Saturday, June 3, 2017

Reverential Behavior At Mass - A Counter Cultural Witness

This blog and others have decried abuses and lack of reverence at Masses, and we will continue to do so.  One unavoidable drawback that we face, however, is that we are reporting "after the fact" as it were.  What can the faithful Catholic do to discourage misbehavior and encourage real reverence at Mass?  The answer is, "more than one might think".  Much of what I'll suggest is simply what was once considered normal behavior at Mass two generations ago.  Bear in mind that these suggestions can - and I think, should - be implemented on a regular, ongoing basis.  Here goes:
  • Dress formally for Mass.  For men (of all ages), that means suit, tie, dress shirt and dress shoes.  For ladies (of all ages), dress or skirt that at least covers the knees, nothing "see-through" nor sleeveless, modest neckline, back covered and no midriff showing.  Toe-covered shoes and stockings, no bare legs nor sandals.
  • Aside from bottles for infants, no food, drink, nor gum.
  • No chatting in the nave of the church before or after Mass.  Even if you "whisper", the sounds carry and you do cause visual distraction.  Save the conversation for later.  If urgent, take it into the lobby.
  • While waiting for Mass to begin, look over the hymns to be sung during Mass, lest you wind up mouthing heresy and/or singing works of known dissidents.
  • If Father tries to institute a "meet and greet" session at the beginning of Mass, don't participate.  Save the howdy-doos for later, in the Church lobby.
  • If Father or Deacon insists on cracking jokes from the pulpit, do not laugh.  A somber glare might be in order.  If the homilist tries to make it an "interactive" homily by eliciting verbal answers from the congregation, remain silent.  Do not applaud.
  • During the Our Father, keep your hands folded in prayer.  The laity are NOT to assume the orans position, nor are they to hold hands.
  • During the "kiss of peace" (unless you choose to kneel through it), only exchange it with those immediately near you.  Do NOT stretch across rows, do NOT cross the aisles.  Once the Agnus Dei has started, immediately cease and turn your attention to the altar.  If someone near you tries to "exchange" with you after the Agnes Dei has started, ignore them and focus on the altar.
  • When receiving Holy Communion, always make some act of reverence before receiving the Host (bow or genuflect).  You have the canonical right to receive on the tongue and kneeling.
  • If you see a Host fall to the ground, watch the reaction of the Minister.  If he just picks It up and does nothing else, you should act.  The Particles left on the ground really are the Body and Blood of Our Lord.  It happened at our Church last week.  Not knowing what else to do, I got some paper towels to wipe the area immediately after the priests receded at Mass's end.  Don't think "it's no big deal".  It is.  (By the way - if anyone knows what a lay person can do in that situation, please advise).
  • Mass ends when the Dismissal is given and the congregation respond "thanks be to God".  Do not leave before the priests do.  However, after that, you are NOT obliged to wait for the entire recessional to be sung.  Some "worship aids" erroneously state that Mass ends after the singing of the complete recessional.  That is incorrect, according to the GIRM.
  • If Father insists on recognizing some altar server who is going to college or the cute children's choir, again, NO APPLAUSE.  Do not participate in any distraction from Jesus Christ, be that distraction ever so momentary.
  • You many wish to spend a few minutes in prayer after Mass (bearing in mind when the next Mass is scheduled to begin).  When you do leave, do so QUIETLY.  Any conversations can be postponed for the few seconds that it takes to walk to the lobby.
They don't sound like radical suggestions, do they?  In reality, they aren't. A few decades ago, these were considered normal, expected behaviors. However, in today's all-too-sloppy loosey-goosey culture, the above-stated behaviors will be taken as the "sign of contradiction" against carelessness and unthinking irreverence.

The above suggestions are certainly appropriate for the ordinary situation.  You might find, however, that Father decides upon a new procedure that is not authorized in the General Instructions for the Roman Missal (please get yourselves copies, available on Amazon).  He might foist liturgical dancing on you.  A female might try the homily.  During a joke from the pulpit, someone from the congregation might loudly offer up his own.  Heresy might come from the homilist.  We might see some horrid sacrilege happening to the Blessed Sacrament.  We will have to consider what to do, for gone are the days when we could just be silent and claim to "offer it up", taking the coward's way out.  We have to think long and hard about our own situations, for under this papacy we may see some glaring monstrosities rear their ugly heads in our parishes.

By the way, feel free to make additional suggestions in the comments section.

32 comments:

  1. ERRR... What about the occasional genuflection before the Real and Corporeal Presence of Jesus Christ in the tabernacle???? The genuflection has all but disappeared from the Novus Ordo Missea in this part of the world ( Australia) Even priests and Bishops and even the Holy Father decline to genuflect at anytime before, during or after the Mass. Can anyone offer an explanation for this?

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  2. "Thank you! You are quite correct" Is that it ?..... This one single omission reduces reverence and respect and does untold damage to the Church and the Faithful in respect to the "Loss of the Sense of the Sacred' So prevalent in the Church today. Nothing is sacred anymore. The cavalier manner Holy Communion is treated, the touching of the Sacred Species by unconsecrated hands are the two most diabolical omissions in the Church Today, Not youth unemployment and the loneliness of the Aged as the Holy Father would have us believe. Just where is the outrage these days???

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  3. Staying in the pew for a few minutes of silent prayer after Mass has spiritual and practical dimensions.

    In most parishes, there is hardly enough time to give thanks to God after Holy Communion before the priest begins the closing Prayer, especially when there is a Communion Hymn. In years past before the Novus Ordo, it was customary to recite 3 Hail Marys and the Prayer to Saint Michael at the end of every Low Mass. Why not do so as a private devotion?

    The practical dimension is very much apparent at my parish in Rockville. The chaos in the Parking Lot after Mass resembles that of a Demolition Derby, and it is prudent to spend 5 - 10 minutes in prayer so as to avoid an accident. I honestly believe that many of the Mass goers who walk out the door immediately after receiving Holy Communion do so because they want to beat the traffic. The situation after Mass is very similar to "rush hour" traffic exiting the parking lots of big companies after the work day is done.

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    1. I think what you're refering to, in the first paragraph, are the prayers after Low Mass prescribed by Pope Leo XIII. That private devotion is one that I have practiced for a while. Here is the link to the complete set that Pope Leo prescribed. http://www.dailycatholic.org/leonine.htm

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  4. Years ago, we were blessed with a wonderful Priest/Pastor who, when asked, what is appropriate Church attire, would answer, "If you have only two outfits of clothing to wear, wear the better one when you come to Church." We enjoyed telling the children when they were little, "Sunday! We're going to see the King! Best clothes, best attitude, best behavior!"

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  5. Go to a Traditional Latin Mass if available...problem solved.

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  6. I tried to get my parish to do this, and two parishioners went to the local Dean of the Clergy to complain. He then told me it's "normal" for folks to carry on in the church nowadays!

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    1. I take it you're a priest. Father, thank you for protecting the dignity of the Church. Please don't let up. Are there some laypeople whom you could enlist to help you?

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    2. There are too few to fight these Modernists. I like the idea of of going to a Traditional Latin Mass better, which in fact is what I have done! I can no longer stand the Novos Ordo mass. It's to Protestant for my liking. (p/s: I am a Deacon)

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  7. I am wondering why there is no mention of the what the disposition of a person's heart should be at Mass. Isn't this more important than wearing formal attire, worrying about "heresies" in the hymns, and glaring at the priest if he makes an attempt at humor? After all, didn't the Pharisees do all external things correctly, i.e. dressed appropriately and performed all the rituals, but Jesus called them hypocrites because of the condition of their hearts. It seems that a long list of "church rules", especially one that includes the advice to "glare at the priest" could lend itself to turning all of us into "minding others business" and judging them. This would create a depressing atmosphere, as we all worried about how we looked to others, instead of guarding our hearts, and showing joy as is evidenced in greeting our friends, and even in a moment or two of laughter.

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    1. Alex, your attempts to set up false dichotomies between "heart" and "external" is feeble and falls flat on its face. The disposition of heart is manifest by these "externals" as you so sneeringly call them. As for judging, we are most certainly supposed to evaluate behaviors. What I listed above are behaviors. If you are "greeting friends"and having "moments of laughter" in the nave, you are distracting others and are not focusing on Our Lord in His Tabernacle. I suspect my words have stung your conscience and that is the occasion of your complaint. Well and good. Please do some searching of your own "heart" and behave reverentially. By the way - outward behaviors can and do influence internal dispositions. Once upon a time, before we became so paranoid of being politically incorrect, we understood that.

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    2. Alex, you are right about the importance of the disposition of the heart being paramount, but often our disposition is reflected by what we wear and how we act. Remember the parable about the wedding feast? The man who came in without the wedding garment was thrown out into the darkness. At that time, hosts would provide the garments so there was no excuse to come into the banquet without proper attire. Many who come into the presence of the Lord of the universe would never consider going dressing so slovenly to go some other type of festivity. Don't you think that reflects their state of mind toward worship?

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    3. Alex and now Catherine err in thinking that "the heart" can be divorced from integral behaviors such as dress and other reverential behaviors.

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  8. your words haven't stung anything. Jesus is in our brothers and sister as well not just the tabernacle. actually i have pity for you. you are as blind as the pharisees who killed the real Jesus because they could not rocognize him since they were so focused on all the "Laws of Moses" that he broke.

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    1. In that tabernacle is His Real Presence, much more real than in others. The "laws" that you seem to deride are instituted by His Church, with His Authority. Thumb your nose at them and you have thumbed your nose at Jesus Himself.

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    2. according to your viewpoint, you would have stoned the woman caught in adultery because that was what the law of Moses required. But Jesus brought the 'spirit of the law'. What a vastly different response he had than those who wanted to follow the letter of the law.

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    3. Correct, D.C.

      As the catechism says:

      1373 "Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us," is present in many ways to his Church: in his word, in his Church's prayer, "where two or three are gathered in my name," in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned, in the sacraments of which he is the author, in the sacrifice of the Mass, and in the person of the minister. But "he is present . . . *most especially in the Eucharistic species*." (stars added)

      1374 The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is *unique*. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as "the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend." In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained." "This presence is called 'real' - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be 'real' too, but because *it is presence in the fullest sense*: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present." (stars added)

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    4. Alex, you are misreading the parable of the woman brought before Jesus. It says quite plainly that they brought her there to test Jesus. Their problem lay not in following the letter of the law but in their refusal to acknowledge and worship Him Who is the Supreme Lawgiver. Read the suggestions again. All of them have to do with giving to Jesus our sole attention and reverence, and making it easier for our fellow Catholics to do the same. You seem to balk at that. Do you truly believe in the Real Presence?

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    5. Yes, they tested him to see if he would follow the Law which is what you are doing judging everyone who doesn't meet your pontifications as not be reverent enough. The Church made laws and it can change them they didn't come down from Mt. Sinai or even heaven.

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    6. There's a difference between changing laws versus disregarding them. However, this post wasn't about Church law per se, but the reverence due to the Second Person of the Trinity and His Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament. That seems to irk you.

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    7. IN the Gospel of Luke, chapter 6 v 44, Jesus speaks about the heart when he says: "The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; I hope that this verse will help to illustrate the point of my original response asking why the heart is not mentioned in the list of what is appropriate at Mass. The disposition of the heart toward Jesus, the Eucharist, and the Mass is of primary importance. This is what is visible to God and God alone. Whether a person wears a dress, suit coat or sandals and slacks has nothing to do with the disposition of their heart or belief in the real presence. It is also debatable whether giving the priest a hard glare, if he makes a joke is an indication a firm belief in the real presence. And yes, I do very firmly believe in the real presence of Jesus. And no, I am not advocating being noisy, chewing gum or wearing beach clothes to church. I am simply saying that the disposition of the heart is most important, and the outward appearance does not always show what is visible to God alone. Therefore we are not entitled to judge. Although one may not like how others act, give the sign of peace, and dress, that does not mean that one can look at a person and see the disposition of their heart. And if one is so bothered by everyone else's behavior and dress, then how can one be devoting their whole attention to Jesus. Some may have a preference for a more relaxed atmosphere, with exuberant greetings, louder music, more casual dress, and a few moments of lightness in a sermon. Some are better able to focus on the Mass and Jesus in that setting. Some do not wish to return to the old ways, where the Latin Mass was celebrated, but not understood, the Scriptures read in Latin, and the tone was somber; in the "good old days" (which weren't that good) when one had to worry obsessively about how they acted and looked to others. It seems that a holy and appropriate (and much more difficult) response when others seem irreverent or even when the priest (or bishop, or pope) does not speak or act as we wish would be to lift that person up in prayer. It is not always our place to point out real or perceived flaws, criticize, or even to make a judgement. And to Geoff's comment about saying "we shouldn't judge" means we want to stifle a debate, my response to that is to read Matt ch 7, v 1-5 and the accompanying footnote which begins:* “Stop judging,* that you may not be judged.
      For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you."

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    8. The disposition of the heart is implied in one's outward conduct - and yes, dress is conduct. You seem to set up this false dichotomy between "the heart" and outward reverential conduct. In reality, you really don't have one without the other. In the "good old days" as you call them, when one "worried obsessively" as you say, we had packed churches, more solid family life and more solid faith among Catholics. The "relaxed" attitudes in Church have caused folks to think it's no big deal if they don't show at all. As for the "stop judging" that is too often taken out of context, I also remember hearing that "you shall know them by their fruits". I also recall the wedding feast parable when one of the guests was ejected by the king for not being properly attired.

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    9. Wow! Alex, you accuse Janet of judging, but your comments are filled with name-calling and condescending judgments. All this post did was encourage reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. I don't agree with all of Janet's standards. I think sandals for women (not flip-flops) and collared shirts for men during the summer are appropriate attire. But her overall message is on target. I try to dress up a little even for daily Mass. I don't wear my gardening clothes even if I'm going home to garden. Jesus deserves our best.

      And I think we can disagree without accusing people of being pharisees.

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    10. At weekday Masses one may have no choice but to wear work-mandated attire. I'm speaking more of the Sunday Mass, one of the most important (if not THE most important) events of our week. ALEX, Holy Mass is not a matter of "personal preferences" but of giving to God our sole attention.

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    11. But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 1 samuel 16:7
      You are judging everybody by their outward attire and saying they don't love God as much as those who are 'dressed up'. the 'dressed up' people can be full of self-rightness and sin on the inside but 'look' and act pious. you should spend your time at Mass praying instead looking around at everyone and judging that they must not love God like you do in your dress and pumps. Jesus condemned this thinking over and over.

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    12. Dress is not innate appearance as is height or facial structure. Dress is behavior. One makes a conscious decision regarding their attire. It is reflective of a person's values, attitudes, priorities. You're obfuscating the difference between innate characteristic and voluntary behavior. Dress is just as much an indicator of character as is courtesy in speech.

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  9. I see where you have deleted my reference to the comparison between the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Novus Ordo Missea. May I suggest that it is this very reluctance to tackle a problem because somebody' sensitivities maybe upset, is at the heart of a very mediocre '(c)urch that exists today
    I asked earlier " Where is the outrage?" I was right there is none.
    I dont agree with Alex. To often the 'we shouldn't judge' mantra is simply thrown up into the face of the one that wishes to make a difference,simply to stifle debate. (a good response from you by the way)but at least he seems to have some fire in his belly...It reminds me of the words of scripture, "The Children of this world are wiser than the Children of the Next"

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    1. I put up everything of yours that appeared in my combox. Perhaps you didn't save it properly?

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    2. Well you are probably right. I am still trying to master this machine...R-DC-C You are so right, the presence of Our Lord in the Blessed sacrament is His Real and Corporeal Presence, That is he is present in His Body,Blood, soul and Divinity. It really is a mistake to compare His presence in Our Brothers and Sisters with that presence in the Tabernacle> I have often hears Priests say the it is not necessary that Christ be present after the Consecration (and in the tabernacle) because He is present when ever two of more are gathered in His name or He is present in our B&Sisters. Still I like the fire in his belly at least he seems to cares about the state of things in the current day Church, just a little ill informed or badly catechized.
      Thank you for your patience and your courtesy...

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  10. PS..... Please tell me where I have violated your criteria, that you would delete my earlier comment. I have no wish to be disrespectful or discourteous nor promote dissent from the Magisterium. Speaking forcefully and with zeal in defense of the Bride of Christ should not be censored.

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