Less is not more, especially when it comes to Mass

This is a situation I am sure most of our readers will have experienced at some time or another:

By Mary DeTurris Poust

A couple of weeks ago, I experienced something at Mass that I’d never seen or heard before in my almost half-century of life as a Catholic. My family was sitting up in the second or third row, our usual spot in our very large suburban parish. Starting at the Eucharistic prayer and lasting through the Sign of Peace, a baby somewhere toward the back half of the church was screaming. I’m not talking fussing and cooing or even an occasional bout of serious crying. I’m talking full-out, top-of-his-lungs, screaming bloody murder. I’m not sure how the priest was even able to concentrate on the words he was saying. Well, actually, he obviously wasn’t able to concentrate, and that’s where things get interesting.

About halfway through the Eucharistic prayer, the priest simply stopped and stared in the direction of the screaming for what felt like an hour but was probably about 15 seconds. It was pretty clear to those of us in the front that he was being pushed to his limit. This priest (not the pastor) is a peaceful, kind, loving, compassionate guy, a really good priest. Anyway, the parents of this baby did not take the hint, so the screaming continued right along with the rest of the Eucharistic prayer and into the Our Father. At that point the priest grimaced and stood by silently as the rest of us continued to pray.

I leaned over to my husband and said, “I think father is going to lose it.” And that was just about when he did. As we approached the Sign of Peace, he stopped again and pleaded with them amid the screaming: “Will you please take the baby out of the church? Please?” Talk about an awkward moment. I couldn’t see what was going on behind me but I felt myself holding my breath as I waited to see what happened next. I guess the family finally got the message and headed out to the Gathering Space, or, more likely, out of the church. Perhaps for good.

I heard reports that there were many phone calls and emails to the parish in the days to come, but I also heard the same comment repeated to me by several people regarding the offending parents: “At least they were there.”

Well, okay, let’s start with that. I remember those days of crying babies. I’ve been there three different times, armed with board books about the saints and the occasional bag of Cheerios. We’ve stood in the back with a fussy infant. We’ve listened to the homily over the sound system while chasing a rambunctious toddler around the Gathering Space. We’ve questioned whether there was a point to our attending at all when we seemed to hear so little of the Mass. But we always, always stepped outside when the fussing became a distraction to the people around us.

Why, then, in recent years, have we taken this “at least they were there” attitude for everything from screaming babies, to inappropriate dress, to kids playing video games in the pews, to people walking up to Communion chewing gum? Do we honestly think that by expecting the bare minimum from people in terms of respect for the Mass and for others we’ll hold onto them for a little while longer? Is this the way to bring people to Jesus, by asking nothing of them, not even common courtesy?

Think about it: If you were in a nice restaurant with your family, enjoying an expensive dinner, chances are you’d be a bit miffed by a couple with a screaming baby at the next table. At least if they didn’t get up and try to rectify the situation. Or, if you were at a movie theater catching the latest animated feature with your kids and the folks behind you let their toddler scream through the showing, you probably wouldn’t think: Well, at least they were there. More likely, you’d wonder how anyone could be so self-absorbed that they would think it was acceptable to ruin an experience for everyone else simply because they didn’t feel like inconveniencing themselves.

I’m not saying it was necessarily the right thing to do, to call people out from the altar and ask them leave, but excusing people for all their bad behaviors at church has gotten us nowhere. All that does is breed even more disrespect for the Mass, for the Eucharist, for the parish community. If anything goes, soon nobody goes — because who wants to belong to something that doesn’t stand for anything or that doesn’t respect itself enough to demand things of its members. Sometimes things worth our time and effort come with rules and expectations. Mass should be one of them.

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16 Responses to Less is not more, especially when it comes to Mass

  1. Mimi says:

    “If anything goes, soon nobody goes — because who wants to belong to something that doesn’t stand for anything or that doesn’t respect itself enough to demand things of its members. Sometimes things worth our time and effort come with rules and expectations. Mass should be one of them.”

    Outstanding comment!

    Like

  2. Jean says:

    I find this very thoughtprovoking. Anyone who has children knows how difficult it can be at Mass with them when they are small but so many parents seem to think that THEIR children are the focus at Mass. Recently, during Mass at our parish church a small child walked onto the altar and walked around it, touching the altar cloth, stroking the priest’s vestments,climbing up and down the steps etc. His parents sat on the front row with proud smiles on their faces the whole time, while everyone else in the church was holding their collective breath terrified he would pull on the altar cloth and pull all the sacred vessels off the altar. This went on for most of Mass. I wondered just what the parents were thinking of but now I know: At least we are here!

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  3. Brian says:

    I’m not at all surprised. After all, any church that has a ‘Gathering Space’ is already lost…
    Several suburban parishes here in Chicago have such ‘Gathering Spaces’, and every one
    of them is a Modernist atrocity. Not only do the otherwise well-to-do parishioners assist at
    Mass dressed in shorts, t-shirts, sandals or whatever they happened to be wearing when
    they awoke that morning, they also send six or seven blue-hairs or beatniks to extraordinarily
    minister communion in a near-blasphemous manner. Toss in the obligatory altar girls – in a
    parish school community that must have hundreds of eligible boys to serve in this capacity –
    and the disturbing picture is complete.

    We missed our usual parish Mass this morning and had no other recourse than to assist at
    the 7PM at Mary Seat of Wisdom Church in suburban Park Ridge. The celebrant was a visiting
    Carmelite who used his homily to encourage us to support illegal aliens from Mexico… I got up
    and walked out, after telling the young fool out loud that he was as wrong as he could be…

    Most of you are better, more thoughtful and holier Catholics than I ever will be, but I simply can’t care any longer: if these churches were to close tomorrow, and all of their parishioners were to be
    scattered to the four ecumenical winds, I’d say ‘good riddance’. My first and foremost responsibility in my station in life is to care for the spiritual and material well-being of my family. I won’t countenance stupidity, error or blasphemy.

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  4. toadspittle says:

    .

    “I’m not saying it was necessarily the right thing to do, to call people out from the altar and ask them leave,” says the writer.
    It seems to Toad to have been the only thing to do.

    “The celebrant was a visiting Carmelite who used his homily to encourage us to support illegal aliens from Mexico… I got up and walked out, after telling the young fool out loud that he was as wrong as he could be…” says Brian.
    Toad thinks he will pass on that one.

    Like

  5. teresa says:

    After having read what Brian has written, I just can’t help but gasping in despair. For Lord’s sake why not a little more charity. I see a lot of bitterness, yes indeed. A lot of. It is different from a well deliberated critique, which can always be taken into account and can be useful and helpful if the observation is sincere. But your comment sounds to me just like a rant. A rant full of rage. If you care for the “spiritual well-being” of your family, it would be really advisable for you to calm down and be a more friendly man, yes, Faith, Hope and Love, and Love is the greatest of all. Without love no one can go into heaven, no one will be saved. Pax.

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  6. Brian says:

    Toadspittle and Teresa: I guess you’re right; I am full of rage at times. And, no, I didn’t proclaim the celebrant’s stupidity at the top of my lungs. I merely said, “You’re as wrong as you could be, fella”, loud enough that I could hear the words pass between my clenched lips. In charity, Teresa, I removed myself from the church forthwith. Rage at what comes out the mouths of some of our clergy is the only appropriate response.

    Let’s examine for the moment what transpired. The priest was recounting with gusto his recent visit to a Mexican border town, and his delight in being shown a clandestine holding area where people rest and are assisted materially before illegally crossing the U.S. border. The priest encouraged the congregation that it’s our duty to support these people, who are “marginalized and oppressed”, etc. ad nauseum. Nothing in this world could be more obviously flawed than the analysis the priest made. Perhaps you need to live in a place overwhelmed with illegal aliens, people who do not speak English and have no intention of ever assimilating into the larger society, people who have already broken one major law by entering your country illegally, and then proceed to overwhelm the social services the nanny state has provided for them. Hospitals are forced to close because they cannot handle the avalanche of uninsured patients, public schools are stretched to the breaking point, and the police and emergency services are likewise ill-equipped to contend with the domestic abuse, robbery, and rape that is exploding all over the United States. I wondered at the time whether this priest ever met anyone who had been seriously injured or killed by an illegal alien, an occurrence all too common today, particularly by drunken drivers. The list goes on…

    If I’m to be criticized for a lack of charity, there’s enough censure to go around. What about the charity the Mexican government should be showing to its own citizens? How much longer will the U.S. allow Mexico to export its poor and criminal element? Doesn’t the Mexican government have some obligation in this regard? I mean, after all, Mexico is only the 9th wealthiest country in the world… What about the unfairness to the American taxpayer, who has to foot the bills these illegals rack up? Our economy is bankrupt, and there’s no money left to waste on these people. Is it not immoral to expect me to pay for everything these illegals require via taxes, or perhaps with my own life?? We have enough ‘marginalized and oppressed’ people in our own country who are native-born American citizens… Why is it ‘charitable’ or the ‘right thing to do’ to oppress the African-American community further, the community suffering most from the importation of cheap labor from Central America? Why is it morally righteous to exploit these illegals, who have absolutely no safety net of benefits (see above)?

    No, I’m afraid enough is enough. It’s bad enough the leftists sell out our country to foreigners who come here to treat it like a toilet and abuse our laws/ways; I don’t need to hear this from an ordained priest who has every reason on earth to know better.

    I appreciate your concern, Teresa, but my love is for my family and my fellow citizens first. Our proper charity is for our own first, others second. We have far too many unemployed and struggling Americans who are properly our first concern. If nothing else, the priest sounded the wrong tone at the absolutely worst time. If I were too critical of him and uncharitable, I apologize.

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  7. teresa says:

    Brian, thank you for your detailed answer, I was only talking out of my impression and could have been judgemental, and I thank you for taking what I said in a charitable way and for having made this response.
    I can understand your irritation though I don’t necessarily share your political position. Immigration is a very controversial topic and often loaded with emotions and I keep myself out of this kind of debate. Immigration has become globally a problem, not only in the U.S. or Europe, but somewhere else too, where the life standard is getting better. I can understand that the citizens of a country don’t wish cheap labourers to take the jobs away and there are certainly a lot of social problems which mass immigration brings with itself. On the other hand, the immigrants are just equal human beings and not “bad”, they are seeking a better life and trying to escape the misery. I think the Holy See has released a document in regard of immigration but I don’t know the details, I think they try to give a human and balanced way to tackle this problem.

    To address your second point: to care for your family and citizen first, well, it sounds like common sense, but the Christian charity is radical, it extends also to strangers and even enemies. Of course as a citizen and family father you have the very right to protect all your own interest, but as we are at the same time Christians, we should also take heed of what the Lord teaches us.

    In regard of the priest, I think it was not very appropriate for him to politicise in a sermon. A sermon should in the first place provide us with guidances in regard of our life as Christians. If he tried to ask parishioners to help the poor in a Christian spirit of charity, I find it O.K. But if he misused the sermon to make advertisement for a certain policy he favours, I think he was wrong. Likewise, in my eyes, it is equally an abuse to use the sermon to make advertisement for the policy of the Tea Party or Action Francaise.

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  8. afmm says:

    Good comments, Brian.

    Equating the Tea Party with Action Francaise really won’t do, Teresa.

    AnneM

    Like

  9. toadspittle says:

    .

    Teresa is not ‘equating’ the Tea Party with Action Francaise, AnneM. If Toad reads it rightly, she might just as easily have used the Tory Party as an example of what not to advertise from the pulpit.
    Bit touchy about Tea, are we?

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  10. JabbaPapa says:

    Let’s examine for the moment what transpired. The priest was recounting with gusto his recent visit to a Mexican border town, and his delight in being shown a clandestine holding area where people rest and are assisted materially before illegally crossing the U.S. border. The priest encouraged the congregation that it’s our duty to support these people, who are “marginalized and oppressed”, etc. ad nauseum. Nothing in this world could be more obviously flawed than the analysis the priest made. Perhaps you need to live in a place overwhelmed with illegal aliens, people who do not speak English and have no intention of ever assimilating into the larger society, people who have already broken one major law by entering your country illegally, and then proceed to overwhelm the social services the nanny state has provided for them. Hospitals are forced to close because they cannot handle the avalanche of uninsured patients, public schools are stretched to the breaking point, and the police and emergency services are likewise ill-equipped to contend with the domestic abuse, robbery, and rape that is exploding all over the United States. I wondered at the time whether this priest ever met anyone who had been seriously injured or killed by an illegal alien, an occurrence all too common today, particularly by drunken drivers. The list goes on…

    I’m sorry, but I’m going to be agreeing with that Carmelite ; and not with yourself.

    The whole of Europe is bursting at the seams with illegal immigrants ; and it is most certainly a Christian, and Catholic, teaching that we should support them with our Charity, instead of rejecting them for your reasons, or whichever other reasons based on protecting our own selfish needs or desires.

    That Carmelite has given you a good Christian teaching on how we should treat others, and you have reacted to that teaching with anger ; both abandoning the Mass, and posting your anger online in this forum (and, presumably, expressing it towards your family and social circle).

    Charity can be defined as the expression of Christian love by caring for the flesh (Latin : caro (flesh) > caritas) of the needy — your suggestion is that such care can be denied for political reasons, so that you’re basically teaching that politics supersede spirituality. That is not only an uncatholic suggestion, but IMO it’s even an essentially anti-Christian one.

    Also, your ascribing of some sinful behaviour to an entire category of people, rather than to some individuals committing crimes, is both extremely uncharitable, and ethically naïve.

    I appreciate your concern, Teresa, but my love is for my family and my fellow citizens first. Our proper charity is for our own first, others second.

    I don’t want to be too judgemental here, but that is a misrepresentation of Charity — Charity is more properly directed to those around you more than those far away, including but certainly not limited to your own family and members of your community — but including anyone in your neighbourhood that you might consider to be an “alien”, or a “foreigner”, or more generally “other”.

    Jesus teaches us to love our enemies.

    This is not an easy teaching to follow, and we are all of us here liable to be sinful in such matters ; but we are certainly not called on to provide teachings that contradict those of Christ !!! 🙂

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  11. toadspittle says:

    .

    …and Toad will agree with Jabba and the Carmelite. The world turned upside down.

    Like

  12. Brian says:

    JabbaPapa replied:

    “I’m sorry, but I’m going to be agreeing with that Carmelite ; and not with yourself.

    The whole of Europe is bursting at the seams with illegal immigrants ; and it is most certainly a Christian, and Catholic, teaching that we should support them with our Charity, instead of rejecting them for your reasons, or whichever other reasons based on protecting our own selfish needs or desires.”

    Protecting our societies, our families, our institutions and ways of life – indeed, ourselves – is selfish??? If that is the case, my dear JabbaPapa, then you may as well order your coffin, for Europe is finished. Muddle-headed thinking, the likes of which you display in your response above, is precisely why the Western nations/peoples will become extinct.

    And they will go out with a whimper…

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  13. Brian says:

    It is inconsolably sad to realize the extent to which our collective ‘reasoning’ in the West has been compromised by brainwashed agit-prop aping as Christian solicitude. We now consider it a virtue to turn our countries over to barbarians, be they illiterate criminals from Central America here in the US, or bloodthirsty jihadists from Pakistan, Turkey or the Middle East in Europe. Both of these groups refuse to assimilate or assist us in maintaining our customs, laws and beliefs, and they actively cheer on our impending self-destruction, as we console ourselves that we’re merely following some warped bastardization of Christian ‘charity’…

    By simple definition, every illegal alien is a criminal. There is no compelling Christian mandate to participate in our own demise.

    What a fool I am; here I thought Holy Mother Church taught that suicide was one of the deadliest of sins…

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  14. JabbaPapa says:

    By simple definition, every illegal alien is a criminal.

    In which case I stand firmly, shoulder to shoulder, with criminals. Also with prostitutes, and usurers. And all manner of sinners, being a sinner myself ; as we all are.

    Give me the worst of your rage and your scorn, I care not a jot. What you are teaching is just Politics, not Christianity at all.

    Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”

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  15. kathleen says:

    One of the jobs my mother’s cousin (recently retired) used to do was assessing illegal immigrants’ petitions to seek assylum in the UK. These are a very mixed bunch indeed. There are genuine cases of honest people (many of them Christians), some who are persecuted for their beliefs or ideology in their own countries, who are asking to be allowed to work – and consequently contribute to the country – if allowed to remain here. Such immigrants are hardly going to cause a collective suicide of the inhabitants are they? On the contrary, many have a lot to offer, and most European countries rely on these foreign workers who often do jobs the residents don’t want to do!

    Then there are the typical good-for-nothings who try to slip into a country known for being ‘super-generous’ in its benefits system, so that they can claim maintenance to live without working and be nothing but a burden on the British taxpayer. They will lie and cheat to try to hoodwink the government assessors interviewing them to get their way. (Others manage somehow to get in illegally without even having been assessed!)

    Real criminals will also try to continue their evil lives among us, and we have seen, with the horrors of 9/11 and the London and Madrid bombings, how many have managed to do so.
    (N.B. Some of these terrorists were ‘home-grown’ though, descendants of previous immigrant generations!)

    So where does Christian charity and justice begin and end with all this? IMO we are under no obligation to accept one and all……. that would be crazy, and indeed a collective suicide in the long run. (I agree with Brian in that we have a duty to protect our families and society too.) Some must be sent back. Yet who to let in of those immigrants who are simply trying escape poverty and hopelessness in their own countries, and who should go back?? There is no easy answer.
    .

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  16. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Brian!

    You may accuse Jabba of various things, but you are the ONLY one here to charge him with “muddle headed thinking”.

    Recant.

    And say three Hail Marys.

    At least.

    Like

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