Hebrews 13:2 says “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
The theme of showing hospitality is a common one throughout Old and New Testament. When Abraham was visited by the three “men,” he immediately greeted them and offered them rest and food.
The greeters do their work OUTSIDE of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, so the liturgy is not compromised in any way.
The greeters that I have seen in Catholic churches do their work OUTSIDE of the nave, usually in the narthex (or whatever you call it), so again, there is no irreverence. Some greeters greet outside of the church entirely, but many Catholic churches are constructed in such a way that this is dangerous or impossible in bad weather.
Certainly some greeters are overly-effusive. But most greeters are merely friendly people who greet friends and strangers with a smile, and often a word or handshake.
This is a good thing. Another theme throughout the Bible is love for the brethren. (The verse immediately before the one I quoted above is “Let love for the brethern continue.”)
Those of you who are offended need to realize that there are a lot of strangers out there, people who are not Catholic and have no traditions of “silence” before attending “church.”
These visitors and strangers see friends chatting (because in most Catholic churches, friends chat OUTSIDE the nave before and after the Mass–and this is appropriate and not disrespectful to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament), and the strangers feel lonely and left-out.
It is a kind deed for someone to say “Hello” to them, and give them a smile or handshake of welcome so that they feel like they have a “friend” to talk to.
Greeters also serve the very practical purpose of giving directions and answering questions. I have yet to see a Catholic church that has bathrooms in the “lobby” (OTOH, almost all the Protestant churches I know have bathrooms in or near the lobby, and are easy to locate by people who have never been in the church). When a person is wearing a “Greeter” nametag, the stranger or visitor can safely ask this person where the facilities are, or if there is a phone, or if there is a Cry Room, or where they find the Parish Offices, etc.
Also, greeters can serve the function of educating strangers and visitors as to what is appropriate behavior before and after Mass. E.g., if the greeter greets a new person, and the new person begins talking loudly or telling jokes or carrying on an analsis of the game, the greeter can smile, lower their own voice, and say quietly, “I’ll meet you I]outside after Mass and we can talk more about this. We should probably keep it quiet here in the narthex because people are praying inside.”
I realize that in the past, Protestants stayed in their Protestants churches and Catholics stayed in the Catholic churches, and never ever associated with each other on Sundays.
But times have changed–thank God!
Many Protestants now visit Catholic churches, often just to “learn” or “be more informed.” That is a GOOD THING! We want converts, don’t we?
Yes, we want them converted to “true Catholicism,” not a Protestantized version of it.
But there is absolutely NOTHING in the dogma forbidding Catholics from being friendly and greeting visitors before or after Mass. There is nothing “Protestant” about being friendly and demonstrating hospitality.
This is not just an “option.” This is a Biblical admonition. The verse I posted above is just one verse telling Christians to welcome each other and be friendly.
IF the Catholic churches were “friendly,” there would be no need for greeters. For those of you who believe that greeters are unnecessary, I ask what YOU personally do to make strangers and visitors feel welcome and among friends in your parish. Nothing? Well, then don’t stop others from being friendly to strangers.
And the greeting of strangers in the narthex does NOT prevent Catholics who prefer silence from having silence once they are in the nave.
Catholics who expect all people to be silent all around them as they make their way into the nave are expecting too much from mere human beings. I absolutely agree that hilarity, brashness, loud guffaws of laughter, flirting, detailed analyses of sports and entertainment, etc. are not appropriate in the lobby in such close proximity to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
But quiet, friendly, pleasant greetings and smiles of welcome are very appropriate for Christians. We no longer live in a time when Protestants and non-Christians stay away from Mass. We live in a time when Protestants are seeking. Catholics need to help them to “find Jesus.” The good old days when everyone in the Catholic Church was in the know about “traditions” (small t) are gone. You are now living in the age when Protestants are coming home. Again, thank GOD! LET THEM COME IN and welcome them home.
One might argue that there are other venues where Catholics can demonstrate love to visitors and strangers. What are those venues? And how do you personally demonstrate love to the visitors and strangers who come to your parish?
Protestant and others don’t KNOW anyone in the parish, so they aren’t going to be coming to dinner at your house, or going to the game party at your friend’s house, or going out to breakfast with the gang after Mass.
Coffee and donuts? That might work. But it happens AFTER Mass. If no one has greeted the Protestant by the time Mass is over, many Protestants will leave, because they have reached the conclusion by then that the church is unfriendly. Protestants are not the most tolerant people, in case you haven’t noticed. You need to convince them that the coffee and donuts will be a pleasant experience, not just more of the same “silent treatment,” which, to them, means hostility and unfriendliness.
As an ex-Protestant, I can assure the OP that the friendly greeters played a major role in helping my husband and me to eventually convert to Catholicism. At the time we started attending Mass, we desperately needed a friendly face and a word of welcome. These dear people (most of them elderly) provided that friendly home feeling for us, and made us feel that we were among friends, not cultists or pagans.
OP, greeters should be trained to be sensitive to people and to bypass those who appear to desire anonymity and silence. For all others, there is no need for an overly-enthusiastic “used car salesperson” approach. Just a warm smile, a “Hello, welcome.” A handshake isn’t necessary unless someone new offers a hand.
Finally, to those who think greeters are intrusive, I would say that they need to remember that the Mass is not all about them.