I read George Weigel’s commentary “Rediscover sounds of silence in church” (Feb. 12) which clearly states “churches should be different” than those places that occupy our daily life. He uses the phrase, “to cross a portal into a different kind of space.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church 1378 says regarding “Worship of the Eucharist”: “In the liturgy of the Mass we express our faith in the real presence of Christ ... by, among other things, genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord.” In 1384 it says: “The Lord addresses an invitation to us...: ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.’” In 1385 it states: “To respond to this invitation we must prepare ourselves for so great and so holy a moment.” An examination of conscience is suggested.
In the Catechism 1154 states: “The Liturgy of the Word is an integral part of sacramental celebrations. To nourish the faith of believers, the signs which accompany the Word of God should be emphasized: ... its audible and intelligible reading, the minister’s homily which extends its proclamation and the responses of the assembly....”
I believe those who are insulted by Weigel’s tone and implications are missing the whole point. No one suggests children who are behaved, accept mild discipline and correction when administered by a parent, and demonstrate respect for others are not welcomed. Those who have gathered as a community to worship, pray, and who recognize the sacred presence of Our Lord and who may find direction or comfort or hope from the Revealed Word (if they can hear it) ask only that parents of children respect the need for as few distractions as possible. Bring your children but exercise the parental responsibility to teach your children self control. Children who aren’t mature enough to be respectful of their parents’ admonition to behave are not ready for the Liturgy of the Word or the Liturgy of the Eucharist. A cry room is there for a reason. Removing a disruptive child from church is the parent’s duty. It is not the congregation’s responsibility to be tolerant of poor behavior. They’ve come to church with more urgent issues in mind, perhaps unemployment, sickness, relational concerns with family or neighbors.
Would you allow your children to be disruptive in a movie theater? Isn’t Mass in a sacred place worthy of more from parents than the minimum given in secular venues? Who is being rude and self-absorbed in such circumstances? People who are worshipping or parents who ignore their neighbors’ need for silence and decorum in church?
As for silence after Mass in the church, there are many worshippers who commune with the real presence of Christ. If you must talk, hold off until out of the church perhaps in the vestibule or the parking lot, or another site. The church is a sacred space. It is, as Mr Weigel says in his column, a place where the extraordinary lies just on the far side of the ordinary.
Mr. Weigel simply reminds us that the Mass is not and never has been a social event where we focus upon ourselves, no matter how well-intentioned our motives are toward one another. Many Catholics — perhaps due to poor catechesis — have forgotten what the Mass truly is; it is our encounter with the supernatural.
The Mass is the re-presentation of the Holy Sacrifice of Calvary, where the faithful are mystically taken to the foot of the cross to stand with our Blessed Mother and St. John as Jesus offers himself as the innocent victim for mankind’s fall in the crucifixion. Such a divine sacrifice obviously demands our reverential, worshipful, attentive adoration, as we stand in God’s presence as he suffers out of his fathomless love for all of us. It would seem thoughtless — at best — to be distracted at such a time for any reason, even if it be out of compassion for and fellowship with our brethren in attendance. Mr. Weigel himself encourages such compassionate acts of mercy and solidarity; however, these should be in their proper place, outside of the sanctuary, either in the “gathering space”/vestibule or outside of the church entrance, so that our behavior in the sanctuary reflects our understanding of the miraculous event we are about to experience and our necessary spiritual preparation for it. Also, one must always remember that this miracle is experienced in its entirety and not in parts; if one is distracted by, and needs to attend to, a crying, fractious child, even to the point of leaving the sanctuary, can one honestly feel that one has truly fulfilled one’s obligation to attend Mass? Our total focus needs to be on worshipping the Lord in thanksgiving (Eucharist) of all he has done and continues to do for us, so that we may all benefit from the immensity of grace poured out upon us in the Mass.
Even if well-meaning, we lessen the importance of the Mass itself by putting ourselves or our children or our fellow congregants on an equal or superior level to the Mass. Such behavior can only be attributed to the sorry state of our disregard of what God has actually done for each of us by giving us the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Seems there is cause for courtesy and understanding. Why did churches go the expense of crying rooms?
A priest delivers a homily after much thought and preparation. It is not usually the result of extemporaneous opinion. Today, a great number of priests move away from the lectern and written notes to deliver from memory and heart.
For those who have experience in public speaking there is no need to justify the gift of an attentive audience. A Philadelphia area magazine once referred to me as a bit loquacious and unpolished. Walla! A course in public speaking. If a youngster is continually interruptive and there is space in a crying room, consideration and respect for others might be prudent. Professional entertainers call a noisy person a heckler.
The church would be remiss not to consider each and everyone important. Babies and the young people are the future of the church, like society. A good religious background helps all. The age of understanding and discernment seems a prudent consideration.
Richard R. La MarraClementon
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