Thursday, March 1, 2012


Why do we talk in church?
I find it interesting that when we have an event such as a funeral or wedding and many Protestants are present, they are often much quieter than Catholics. I have a theory on this though not necessarily a solution. If you have one I would be glad to hear it. (Remember, this is my theory, not a scientific study.)

At another assignment I had a pastor who used to go out among the people before Mass and encourage them to talk to each other. “Everyone here is from someplace else,” he explained to me, “they have to get to know each other if they are going to be a community.” I understand his point.

The parish in which I grew up was a nationality parish. It seemed everyone knew everyone and one half was related to the other half. They belonged to the same ethnic club, lived in the same neighborhood, went to the theater owned and operated by the community, went to the same bars, same bowling alley, and worked in similar jobs. When they went to church it was time to pray. The church was quiet before Mass. Someone trying to pray did not have to ward off evil thoughts while being constantly distracted by, “Pssst mumble ssspss NEPHEW who psss mumble muble spspps THREE TIMES and mumble sppst with his girlfriend. NO! YES! Hand to God.” All that was said at the hall the night before.

Church is not ideally envisioned the way we experience it now. Can you imagine living in a small European village and everybody coming out of their homes about the same time and talking as they walked to church (Mom described this experience growing up in Barberton) and then arriving at church and going in and having no need (really) to chat. There would be more time later, now we are quiet and praying.
How is it today in most of the United States? We drive to Mass, probably last minute, and unless we are actively involved or have kids in the school this might be the only time we see many of the people we encounter there. It feels almost rude not to say something so we do and sometimes that elicits a couple of other comments. This takes place whether we are on time or not. There is little transition time between a frustrating drive and full and active participation in the Mass. Then afterwards (hopefully) we squeeze out and head for our cars and head back to our home. No kidding we talk before and after Mass. When else would we do it?

However, the rubrics for the Mass call for silence before Mass not only in the main body of the church but in all of the ancillary rooms as well. This makes sense if you consider the brouhaha trying to get everybody ready to go (especially the kid that doesn’t wanna) getting them in the car, hitting every red light, getting behind the slowest moving vehicle in the universe, not finding a parking place anywhere close to the church, walking in the rain, stepping in a puddle, having your youngest jump in a puddle on purpose, and then, adding insult to injury, entering into church (late) and finding some interloper occupying your pew! From there you are to enter into joyful song and praise of the Lord? You might be half way through the Gospel before you are calmed down enough to really hear anything (that is, if the phrase, “I have to go to the bathroom” hasn’t popped up yet.)
The silence is a cushion and a transition. It is invaluable. It is like fasting and praying – precisely because it IS fasting (from talking) and praying. So how do we get people to engage in it and not “pssst sotoe mumble he to HER!”

Donut Sunday. Works somewhat. I really have no idea.  At the Vatican they had guards walking around saying, "Silencio!"  Maybe give kids squirt guns to shoot any adult caught talking. That would work and be fun for the kids. “PLEASE! Can we go to Mass today? I have silence duty!” I would enjoy your thoughts.


Jennifer Fitz said...

You hit the nail on the head. Seems rude not to say hello.

I think the only to make the change to silence is to:

a)Make sure the architecture works -- is there another place to visit that is accessible, convenient, and works in all seasons?

b)Provide leadership from the top. Forever.

--> If the pastor doesn't care (or acts like it), there's nothing anyone else can do.

The water guns would rock, but I think a dunking station on the lawn for punishing offenders after mass would better maintain reverence during.

Anonymous said...

don't get up tight about , , , no angry stares . . . . no fingers to the lips . . . . if a baby is bellering in your ears, ask mama to take it to the cry room

Karen said...

In our parish it seems like it's the little old ladies who are usually the worst offenders. I personally cringe when people who sit near me try to strike up a conversation with me or my kids before or worse, during Mass. Last week we had a woman in front of us who arrived late and then turned around roughly every three minutes to talk to my six year old, my baby or to me (she even did this during the consecration what amazed both me and my husband).

melody said...

I freely admit that I struggle in this area. I love my faith family but we don't run in the same circles during the week. Everyone is busy and engaged in a full life. Our school community, sports community, work, neighborhood and family communities, are not necessarily the ones who share our love of Christ and worship with us. We walk through the church doors and see our family in Christ... and it is a happy home!

So, I struggle. Particularly because, as Jennifer commented, the architecture of my parish church is difficult. Four separate exits which are equally used. No vestibule area that isn't difficult to gather in or exposed to the elements. I see a friend in Christ across the church who I haven't seen in weeks... and I have to run across the church to catch her before she ask her about herself and her family and reach out and be blessed in turn by her love.

I am torn between wanting my children to know that important and appropriate silence... and wanting them to know their faith family. Sometimes, the right thing isn't always clear to me. Every week I determine to promote silence in my family. And every week I find myself making concessions since this really is the only place that we will see most of our very large parish family.

It would be a great deal easier if parish's were like they used to be... where neighborhoods worshipped together regularly. I'll try harder this week, Father... thanks for the reminder!

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that at the extraordinary form of the Mass, there is silence (except for the Rosary being prayed) before AND after, at least in the nave. Are Latin Mass goers just more serious about the Mass? I wish it was like that at the orher Masses.

Anonymous said...

At my parish, the rosary is prayed out loud prior to Mass, ending about 5 minutes or so before Mass starts. This inhibits social chit chat and establishes a prayful mood. The rosary is lead by a parishioner (sitting in their usual pew) per a schedule of rotating volunteers. I recommend starting a tradition of praying the Rosary before Mass.

Also, it's just unnecessary for people to chat before Mass. After Mass is much more appropriate and works just as well. The faithful just need to be educated, but admittedly it will be an uphill battle to change habits and change the culture to one of pre-Mass reverence. But praying the rosary before Mass is a good way to start, IMO.

Anonymous said...

Weekday Masses in my parish are always preceeded by what I refer to as the endless rosary. The group keeps adding prayers to the end, making the rosary end about a minute or two before Mass starts (there have been times when the priest had to delay Mass because the group kept praying). For many of us who need silence before Mass, having the rosary prayed that close to the beginning of Mass does NOT help. It's wonderful that they pray the rosary, but why can't they give us some silence before Mass?

It just goes to show that there is no solution that will make everyone happy. Sorry father.

Deo Gratias said...

At my suburban parish, I have called it a typical Protestant church for years, due to the LOUD chatter before Mass and especially after Mass. What adds insult to injury is the fact that large groups of choir members and nearby pew-dwellers gather directly in front of the tabernacle to laugh, talk, etc. right after Mass. To add further insult to injury, the parish has the traditional coffee and donuts in the church hall directly after Masses. Why don't people go there and talk? If you wanted to make any kind of thanksgiving after Mass, you can't do it in our church. We have a congregation that is irreverent, disrespectful, and forgetful that the Blessed Sacrament is reserved there. I am saddened by so many Catholics who should know better, but don't.

Anonymous said...

Why not just a few sentences each week, from the pulpit, to remind us of or explain the things we should have already known and may have forgotten.
We all listened and learned while the new translation of the Mass was explained each week.
Many people would rather just hear what should be said (or not said) and done then to beat around the bush and hope no one's feelings are bruised.

lgreen515 said...

What if you put holy water in the squirt guns? Then you could bless someone while telling them to be quiet.

lgreen515 said...

Also, if people won't even be quiet at the Vatican, then maybe silence before Mass is a lost cause.

Trevor said...

I am torn on this issue as well. I love seeing people that I don't see for weeks sometimes and talking with them. I think, "What a great place to share news and good tidings!" Even discussing the readings, gospel, and/or homily right while they're fresh is nice to do. On the other hand I do like to have quiet time to myself in order to pray and reflect. I think I solve this by attending Church in other ways in addition to Mass such as Adoration, Benediction, Rosary, Stations of the Cross or just by stopping in when nothing else is going on there, lighting a candle and just praying. Not sure how to solve the dilemma of chatter as a whole. Tough one. One way to look at it is that it is a good problem to have. People could either stop attending mass, or run out and not socialize at all. I think anytime there are people in the Church, that's a good thing. I'm not opposed to the squirt gun idea either.