those in most need of my mercy.



Amen, George.  We never know how simple hospitality – showing Christ’s love to a stranger – by greetings, smiles, rewards, or alms – will encourage or instruct someone else.  Hospitality will be repaid in ways we will never know.  My family felt welcomed by the parish.  The man who gave George the dollar helped me consider how to be more generous.  The people placing money in the poor box taught George to share his reward and sparked in him a mindfulness of others.  Going full circle, the people George encountered were lifted in prayer to a God who especially asks for the children to come to Him.


About the author:

Elizabeth Tomlin, contributing writer to WINE, mother of three, and army wife, is General Counsel for the Archdiocese for the Military Services. She is a founding member of the Military Council of Catholic Women Worldwide Inc., the women’s ministry of the military Archdiocese. Elizabeth speaks broadly on Catholic topics, blogs at, and has a forthcoming book with the same title.

Showing 12 comments
  • Lynda MacFarland

    Oh, that George! Love his version of the Fatima prayer! Great story, Elizabeth. Much can be learned here!

    • Elizabeth Tomlin

      Thanks, Lynda. This George has memorized the saints in the Eucharostic prayers….”Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius.” He shocked me today at Mass as he recited them. Of course after Mass, we went for a walk and he chased a toad….

  • Gwen

    I agree with Lynda! Loved this beautiful image of one who will be our future in the Church of our Lord! Beautiful child, beautiful mother!!

    • Elizabeth Tomlin

      Thanks, Gwen. I love my George. He loooooves reading Bible stories every night.

  • Mary Albright

    Loved George’s version of the Fatima prayer. This may seem harsh, but at 5 years old, perhaps George needs to learn to floss in an appropriate environment at the appropriate time, etc. At Saturday Mass yesterday, there were 4 Teenage Siblings, approximately 13 to 16. They were “flossing”, joking with each other, and being totally disrespectful, while their Parents completely ignored their rude behavior, the Dad was even rubbing their back at times! Talk about a distraction while trying to Worship, and trying to ignore all of this behavior (even while in line to receive the Holy Eucharist)!! My Husband couldn’t understand why their Father didn’t reprimand them in any way, and at the very least take them all outside (as their behavior was at best on a 2-4 year old level!!) Many people around us were rightfully annoyed at this. There are a few brave Priests and souls left who will, in a loving way, speak out to teach that our Church is NOT a Social Club, where you go to be entertained, but a most Holy place reserved to Worship Christ & and receive His Precious Body & Blood, give something to Him, and not to GET something from Him. Our children desperately crave Adults they can look up to by our example to them; and the result is sadly what we’re seeing today by allowing our children to be disrespectful in Church (as well as other places where it’s inappropriate). As Dr. Ray (Catholic Psychologist on EWTN Radio & TV, with 10 children) says….if you don’t discipline children, especially when they’re 3-4 years old, you’ll have 3-4 year old behavior when they’re Tweens & Teens…and that’s exactly what we witnessed at Mass with the Teens behavior, and the Parents actually applauding them so to speak! Their Parents looked to be in their late 40’s! We have Grandchildren & Great-Grands (so very blessed,
    and they are the love of our lives), but our Adult Grandkids now thank their Parents for being the so-called “mean” Parents of their Generation, and teaching them appropriate & respectful behavior in all Social environments, and most especially in God’s House…His Holy Church. The Grands now tell us that they were brought up in a Generation of Relativism, materialism, narcissism, and entitlement. They do not want that for their kids, and are working to turn it back to some kind of “normalcy” and civility at the least. I totally agree that we should all be welcoming and kind at Church….ABSOLUTELY…(which we try our best to be by our real example), yet be respectful while others are trying to worship & pray before Mass, (some senior adults can also be very chatty as well believe me), and we have one brave Priest who addresses these things at times. Guess we all need to vent some of these pent-up feelings sometimes, so please don’t take this personally! After reading your comments about George “flossing” at Mass, and then actually witnessing Teens behaving the same distracting way, just triggered my frustration (and many others frustration ). Thank you for all you do and for listening to me complain❤. God is with all you young moms, and our prayers are with all Military families especially, as you struggle in this Culture of Death. My husband is also aVet, and we THANK your husband for serving. Mr. & Mrs. Albright

    • Elizabeth Tomlin

      Hi, Mary. Thank you for your husband’s service and yours as a spouse! I hear your frustration on teens flossing during church. Eek. My 13 and 17 year-olds are too interested in the Mass to consider something like that. I guess we have to pray for our teens -and everyone – to fall in love with Jesus – the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus! How else will they understand the Mass? As for George, the same day he flossed in the pew at age 5, he drew a picture on an offertory envelope. It was a boat on a sea and a stick figure that said “d com.” I asked pre-K George what it said, and he said it was Jesus telling the sea to “Be Calm.” He is getting there, Mass by Mass.

  • Rita Clark

    Whether we are or aren’t welcomed individually at the door, we are welcomed and called with magnificent love by Jesus Christ, body, blood, soul, and divinity to the greatest sacrifice the world has ever known. To those who seem rejected as they enter church I would suggest running to the tabernacle. He loves you with an everlasting love.

    • Elizabeth Tomlin

      Amen to this!

  • Carol

    I loved this, Elizabeth… Great article on Allow All the Children to Come to Me… even us who wink at them! 🙂

    • Elizabeth Tomlin

      Thank you, Carol! And thanks for winking at my fidgety kids…we Moms of littles, appreciate it!

  • Claire

    When the kids at Church get a little fussy and cry or crawl in the pews I always think we praise God in all we do… so let them praise!
    I love that the parents are bringing the little ones to church we need them to know God and Jesus at an early age so that the church grows as they do!

  • Kitty Cleveland

    What a precious–and challenging–story, Elizabeth! Thank you for reminding me to exercise hospitality everywhere, even in parishes not my own. God bless you and little George!

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