Why don’t we take a wild romp through the GIRM. In geeky Church circles this is pronounced like “germ.” But you don’t get cooties or anything like that from it. It is an acronym for the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. In other words, it is the instructions manual for having Mass.
Let’s start with paragraph 45 shall we? That is where things start to become a little more interesting. Well, interesting for people who find these things at least vaguely interesting.
SILENCIO! One time I was able to visit the Sistine Chapel. There were people there whose sole job seemed to be going around and shushing people. This was a place to contemplate God through the art or in some other way pray, not lean over to your pal and say, “Look Abner, that dar one looks like your cousin Luigi. How’s he doin’ anyway? I haven’t seen him since Shep was a pup.”
Likewise, our churches are more than halls at which prayers services take place. They are blessed (and consecrated) places set aside for the worship of God and so activities that we do in them are somewhat limited. So there is something different there than the sanctuary of the non-Catholic church where, when I was growing up, we held our Cub Scout meetings.
This is particularly true around the time in which the Mass is to be celebrated. It is not an absolute moratorium, but we are asked to be quiet before Mass. “It is a praiseworthy practice for silence to be observed in the Church, in the sacristy, in the vesting room, and in adjacent areas, so that all may dispose themselves to carry out the sacred celebration in a devout and fitting manner.”
Think about it: You pried the kids away from their computers, got your spouse moving, put up with the question, “Do we have to?” 50 times, ran over a toy in the driveway, remembered that you were supposed pick up the parish envelopes that are now sitting in the dresser, got stuck behind the slowest driver ever, are late so you have to park in the north 40, and your youngest dirtied his diaper and the oldest just jumped into a mud puddle. You don’t jump right into, “Our opening hymn will be . . .” You aren’t even really there yet. Silence! “Be still and know that I am God.”
Of course getting people to cooperate with this is another thing. Especially if you have a parish in northeast Ohio without a gathering space. Add to the mix two people who haven’t seen each other for a week and silence is the LAST thing on their minds.
So how does a parish accommodate a happy medium? It’s a little like the fallacy of having a smoking section in a dinette or a toddler urinating section in the local pool. The two worlds just don’t really fit together.
Isn’t it amazing that we have survived together for 2000 years?