One of the more frequent concerns expressed by many Catholics is level of talking and other noise in churches in recent decades. Many of us who are a bit older remember a time when to walk even into a rather full Church was to walk into a realm of great silence. People just didn’t talk in church. One would enter, find their pew, genuflect, and then kneel for private prayer before Mass began. When Mass concluded, one might kneel for a brief while for prayer, but then leave quietly, not talking until in the vestibule or outside the church. Even most masses were all but whispered by the priest. I even remember as a child that in the examination of conscience we used, “talking in church” was listed among the sins to be confessed.
Obviously, in most parishes, the days of strict silence are all but gone. The change is not just in churches, but to some extent is in the wider culture as well. I remember also as a child, rather strict ushers going up and down the aisles of movie houses enforcing silence. When one entered the courtroom, one was expected to maintain silence. And even in more formal concert settings, like at the Kennedy Center, one would often see signs as you entered the concert hall: “Silence.”
Most of this is gone now both in the Church, and in our modern culture, so dominated by informality at almost every level. Americans are almost never formal, almost never dress-up, nor do we observe most other formalities we used to, like silence. So our loud churches, bespeak both cultural and ecclesial trends.
Legitimately, many Catholics ask if there are to be no limits. As sound levels after Mass reach “cafeteria- like” proportions, many ask their pastors to please make announcements, and somehow enforce silence before and after mass.
Generally, most requests go unheeded, leading many Catholics to bemoan the lack of clerical leadership or the enforcement of any discipline within the Church. Such complaints are not wholly out of line, and these are in fact the days when clerical leadership is often lacking in many areas.
However, the lack of enforced silence may not be in fact simply a lack of leadership. Many pastors seek to balance competing and legitimate goods when it comes to the matter of silence in churches. Perhaps it is good to review a few of the competing issues, all good in themselves, that seem to hang in the balance when it comes to this question. Let’s look at them one by one.
1. Koinonia – In Acts 2:42 are described the four pillars of the Catholic life: They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. And hence we note a very Catholic vision of the life of the early Christians. There is devotion (not a mere dabbling) in the Apostolic teaching which includes both Scripture and Tradition. There is the “breaking of the bread” i.e. the Eucharist and, by extension, the whole of the sacramental life. There is prayer, both private and public, devotional and liturgical. Finally there is “fellowship.” The Greek word here is κοινωνίᾳ (koinonia), a word that is a noun referring literally to “what is shared in.” By extension it means: contributory help, participation, communion, or spiritual fellowship.
While the expression and experience of koinonia has varied over the centuries, it remains one of the four pillars of the Christian life as denoted in Acts 2:42. And while it is true, as we have commented here before, that there are many excessive flourishes justified in the the name of “community,” the solution to the modern problem of a self enclosed, self-referential, and anthropocentric expression of “community” is not to banish the concept, but to balance it.
And while strict silence in churches may have its appeal, there are legitimate concerns raised by enforcing it today as we shall see, since it may be in tension with legitimate concerns for the communal nature of Sunday Mass. Hence, point two.
2. The church as a place of prayer. Other things being equal, one of the first things one associates the church building with is prayer! And thus, one rightly expects the church building to be a place that in fact does encourage and foster prayer.
However, there are different types of prayer. There is public, liturgical prayer, and there is private devotional prayer.
As a general rule, especially on Sunday and other designated Mass times, the parish church is not a private chapel, but rather, is first and foremost a place of public prayer where the faithful gather as a group. The church is usually large, to accommodate numerous people, and it has pews or benches (not usually personal chairs and kneelers), where people, sitting in groups, with their clergy orient 😉 themselves in such a way as to foster the communal worship of God.
And while there are often separate shrines and chapel areas, the main purpose of the church is together a large number of people together, so that they may worship and praise God together. Sunday morning, especially, is it time for communal, rather than private prayer. And though private devotional prayer is essential and required for every Catholic, that is not the main focus of Sunday morning or of the main nave of the church.
To be avoided is an attitude which might say something like, “I go to church on Sunday to pray to God, not to be bothered by other people.” No, Sunday morning is a day of communal prayer to God. Even in relatively quiet parishes, there are going to be crying babies, the sound of shuffling feet, coughs and sneezes, and any number of things.
One of the concerns therefore the pastors face in fielding request to enforce stricter silence is that the concept of community as we saw in point one, and communal prayer is an important value to inculcate and balance with which the concept of strict silence. Frankly koinonia, is in some tension with strict silence among the faithful. People who are together tend to talk, at least at certain moments, such as greeting one another.
Keeping the church with an atmosphere conducive to private prayer, while a good value, is not the first and most essential focus of Sunday morning in the Catholic Parish. Rather, it is to provide an atmosphere conducive to the gathering of God’s people, so that they may together turn their worship and praise to Him. This will necessarily involve noise, setting up, some announcements, directions, the singing of hymns and prayers etc.
3. The presence of the Most Blessed Sacrament – It is a frequently given reason that the presence of the Lord in the Tabernacle should command a silent reverence from us. And historically this response was widespread.
However, some also argue that Jesus enjoyed company, and attended many parties, sometimes with a rather rough and unrefined crowd. And hence, we can also exhibit some interaction in church and that this would not necessarily displease him.
There is a humorous story told to me once on retreat wherein:
A young Italian couple went to their parish priest and said that they were poor and could not afford to rent a hall. Might they use the parish courtyard for a brief reception after the wedding? The Pastor graciously agreed.
But on the day of the wedding heavy rains made the use of the courtyard impossible. So the request was made if perchance they could use the back of the church, just for a “brief” reception. They promised to keep the noise down and only drink “a little” wine. The pastor reluctantly agreed.
But, as is often the case, the wine flowed in abundance and the volume increased. The wine flowed some more, and the volume went up some more!
The pastor was now fuming in the sacristy and about to go and thrown them out went his neighboring priest and friend came by. He inquired as to the anger of the pastor who replied, “Listen to all the noise they are making, and in the house of God, Don Camillo! And they are drinking much wine!” “Ah, but Father, they are a poor couple and it is raining. They had to use your church. Besides, Jesus went to loud weddings and made wine in abundance. Surely he understands!”
The pastor responded, “I know that! You don’t need to quote the bible to me! I know Jesus went to loud weddings and I know they drank wine! You don’t need to tell me all that! But there, they did not have the Blessed Sacrament present!“
🙂 Lots of Christological layers going on in that parable!
And though we ought to avoid behaving in the Church of God in ways that take no notice of the Lord’s presence in the tabernacle, it does not follow that Jesus is offended that the members of his body enjoy the company of one another.
Here again, balance is required between koinoina and devotional prayer that recognizes the presence of the Lord in the Tabernacle in a posture of silent adoration.
4. The nature of human dynamics. When it comes to the level of noise, it is a common experience that noise levels gradually increase, in large human gatherings. As background noise begins to increase, people talk louder in order to be heard. This further increases the overall noise level, and the volume continues to go up and up.
Some years ago in elementary school I remember that the teachers would sometimes put the lights out in the lunch room to call us to silence. We would then asked to be more quiet, and the volume levels the “reset” to a lower level. But gradually, for the reasons stated, they began to go back up again. Off the lights would go again. The rebukes from the teachers were issued, “Talk more quietly!” And things quieted down, but them went back up, the cycle repeated.
Alas, it seems to be the human condition. And, the acoustics of many churches don’t help. Even subdued talking in the back, as ushers greet and instruct the faithful, echoes and create a lot of background volume, causing other people to talk louder etc.
Hence without very strict rules, forbidding all talking, volume levels are going to tend to increase when some modest conversation is allowed. Perhaps in such a settings, the best a pastor can do is to give gentle reminders to the people to speak quieter and less. But even with momentary moderation in the volume of noise in churches, the volume will go up over time for the reasons stated.
5. General cultural shifts and expectations. If, the only real solution is the strict enforcement of silence, this sort of solution tends to run afoul of cultural expectations, when it comes to parish life today. Like it or not, there is an expectation that parish communities should be places where people are welcomed, and where there is a “warm, friendly and courteous” atmosphere.
We’ve already discussed that there are cultural shifts in America involved here. And while many of us who are older may remember a time when things were more disciplined or orderly, from our perspective, those days are now largely gone.
Most pastors do not want their parish church to be identified as a place where people are harshly rebuked, and warned to avoid any conversation or human interaction that might make noise. And while some might praise a certain parish church for its quiet reverence, most pastors are aware that the current culture tends to favor a more casual, open, “warm and friendly” setting.
And while some who read this may lament this fact, it is hard to deny that this is the kind of culture we largely have today.
However, it seems very legitimate to suggest that things are currently out of balance in this regard. But to ask one pastor, or parish to take on the whole culture in this regard may not always be realistic, and pastors do legitimately struggle how to find ways to keep the noise levels lower, without offending against notions of community today.
5. The role of certain specific cultural settings. Many of us, who come from a Northern European cultural stock, often identify silence with reverence, and reverence with silence. For us, it is a no-brainer.
But for people from many other cultures, the identification of silence with reverence is not so obvious. In the African-American community, (to include also Africans of Caribbean and Continental origin), warmth and hospitality are very important and intertwine with reverence. Lively praise and worship are also considered a high form of reverence.
The idea of sitting silently in the church, with a rather serious look on one’s face, seems somewhat irreverent in such settings. God is to be praised joyfully. My neighbor is to be greeted. To be reverent is to celebrate, to be overtly joyful. In settings like this, the European expression of reverence often seems to be “sour-faced Saints” or perhaps the expression of one who has recently suffered the death of a loved one.
The general understanding of reverence in these settings is that God is worthy of our highest and most joyful praise.
Further, in the Black churches the thought of entering and not greeting your fellow parishioners seems strange. As a general rule African American culture is more extroverted and has thus embraced the current cultural trends to be more effusive in the house of the Lord.
I know less of Latino culture, but there seem to be similar experiences there.
Say what you will about which approach might be best, but the fact is there are very different cultural experiences at work in what we call reverence. This is not just another form of relativism, for relativism regards matters of truth. That God is to be revered cannot be set aside. But how this is expressed does vary. Some do so by quiet solemnity. Others by joyful exuberance.
Both sorts of reverence are spoken of in the Bible. At times, Jewish and early Christian worship are described there as rather noisy affairs. At other times there are references to bent knees and bowed heads.
Thus, when there are requests that “Father do something about all the talking and noise” many pastors are conflicted. There IS a value to preserving greater quiet in our parish churches, especially before Mass, and encouraging prayer. But cultural trends and differences do exist and they are not all bad.
Koinonia is a pillar of Church life. Helping Catholics to meet and forge relationships in Christ is to be encouraged. One might wish that this took place outside the church building, but practically, inside is when most of the people are together and seek each other out.
And the conversation isn’t all frivolous. There are concerns expressed, and significant news shared. There are prayer requests and invitations made to important gatherings and meetings in the parish etc. And yes, there is also banter of a less edifying sort.
Perhaps the best that Pastors can do to remind the faithful occasionally to balance the virtue of fellowship with the respect for the fact that there is also a place for private prayer after, and especially before Mass. Silence is more reasonably expected when entering the Mass. After Mass it is just going to be more difficult to expect it in most places, given culture and the legitimate need for communal fellowship.
I suspect there will be strong opinions in the combox. I will largely refrain from interjecting much to give you all the chance. I DO ask for you to consider mutual charity, whatever your preference. There are legitimate concerns for the volume of noise in most parishes. But there are also other things in the balance. This is what I mean by the title “Pastoral perspectives” At least consider this much, that Pastors have a lot on their minds when it comes to taking a stand on this issue. There are many legitimate things they must balance. Please avoid vitriol, ridicule and adding more heat than light. Amor suprema lex.
215 Replies to “Pastoral Perspectives on Silence in Church”
Maybe there can be a compromise. Before Mass we have silence and after Mass let the conversations roll.
Indeed. A compromise. Sadly our culture has sunk to new lows where extreme tardiness, loud talking, gum chewing, loud clapping, shouting across pews, wearing shorts and track pants to Mass and all sorts of behaviour are acceptable. I understand that God loves us all the same BUT wonder…. these same people who waltz in wearing sports outfits, shouting, chewing gum, and so on, I wonder how they behave during their Mon-Fri jobs. I know many of these same people that will put on their ‘Sunday best’ for a wedding of work and show up at Mass like they are at a picnic. The same goes for the behavior. I speak from a North American perspective, where I live. Some of the ‘poorest’ and most ‘under-educated’ folks thankfully show up for Mass in the most respectful manner. It’s not about what you own or where you were raised but if the Eucharist is the highlight of my life and Christ is the centre of my life, why can’t I show him more love and respect in how I show up and how I behave.
Again, my experiences are different than others.
Most parishes have halls attached – why can’t the socializing be done there? Socializing in the Church proper is absolutely and always unnecessary when it can be done just outside the Church doors. I can understand allowing quiet talking/whispering, but only if necessary. It’s a slippery slope, and you can’t allow ‘a bit of talking’ without accepting that it’s going to inevitably lead to a lot of talking.
Moreover, how can one prepare themselves for Mass with all the mindless chatter going on? How can the chatterers prepare themselves for Mass like that? It’s hard to focus on the Lord when some loud-mouth behind us is bragging to everyone about their new $50,000 SUV out in the parking lot.
Just because our deranged culture abhors silence doesn’t mean we have to fall in line with them on this issue just exactly as we have with virtually every issue that we’ve locked horns with them on.
The GIRM says: “Even before the celebration itself, 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.”
Couldn’t the priest have this printed on a piece of paper and printed somewhere?
Not 1% of Catholics know immediately what GIRM means. Sad.
I can’t quite agree with the community and fellowship angle.
I think of the poor man or woman who comes to the parish church for Sunday Mass, who may have deep issues to pray about (think about someone with a child or spouse with cancer back home). They come 15 minutes before Mass to be before the Lord and get recollected.
Now, maybe others want to talk to one another and not sit silently. First, they are depriving this person of what they need to get recollected – silence. Second, those people are depriving themselves of an opportunity to hear what God may want to say to them, even if they have nothing to say to Him.
Lastly, when I hear people talking about things before Mass, trust me – most of it is not important news. In fact,I challenge those who say it is not charitable to avoid talking to another in church, how many times they picked up the phone to call their fellow parishioner during the week. Or, how many times in the past month did they take time out of their day to visit their fellow parishioners?
See, I believe we should give time to God in the short time we are in church. From the Mass we should go forth, and our love of neighbor and desire for fellowship should flow forth from the grace we receive. This means we should not leave those important interactions for Mass time.
Rather than conform or permit our parishes to be conformed to the culture, this is precisely the time to be counter-cultural. The world we live in today is full of noise. What a pity we would not make every effort to help people to use the time to let God speak to their hearts even if they have nothing to say to Him.
Diane at Te Deum Laudamus:
I whole heartedly agree BUT still my husband says ” offer it up” when I whine and complain about the lack of quiet in which to hear my Lord. I am not suppose to notice the gum chewing altar servers/readers nor the incessant jabber behind me about last nights comings/goings. I always question my own motives, why is this bothering me ? I miss the old days of quiet and peace at Mass , but I offer up my distaste of the noise and confusion for all the lukewarm and my own sins. I yearn for those days when Mass goers were in deep quiet prayer each with his Maker. Mass ( to me ) has become like the rest of the world … too noisy ! but …I offer it up.
pax et bonum
Try the subliminal approach by scriptural quotes about silence such as, ” Be still and know that I am God.” on banners and signs posted around the sanctuary. Reminds me of a Leon Russell concert I went to at an old movie theater on the square of Waxahachie, Texas about five years ago. They were going to be recording the live performance so on the movie screen which backdropped the stage, before the concert started, was a projected message, ” Shut-up, sit down, and listen.” It was a good performance, up close and personal with a reserved audience.
Grateful for Pastoral approach: “There are concerns expressed, and significant news shared. There are prayer requests and invitations made to important gatherings and meetings in the parish etc.”
Many in our Parish want SILENCE! to the point of hurt. Daily Mass, when and “if” a newly widowed acquaintance also attends a day I am there, she/ we really want to reach out, even if only to touch hands, whisper, “How are you? Pray for me…etc.” These or this is CHRIST in the other.
Thank you Monsignor Pope.
Personally, I long for silence in Church. Fortunately I now live in a semi-rural area where I have lots of silence at home. So, at least my desire for silence gets satisfied in that respect.
This is why I love the early morning, before sunrise, when it is quiet, and in a very special way on Sundays. No radios and tvs on.
Thank you for this well-nuanced post. I can really appreciate both sides of the argument – and even though I’ve had to confess talking in church, I can honestly say that God does talk to me through my neighbor in church at times. And, God does talk through the children making noise and the developmentally disabled guy who once said “Amen” during the homily. I believe the Word of God which tells us to rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in all circumstances – and that’s throughout the day in all its noise and busyness and not just in church…
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
“Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.”
– These are quotes from Mother Teresa of Calcutta
… who also said:
“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls. “
Here’s an idea: use the narthex for fellowship.
Most people only get to their church on Sunday. It’s very disrespectful to interrupt their prayer with chit chat.
In the days when people didn’t talk in church was their no fellowship?
Most modern churches include a large narthex for the purpose you describe. In Older churches like mine it is a narrow vestibule and not well suited for what you describe. I am curious if, in churches where there is a large narthex if it helps the problem of noise in the church or not. I have never served in a church with this sort of setup.
Also regarding fellowship in the past, I don’t recall much of it. There was a perceived lack of that aspect of Church life years ago. Some did belong to groups that met during the week, but my experience of a Sunday morning years ago was more of a factory in the sense that Masses were numerous and happened very fast and the goal was to move large numbers of people through as quickly as possible. In some of the larger Chicago parishes of my youth there were as many as ten masses on Sunday morning all before noon (masses could not be celebrated after noon). Most were of the “low Mass” variety celebrated in a half an hour often simultaneously in an upper church and lower church. There was a lot of foot traffic in parishes in those days and that did cut down on visiting or as you say “chit chat” people were on the move and there was pressure to clear the church for the next Mass.
The first time I attended a Sunday morning Mass with my husband, I came out looking for the coffeepot. Growing up in my Lutheran church, hanging out by the coffeepot was part of the Sunday morning ritual. I was astonished that there WAS no coffeepot!
A few weeks after the Church Sans Coffeepot revelation, we came to Mass on a rainy day. I looked about for the coatroom. There was none, not even just a freestanding coat rack.
The narthex at the parish was then fairly small, so I honestly was mystified how people got to know each other.
An excellent reflection, Monsignor. Another factor is age related hearing loss. As we get older, several things happen: the tiny bones become less flexible, our auditory nerve becomes weaker and hair cells die. All of this causes hearing loss. At first, it’s most difficult to hear high-frequency sounds, such as someone talking. This is gradual and becomes more noticeable when we reach our sixties. As a result, older parishioners must strain to focus their hearing on the Gospel reading and homily.
While the concept of community is important, we are at the stage where we are missing the point. We gather at church TO WORSHIP GOD, both privately and publicly. I don’t think a quiet greeting to our neighbor, or an inquiry as to the state of health of their mother, etc., is inappropriate, but I do think the conversations about the golf game, plans for dinner, gossip, etc. (all of which I have witnessed) is inappropriate. The same people that chat it up in church before and after Mass are nowhere to be found when leaving the building. I think God made church halls for a reason! We all need to get over ourselves and not let our every waking moment be concerned with OUR needs. There’s plenty of opportunity for “community” in parish life, but prayer and the Holy Sacrifice are limited.
At my home (Sunday) parish the problem seems not to be as bad as it might be at others. Our vestibule is on the small side, but not tiny, so parishioners and priests can visit there before and after Mass. At my work (weekday) parish the vestibule is about the same size, but people there have more of a tendency to chat (usually at a stage whisper or less, I grant) in the pews and once in a while even on the confession line!
Following the advice of a confessor, I try to make a thanksgiving after Mass. (Few others at my home parish do that. I find that if I participate in the socializing right after Mass and then re-enter the church after the vestibule clears, I have it pretty much to myself.) Perhaps encouraging the congregation from the pulpit to take up that practice would direct silence after Mass to a constructive and holy end, instead of making it seem punitive. Same, perhaps, if parishioners are encouraged to pray silently for an intention before Mass — maybe in connection with the ACTS (Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, Supplication)?
It just doesn’t feel right. Scrapping reverence for the One who DIED FOR US to socialize. For one hour and maybe a half we cannot act at a level just a little higher than our usual? God doesn’t need our worship and reverence, WE NEED IT. We need to know we can and will be reverent. There are different behaviors for different places (cleansing of the temple) and to just give in to bringing EVERYTHING down to our comfort level does us no good. It’s good for us to know we can elevate to a higher level of being, even if for only 1 1/2 hours a week. Reverence is good for US.
I try to go to daily Mass. The one Mass of the week in which I am obligated to go to, Sunday Liturgy, is my least favorite Mass of the week because of the noise. The parish I am in now has groups of seniors, who should know better, who come in at least a half hour early to get the back rows and then commence to have a social converstation unitl Mass starts. They are not discussing God, or prayer or anything,they are discussing what you would discuss if you were meeting for breakfast. They do this while myself and others are on our knees attempting to maintain focus on praying a rosary or just entering into a conversation with God.
People come in and do not kneel and pray, they sit and chatter and laugh and one would think they are at a tailgating party, not in a church in the presence of the Lord.
I have learned to never go to any Sunday Mass beyond the earliest one of the day because the lack of respect and reverence for the Lord and others increases with the number of people present. Every church around me has large areas that are separate from the main church for socializing, before and after Mass and yet no one can control themselves to wait until they are in them. Pastors fear to say anything about the noise because they get so many complaints. Or course they do, when the majority of parisioners have been trained and brought up that it is perfectly okay to socialize in the church.
Yes, we are there as a community and a body of Christ, but, the Mass is our highest form of prayer and deserves some respect and reverence. The problem is that the majority of Catholics do not believe in the real and true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and it is from there that all other behaviors come forth. Yes, God is worthy of our highest praise and that is what we are doing when we celerbrate the Eucharist. If we want our be a part of a rocking party, then we can leave the Catholic Church and join the mega-church party places. We shouldn’t have to destroy the sanctity of our Mass to cater to those who are attending out of obligation and not even sure why they are doing that.
We have forgotten that unlike a Sunday protestant service this is a re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Calvary.
Those that grimly insist on silence in the church, in stoic opposition to the natural tendencies of human beings when they gather, should consider that one day they may emerge from their prayer and discover all is silent because the church is empty.
A church is never empty when The Lord is present in the tabernacle. Also, persons who insist on gabbing to each other in church may one day look around and discover that they talked all the way through the Second Coming.
I once had an RCIA Coordinator bring the Catechumens right next to the pew I was kneeling in and praying before Mass (I was on the aisle)…and he began to discuss in conversational tones and volume what the sequence of events were to be for them. I stopped and looked at him (hoping he’d get the picture…he did not)…when his conversation became animated and blatantly rude, I asked him to please take his discussion out of the Sanctuary and show some respect for those of us trying to pray. He actually told me that I had an attitude and should go home!!!!!! I told him I’d say a prayer for him also…and I continued praying…harder….not sure he got the message…but the Holy Spirit sure did guide me that day…Praise be to God.
Shut up, shut up, shut up.
Amor suprema lex. Go and learn the meaning of the words it is mercy I desire, not sacrifice. In other words, please moderate your tone and avoid unkindness, surely it does not please God. It is remarkable to me that you would comment in this manner in a post where you are also speaking about prayer.
Monsignor, I think Larry’s keyboard got stuck when he tried typing in “Offer it up”
There is, IMO, a shift to a lack of reverence tied to a lack of love for the eucharist.
Plainly, for me, a thirst for quiet and reflection before and after Mass. Is it so hard to accept silent reflection before coming to and after recieving our Lord? Apparently, with the hearty conversations, hand shakes, hugs and back slaps as we proceed to recieve, this isnt possible. At one parish that boasted eucharistic adoration there was loud modern music played. I tried covering my ears…
What does Bl. Mother Theresa say? The fruits of silence is prayer.
For me, one or two trips to a local men’s religious shrine that by the grace of God leaves the doors un-locked, leaves me with the opportunity for blessed time, in silence, with our eucharistic lord for an hour or so each week.
I’m helping facilitate a book study for some recent converts on Scott Hahn’s The Lamb’s Supper. This was one of the issues we discussed. They like the more chatty Mass, which is the one I least like going to and avoid. I call it “The Performance Mass”. The choir–I mean, ensemble–is at the altar and as people enter it’s the same feeling and attitude of concert goers. The people rarely bow to the altar or genuflect to Jesus is the tabernacle, which is in a side altar, nor do they kneel to pray. They simply take a seat, begin chatting, and continue until we’re all told to stand and “greet those around you.”
I agree that Mass is communal, but isn’t it also personal? As active participants in the Mass, aren’t we supposed to have moments of interior communion to prepare for Communion with others? Before Mass I try to ponder a few things: Is there some venial sin or fault or bad habit I want to bring before the Lord, to ask for His forgiveness and help? Having done that, I can have that in mind during the penitential rite and before receiving Communion. Are there people who need intercessory prayer? I can have that in mind during the prayers of intercession. What am I thankful for? I can have that in mind when the gifts are brought to the altar and I silently offer God all that I am and will be because of His grace. When those gifts truly become Jesus I can make an act of faith, hope, and/or love. “My Lord and my God!” I say, interiorly. Or sometimes, “Create a clean heart in me, O Lord, and put a steadfast spirit in me.”
I need silence to do that. In a world filled with noise, as you pointed out, it seems like the Church should be a place where people can put that noise, busy-ness, distraction, and clamor aside in order to focus on the One who can help them get through another week of noise, busy-ness, distraction, and clamor. Maybe even direct all that to a better purpose, such as towards a neighbor, friend, or loved one in need. People today fear silence. They don’t know what to do with it. But, it is in silence we hear God most clearly.
I do realize the pastor has a very difficult job and I truly appreciate the viewpoint in this article as well as the comments from people who don’t share my view. I think the pastor can help promote silence by a little catechesis or a few homilies on the benefits of silence to the Spiritual life. Then prolong the silences of the Mass just a little bit more. Right now, those times, like after Communion, run about 10 seconds in most parishes. Just by letting people know, “After Communion there will be 30 seconds of silent prayer.” Who can argue with 30 seconds? Plus, it reminds people that we’re not just sitting there waiting for Mass to end.
In Revelation it says, “When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” (8:1) What will happen during that silence? Will we cower in fear or kneel in joyful awe? Silence is not the absence of joy, but the wellspring from which joy and all the fruits of the Spirit flow.
I have not noticed a general problem with silence just before or during the Mass…and I have attended Mass at most churches in the city. At least a few church organists play an introductory tune (I’m sure there’s a proper term for this…) that encourages silence and reverence. That seems to work.
I have noticed the ethnic/cultural differences to which you refer, Msgr. – I see these affect the actual Mass itself (especially the sign of peace and subsequent Kyrie Eleison). I find over-exuberance at this time quite rude, irreverent, and upsetting – but I know that many priests and congregants are fine with it. I realize that my worship tradition is not everyone else’s.
Nicely explained, Pater. For the most part, silence vs chatter in churches is cultural, not moral. I’m comfortable with either approach (yes, yes, within reasonable limits).
One other point – our modern culture doesn’t value ‘silence’ – or the reflection, awareness, or self-forgetting that tend to happen only in silence. So we might be victims of a wider issue (whether we’re ‘unwitting victims’, I’m not so sure). How many of us build an intentional period of silence into our days? Too often we reach for the TV remote or the smartphone…to watch mind-numbing nonsense or to play a mind-numbing game.
I would encourage us all to build 30 minutes of silence into our days…to pray, to thank God, to be aware of His presence with us and in us. If we don’t do this in our own lives, we should not expect it automatically in our churches.
I was told that when approached about the noise level before daily Mass, our pastor responded that he believed that for many of the elderly it was their only contact with other people and he did not want to take that away from them. Even though I am one who craves silence in church, I can see his point of view. If I am praying and others are noisy (and yes, I have had people stand right next to me after Mass while I am kneeling in prayer and carry on a loud conversation), I have come to see it as an opportunity of humility, so to speak, not my will, but acceptance of what I cannot change.
Interesting point. My parish however has many seniors and they are the most solemn at Mass and leave their socializing for AFTER Mass. I can’t believe someone stood yapping as you prayed. That is beyond rude. Unacceptable. And the person should have known better.
What a pity that Mass is the only contact some of the elderly had with others. Perhaps we need to be encouraged to “go out of ourselves” to visit the elderly outside of Mass and we can all observe 15 minutes of recollection before the Mass.
I’m in an old parish, with only a small vestibule. We pile into another building on the grounds and have BBQ most Sundays after the last two Masses. No one chatters in the church. But as soon as we are outside or in that building we really socialize.
God is in the still small voice and I want to hear Him if He speaks, not gab. Have coffee in the basement for the elderly. I don’t even appreciate being forced to hear the rosary over the microphone before Mass.
The 14 works of mercy cover a broad spectrum. We are not always to be tolerant and forgiving others inappropriate behavior. Mercy also calls us to instruct the ignorant AND admonish the sinner. Right and wrong. Good and evil. The greatest is God everything else comes down from that. If they disrespect God, they disrespect others. We have a generation of severely uncathechised Catholics who don’t know their faith. IF they are TRUE christians they will not take offense to being instructed or admonished. True christians don’t offend easily. A priest I admire used to say that they left the Church because they didn’t know what they had. We have become like the protestants where fellowship trumps all. God and the Eucharist is above all. Then our neighbor. All in the right order. If thete is expected order in a court, then why not order in the House if God truly present in body, blood, soul and , divinity. God bless you.
I agree with Laura. Yes, we do need to instruct the ignorant and admonish the sinner. I have many, many times had people stand up right next to me before or after Mass while I am praying and start major conversations. I have left my prayer and asked very loud groups of people if they would please take their conversation out to the social area. I am polite, but stern about it.
I have also spent years in silence, praying for those around me who do not know Jesus and trying not to get angry and hoping that just maybe if they see someone on their knees in prayer, week after week, they may think about their own behavior. I beg the Lord to open their hearts so that their desire will be to worship Him always.
I am always seeking however, a different church. Somewhere, there has to be at least one where people come to worship, not just to fulfill an obligation that they seem to resent.
The old people social time doesn’t hold water for me. We have huge places for them to sit in for that half hour before Mass and they choose to carry on in the church. They are an example to the young and not a good one. Then again, parents let their children run through the church, jump up on pews, play with a whole basket of toys that make noise (in the front pew during Mass) and a plethora of activites that are not appropriate for the Mass. Children who cry or fuss or have a temper tantrum etc are not the problem. Everyone understands that. It is the complete lack of respect for fellow church goers that shows through in the parents who completely ignore every thing their child is doing or even worse, joins them in it. Nothing is as much fun as a family in back of you having a conversation throughout the entire Mass and it isn’t about what is going on during Mass.
People follow their leaders and if their leaders witness this and are silent, they learn nothing. My pastor says he can see pretty much everything that is going on during a Mass. If only he would make some noise about it. ☺ I love him dearly, but as with most issues in this world today, all is upside down. Those who wish to worship had best be quiet about all things and those who never shut up, will never have to be offended by it being asked to be quiet.
I completely agree. I hear people talking in Mass week after week, entirely ignoring the Presence of Our Lord, and it makes me want to weep. It has nothing to do with an extroverted culture, or praying out loud, or fellowship (there’s coffee afterwards for that); it has everything to do with not knowing or caring.
Boy I tell you what the pharisees sure are out in force on this thread. I don’t think some of you really read most of what the Msgr said. Equating silence and reverence may work in certain settings but as the article says, some people think sober silence and not greeting others is IRreverent. And why is Jesus so offended that we might speak to other members of his body? And to the guy that said “shut up” in the comment above: Dude: how can you say you love Christ whom you don’t see when you despise a member of his body whom you DO see. Silence is cool by me, but I can see that there are other things that balance it and other perspectives on it.
Loved the little wedding parable…!
This is not ‘our culture’. This is a lazy subset of ‘culture’ who would rather have no rules, no structure and little show of respect for anything. I know many people who understand the need for silence and proper behavior and are raising their children as such. Stop thinking we need to embrace this culture of laziness as something that is inevitable.
To which “our culture” are you referring? Latino, African, Caribbean etc all have very different sensibilities about these sorts of things that should not simply be called “no rules” “lazy” etc. This is one of the reasons I titled the post “Perspectives”
Tired of all the talking before and after Mass and the glad-handing and hugging and noise at the ‘sign of peace” along with banal pop music????
Attend the extraordinary form of the Mass and you will have reverence and silence to soothe your heart.
AMEN. I am fortunate to have a Latin Rite Church to go to and we have formed a car pool to attend the Mass.
I have joined that Church.
The folks at my parish aren’t particularly chatty in the nave (at least not before the Mass we usually attend).
MY pet peeve noise-wise is the choir/cantor rehearsing music as late as 5 minutes before the Mass starts. As a long-time church musician myself I well understand the need to have that one last run-through, but that’s something that should happen before the first parishioners come trickling in, or in another room where the rehearsal can’t be heard. Seriously I’d rather listen to people talking.
I am honestly shocked by your conclusions. On the one hand, you are correct: there are many values (some are actually important) and goods that need to be weighed. However, paet of prudence is also knowing time and place. You write that displays of reverence can be culturally conditioned, but my contact with very wide range of cultures (Western and Eastern) has led me to witness that the deepest moment of reverence is always silence. Truly, in our Catholic parishes we need, I repeat, need to develop true koinonia rooted in the supernatural virtue of charity and the natural virtues of sympath and compassion. But, tame and place.
I suppose what shocked me most is that you, who witness so often the the need for formality as a means for creating the conditions that dispose us to right worship, you conclude that all we can do is ask conversations to be less frequent or softer. Well, that’s fine if you have ten parishioners. But, when some are ready to pray and others are ready to talk, then what? Who need to be charitable, the talkers or the prayers? Both, obviously, but the parish grounds are full of places to talk, and not so full of places to pray. In the end, I am genuinely sad that you, of all priests, have enunciated a visoin of the church building that would fit well with the Protestant vision: an empty shell until believers make it alive. Even before God granted me the grace to become Catholic, I
(continued) was able to sense something different about Catholic churches, Someone living within. If you want to talk anthropology, if we all act like HeKs not there, then He might as well not be. He is, of course, but we have set Him aside. You see, He got in the way of our fellowship. Hmmm…seems to me that love of God is the first command. Why was it that, in the bad old days when no one talked, we nevertheless did a pretty stand uo job at social outreach? You know, all those Sisters, those brides of Christ whose love for their apostolic work was nourished by their prayer. Seems to me it was the same for many of the lay faithful who, taught by their overwhelming experience of the majesty of God in the *sacred* space of their churched went out to practice the works of mercy. Just some thoughts.
Don’t you think “shocked” is a bit heavy? Dare I say, is it not a rather “loud” word? Why not just say you disagree? “Shocked” just seems so excessive, as do words like “Protestant” in this context. I am trying to explain the different perspectives that exist/ I favor more silence. But of course the odd part of living in community is that you don’t always get what you want, or at least not in the proportions you’d like. Community is odd that way. It sort of demands a little give and take. Hence, as I articulate, I think more firm requests can be made for quiet before Mass. But after the dismissal I suspect it’s going to be harder to enforce silence. If this shocks you, I guess you’re given to a fragile sort of existence. 30 Christians killed yesterday in Pakistan…now that’s worth being shocked about….but not someone suggesting that there are different perspectives about reverence that influence a cultural trend.
Okay. You are right. I apologise. Shocked is too much. May I say then that I was somewhat dismayed and a little surprised?
Concerning Protestant, I meant no excess, but only that the articulation of “space” in your article was something with which I became familiar in a Protestant context. It has always been a difference between the two concepts of worship that has stuck out for me.
Finally, would you not agree that there is something about reverence that is objective and something that is subjective, not only for an individual, but also for cultures? You have clearly articulated the subjective part of “reverence,” what might we say about what cuts across these cultural differences? Speaking of the union between interior and exterior, Aquinas says (ST, II-II, q. 84, a. 1, ad1), “And since external actions are signs of internal reverence, certain external tokens significative of reverence are offered to creatures of excellence.” In other words, the act of the virtue of reverence is offered by some particular signs. Now, it is very anecdotal, but I have experienced what you say with reference to the African cultures, as well as the Latino. I note that they are rather expressive (sometimes loudly) in their interactions. All to the good. However, I also have experienced that they place a high value on silence as a display of reverence. I am almost certain, in fact, that I have heard from the lips of Cardinal Arinze the same thing. There seems to be, therefore, a more universal character to silence and its relation to reverence than the text of your blog post indicates.
All of that to say that it seems to me that this question may be best answered by asking the deeper questions, “What does the Church [the ultimate cultus] expect of the church building?”, “What does she expect for the atmosphere favoring encounter with God, inside and outside Mass?, and “What has been the experience of the Church throughout two millennia, even as she has evangelized non-Roman cultures?” I cannot imagine that the “culture of lax” fulfills the justice owed to God, as you yourself have many times observed (speaking of dress, comportment, etc.).
Thank you for your good work, Monsignor. Fight the good fight and know that I ask St. Pius of Pietrelcina (and St. Pius X) to intercede for you.
Sept. 23rd…I’m glad I read this. There has to be a balance and a moment of brief talk is essential to fellowship. But, keep in mind that during the week especially, some come from work eager to get out of the hustle and bustle for a while and if there is loud talk going on, then that detracts from the dialogue between the living Lord in the Tabernacle and a suppliant who desperately needs to hear His voice. In our Parish, there is exposition of the Blessed Sacrament continually and yet, some people stand in the middle of the aisle talking loudly, with their backs to the Lord; and those who seek a moment of quiet interaction with the Lord before returning to their busy, noisy lives get up and leave; people don’t come early for Mass because of the constant chatter in some Churches and leave early for the same reason. In some Churches, they have vestibules outside the Main Church and when the door is closed, you can talk and not be heard by those praying inside the Church. Yes, the Lord Jesus loved talking to people…and He still does, but if others are drowning out His voice, then He can’t be heard. Balance yes…but keep in mind that we live in a loud and stressful world and desperately need to come into His Presence and listen to His voice…
I normally find those who show the greatest reverence and holy fear before the sacrament are also those that also enjoy the most intimate relationship with Our Lord. It’s a mistake to assume it must be one or the other.
Can you think of any saints who chatted with their friends in the sanctuary?
I would be careful using that sort of logic since the most obvious answer to your question is that Jesus and the Apostles chatted all through mass at the last supper. Further there were many periods when mass was a rather noisier affair such as in the late Middle Ages necessitating some Norms that restricted buying and selling during or of using the church for a shortcut while mass was said. Forbidding bringing ones horse inside the Church etc. Bells were also ring to get peoples attention etc. so it is not possible to answer your question. It it does not follow that every saint prayed quietly in a pew. Frankly most churches had no pews until about 200 years ago. People stood and milled about.
Many thanks for your reply, Monsignor.
I would suggest that, while Our Lord obviously spoke during the Last Supper, it could hardly qualify as idle chit-chat! There a is tremendous solemnity about the whole affair.
To be clear, I’m not arguing for complete silence. Nothing wrong with milling about either — at an Orthodox church I visited a few years ago, people were milling about in a holy and reverent manner. Likewise, a sound that directs us to God, such as a bell ringing or a whispered prayer, is well and good. And, obviously, sometimes noise is unavoidable, like a crying baby or whatever. I don’t think anybody has a problem with any of this.
But I am certainly arguing that making small-talk to somebody sitting next to you when in the presence of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is deeply irreverent, betraying either a lack of knowledge or a lack of care. And if the posture of our bodies reflects and affects the posture of our souls, we should be worried.
So while I certainly wouldn’t suggest every saint was always completely silent in church, it seems difficult to imagine any of them laughing idly or talking about their week when in His presence.
The apostles debated about who was greatest, argued with Jesus on several occasions etc. some of it was worse than idle chit chat.. Glad to see you attenuate your point a bit.. I don’t think we can generalize about the saints in this regard since the church spans so many centuries and cultures.
Perhaps this is one answer to the noise when mass if over and people leave talking loudly. On a pilgrimage to Medjugorie following a mass, the congregants leaving began to talk loudly. The sacristan very quietly said “silence, silence”. The effect was immediate silence.
Thank you for addressing this subject. I’m an ‘old fogey’ (60) and was taught that as long as our Lord was present in the Tabernacle (indicated by the lit Sanctuary light) that we were to be quiet (i.e. in prayer with Him). There is plenty of time to chit-chat with other OUTSIDE the church. It is inconsiderate, aka rude, to speak to others because some people may actually be trying to pray! Imagine that!
Especially after Mass since our Lord remains present as long as the particles of the Sacred Host are recognizable, which is about 15minutes inside our bodies.
I think you wrote well, explaining both sides and the delicate balancing act a priest negotiates. Seems like a no win situation after reading all the comments. Perhaps the Catholic both /and can be applied here as elsewhere.
One thing is for sure , empty churches are quieter than full ones, greying churches quieter than those bustling with young families. i remember one priest telling me that the sounds of children were music to his ears , it meant the church was growing . I think Jesus would like it if we were all happy to see one another, patient with each other and joyfully offered any inconvience or annoyance up ..
Thanks Patricia, this really is my point. The issue is a little more complicated than some think, that is what i tried to say. Overall the comments were a little discouraging since people just spoke from their camp position and made little or no reference to most of the points I raised. I understand that many people prefer silence. I prefer silence too. But not so much that I think it is worth being severe or running afoul of varying cultural norms that increasing numbers of Catholics share, namely that effusive greeting and conversation are part of mutual charity. Others, perhaps appreciate silence, but in a more qualified less absolute sense. Not all the talk is, as some people said here, chit chat or worse. Some of it is charitable and important. In my parish we have an eastern rite Geez community, and they talk extensively after mass too. Any way, thanks for getting the main point that there are many things to consider here. I chose the word perspective carefully here, since that was my main point. There ARE different perspectives at work here. It is not just that some people don’t care or are irreverent or lack faith in the the true presence. Some ARE this way but most are good Catholics who just have a less absolute sense of the value of silence. Silence is a beautiful aesthetic, but it is not an aesthetic that overrules charity. Perhaps the best we can do is make gentle reminders to balance the communal nature of the gathering with respect for the fact that many do equate reverence with quietness and would like a little more quiet than is currently available in most parishes.
Sold me, Monsignor– and I have hated my fellow parishioners in my heart for gabbing while I was praying. Sometimes, I guess, everything looks like a beam when you’ve got one in your eye. I don’t know what else to say except Mother Mary pray for us.
Thank you for this. Just a little understanding can help us all! If the talkers can hear the concerns of others who need more quiet, and those who prefer silence can also interpret the actions of others more benignly then perhaps the Spirit is at work in us all! Mutual charity
The increasing noise trend opposes a reverse trend in belief in the Presence of Christ in the tabernacle. If people REALLY believed what they mouth every weekend, there would be pin-drop, respectful, silence. Oh, and V2 has more than a little to do with it: less majesty, more populism and jokes from the pulpit, less wonder, more ‘fashion’ – so to speak, less sacred music (btw: were we not supposed to be taught chant?), more laity doing ordained-assigned tasks.
It used to be quiet enough that you’d see a few Stations of the Cross done before and after Mass. Whoa, not anymore. It is shameful. I am beginning to look to the extraordinary Mass forms: novus ordo is dead.
You got that right !
I attend the Tridentine mass that takes place on Sunday afternoon at one of our parish churches – which is located adjacent to our local university. We have international students who attend our Tridentine mass.
They are reverent and quiet before mass and after mass as are ALL the laity.
The Novus Ordo masses that I attend in the same church, at different times are noisy both before and after mass. These masses include students and local parishioners alike.
Daily communicants at this same church, both young and old are quiet before and after mass.
See also Ona’s remark below.
I’m from the old school. I grew up in the 50’s. I just cannot believe how people dress for Mass these.days. Some people look like they are at the beach instead of church, shorts,flip flops, T-shirts. I guess sadly it’s a sign of the times. I remember when there just wasn’t any talking also. We talked outside and than we went in.
I highly doubt Koinonia is about discussing the football game or giving compliments to how your neighbor is dressed before Mass. I would think that Koinonia is more about responding to the Offertory Chant or the Eucharistic prayer with a more united zeal, “Blessed be God Forever!” or “It is right and just!”
Or, “I have heard your mother has cancer, how is she doing? How are you doing. Can we pray together?”
What makes you so cynical?
I live in Brazil, and to NOT speak to someone you know, or even strangers you are standing or sitting near, is considered terribly rude. The same attitude carries over to some extent to cell phones, to which there is far less animosity than one finds in Northern cultures. This has led to some very funny moments for me. Once I was at a silent retreat. At 5 am, walking the halls to stretch my legs before morning prayers, I repeatedly passed an elderly nun who was doing the same. On the fourth pass she could contain herself no longer and whispered hello. On the fifth pass she broke down, stopped, and asked me my name, where I was from, told me about her bad knee, etc.
And once I was on a silent retreat being taught by a visiting English monk. On the first day during morning lecture, a few cell phones rang, and he reminded people this was a silent retreat and all phones were to be turned off. During afternoon lecture, the same thing happened. And on day two, at the morning lecture, when yet another phone rang, he burst out, “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!!!” which left the audience in stifled giggles – sympathetic to his apoplexy, but rather bemused by the strange English trait of getting so upset over something that wasn’t (to them) that big a deal.
That said, I prefer as much silence as possible during Mass, and generally go to the early morning Masses when possible, as those seem to be largely populated by nuns and very devout elderly ladies who don’t talk to anyone. Evening Masses tend to be a social hubbub. But that’s where one hears the neighborhood news, too (who died, who is sick, etc.). If I don’t drop in for evening Mass once in a while, I never know what’s going on in the parish.
Why is it that something that was practiced for approx. 1,965 years – i.e. relative silence in church, even on Sundays (which is the way I grew up), is now explained away as being OK just because people don’t want to bother with reverence any more, and is being justified with a lot of Greek terminology which has also been around since the beginning of the Church, but people were silent anyway!
“They shall also banish from churches all those kinds of music, in which, whether by the organ, or in the singing, there is mixed up any thing lascivious or impure; as also all secular actions; vain and therefore profane conversations, all walking about, noise, and clamor, that so the house of God may be seen to be, and may be called, truly a house of prayer.” -Ecumenical Council of Trent 1546 A.D., 22nd Session
Well there ya go. Good Point
And yet there are still going to be people who now know what the above Council stated and yet will have every reason in the world to not apply its clear guidance, teaching, and instruction. Or endless excuses as to why it doesn’t apply to them, their parish, or “these modern times.”
I will try harder to keep my children quiet. I didn’t realize this was the general sentiment. It explains a lot of looks, I guess. And I too enjoy the quiet and peace.
Excellent discussion! And, based on the variety of responses, I would think that most readers found your words challenging. I personally would like to thank you for acknowledging the plight of couples with small children, torn between their obligations of raising their children in the faith, not preventing the little ones from coming to Jesus, and yet not wanting to be a stumbling block to their brethren.
Humbly, I look to my own life and I look further towards times when I somehow demand things of others. Silence seems to fall in this area. Justice might demand that others be silent, while I am trying to recollect, pray or meditate for mass, yet somehow, charity seems to remind me, that if I am distressed over something which I can not control, then I best let it go. For if I tell others they should be quiet, why do I do so? Is it for my benefit? Then perhaps I am putting myself before others in importance. Is it for the good of those sitting next to me who I can discern are distressed… well, here I might be on firmer ground but still problematic. Personally, I think that in the spiritual works of mercy categorization: bearing wrongs patiently, forgive offenses willingly, and praying for the living and the dead trumps mindset justified by instructing the ignorant and admonishing sinners found in demanding others to be quiet.
If the conversation as you suggest was truly about inquiring as to someone’s health or prayerful suggestions, no one would be upset. But most times the “chatting” involves football scores, Mary Kay cosmetics, are you goin out on the boat today….nothing that would show the person was aware he is even in church. It is a theater atmosphere where everyone talks as loudly as they want until the curtain goes up. As an elementary teacher, I soon found out that children will do what they are allowed to get away with. If no one tells them their behavior is disrespectful, they will continue to misbehave. If no one approaches the problem of excessive noise in church because of the various reasons you outlined, then the parishioners will assume that it is OK to talk.
There are other ways to promote community. But many of these same talkers have no interest in “community” or they would stay for coffee and doughnuts after Mass.
All of the people who have responded to this blog have given excellent reasons for silence in church. The priests should not be afraid, therefore, to address this issue and call people to a higher standard. There would be a lot of support from the majority. Just because it is a pervasive problem that seems insurmountable, that does not mean it should be accepted as an annoyance that should be offered up. If no one says it is disrespectful behavior, then none of the talkers will believe it is because obviously if the pastor thought it was, he would say something. The talkers think they have tacit approval.
One reason this change has occurred is the new design of churches where the vestibule is no longer separated from the main church and pews by doors. People standing in the back of church greet each other loudly and the noise filters into the main body. So talking becomes acceptable anywhere in church. Another factor is the movie theater atmosphere again reflected in the “preview screen” near the altar where the important parts of the weekly bulletin are displayed in a slide show. Often times the screen is the focal point and not the Crucifix or the tabernacle near the altar. So our focus is on the “news of the day” and not Christ’s presence. If it looks like a theater and sounds like a theater and even the ushers are talking up and down the aisles, then what conclusion is the talker going to have ?
When I can’t take the noise level one more Sunday at my local church, I attend a Slovac Catholic Church where the atmosphere of reverence is the standard. Parishioners genuflect on both knees , the rosary is said before Mass aloud by everyone, the prayer to St. Michael is said after Mass. No ones ever comes late or leaves early. The main body of the church is separated from the gathering area by doors which keep out the noise of people entering and greeting each other. Conversations are appropriately held in that area. The pastor does remind the errant parishioner who is chewing gum or dressing inappropriately. No one is offended. The church is always filled to overflowing. So it is possible to have prayerful silence in this modern age and culture wihtout fear of losing parishioners. It is possible for pastors to be the shepherd of our souls and call us to more respectful and holy behavior. It is possible to feel the Presence of Christ and not be distracted by football scores.
This is one of the best respones yet. Very True and I agree.
I miss your wonderful catechetical scripture study meetings in the EEOB years ago!
As regards the modern “cultural expectations, when it comes to parish life today,” like the “expectation that parish communities should be places where people are welcomed, and where there is a ‘warm, friendly and courteous’ atmosphere,” we have that at the Extraordinary Form Mass my family and I attend in Westchester, New York. And we also have a profound, quiet reverence for the Blessed Sacrament — even among the dozens of children attending this particular Mass.
I’m not saying we always have nothing but whispers going on and no mischievousness from children from time to time, but I think most Catholics would be happily shocked at the difference from what is typical in most parishes today. The pleasant conversing, and welcoming of newcomers, is saved for the convivium after Holy Mass, where it belongs.
The coldness and aloofness of many of clergy in the pre-conciliar days — and it was too common, as I know too well from my mother’s reminiscences — are nearly unknown today among young priests with traditional leanings, I have found (yourself not least among them). They are a happy, approachable lot.
The upshot: we can have our reverence, and our warmth and friendliness too.
There was once a more common sense approach to silence during and after mass. Silence before mass because people were making acts of preparation to receive Holy Communion. Silence after mass so that people could make an act of thanksgiving. Socializing was carried out in the vestibule or outside so that people could pray undisturbed. The mere fact that a public liturgy had or would take place did not negate the fact that one needed to speak to God one-on-one before and after to set the proper spiritual tone and to get inspired by God.
When I was considering becoming a Catholic (a huge decision for this presbyterian elder) I finally decided to go to Mass after many months of study. I was so disappointed when I found it to be almost exactly like the church I was attending, a big socializing community affair with a children’s sermon and most people dressed like they were going to the beach after the service. I thought maybe the Catholicism I had been reading about was only an old beautiful, powerful idea that could no longer be experienced. Thank God I tried another parish. At this parish there was no visiting in the sanctuary, everyone inside the sanctuary was quietly reading, praying or kneeling in prayer. I thought, wow, they act like they really believe Jesus is on that altar! People where lined up at the confessional. I knew that I was home and that someday (after I learned how to do a confession) I could partake of Christ myself. I love the sanctity of the sanctuary and the peace it provides.
Luce, thank you giving me the opportunity to read what you have written.
I work from home – experiencing silence through most of my day.
I often go out for lunch just to remind myself that there are others in the world, and yet,
I really appreciate silence in the nave before mass. It’s important to me to shut out the noise of the world before Mass, to think about prayer, and why I am there, and to pray (as I hope others do as well.)
After mass – I don’t honestly want to leave – I often find myself heartbroken, mindful of the great gift that has been given in spite of my daily contribution to its needing to have been given to begin with.
I personally think it somewhat heartless, of those than must shift into their ‘Koinonia’, (if thats what it really is,) before the exit processional has even completed. I’ve seen examples of ‘Koinonia’ from the communion line, interrupting the prayer of those who have already received – how could it possibly be so important as that ?
How can we forget the rememberence of sacrifice so quickly ? When we applaude at the end of the mass, do we think about what we are praising ?, is the music really so important ? Think back just 5 minutes ?
fellowship over worship is wrong – and upside down in my book, and from my perspective – that is really what needs to be discussed here.
You said it perfectly. It IS upside down to try and appease THIS CULTURE.
I agree with you.
I’m not saying the music and singing isn’t good, beautiful sounding, angelic almost… but I love when there is a break in the music and I can hear the priest and the extraordinary ministers saying “the Body of Christ” and “the Blood of Christ” over and over and over as each person takes up the Body and Blood, it is truly to me the most beautiful sound on earth.
People chatting before Mass used to really bother me. But then I started watching more carefully…and I saw that much of it was by older parishioners, greeting each other. Asking how each other were doing, how were the kids, etc. And then I noticed a lot of it was by a religious sister at the parish…and then I realized she ran the grief and bereavement ministry. Maybe she was just using the opportunity to offer a hand and check with people who had suffered a loss. We don’t know, for many of them, this could be the only place they get to check in with each other and I can’t help but think that would make Jesus happy. So I simply kneel and pray, and so what if is with the quiet chatter about. In any case, it’s not my job to worry about, nor to do anything about it, so I will leave it to the discretion of my pastor.
Charismatics Catholics love rejoicing as in ‘Praise the LORD with clanging cymbals’ and because of their music they are loud and kinda rowdy just like our brothers and sisters in Africa. The Monastic Catholics love silence as in ‘Be still and know that I AM GOD’ like those in Europe and Japan. I believe GOD accepts and appreciates them either way for the LORD looks into man’s heart. If really a worshipper is disturbed by the ‘fellowshipping’ of some, that should bring the worshipper into a higher realm of being able to silent the noise in his heart. If a ‘fellowshipping’ group noticing a worshipper in meditation that should bring out their kindness from their heart to honor and respect the worshipper. Thanks for this article, Monsignor, as usual brings out the best in us on how to worship GOD. Shalom Aleichem.
Although I am pro-silence, I appreciate much of what you wrote. It IS a different perspective.
While I haven’t quite changed my mind, I will try to be more charitable to people who talk loudly. (I have always excused children both talking or crying.)
I do tend to think of it as a Protestantization of Mass though. There’s a big emphasis on being friendly and sociable at their services, I believe.
I was born in the 1980s. Silence before a heavily attended Sunday Mass seems like an abstraction to me. It does not exist in my memories. I suppose I might be upset if I had Sunday silence once, thought it was wonderful, made good use of it for prayer, and then woke up one day to realize it was gone. But, that is not the personal experience of most Catholics under the age of 30. Our sense of “normal” is different. Silence does not feel like something to be grasped on a Sunday. If I expect silence, I go (unaccompanied by my small children) for Adoration.
So, what is the difference between Our Lord in the monstrance at adoration and Our Lord in the tabernacle on the altar? There is none.
What is the difference between Our Lord in the Tabernacle, Our Lord on the altar, and Our Lord in person at a happy, rowdy wedding or party while He walked on this earth? None, yet he enjoyed happy gatherings during his time here and did not speak against them.
To the many thoughtful sentiments expressed in this thread, may I suggest an idea that I’ve had the joy of experiencing during out-of-town visits to a wonderful Catholic church in Salisbury, NC, an idea that may help those concerned about the distracting din of pre-Mass conversation. Having visited this Church both for private prayer and for Mass, I’ve been deeply consoled and inspired by the recorded Gregorian chant quietly playing throughout the Church (of course not during Mass). Complementing the Church’s inspiring art and architecture, the ambient chant — in a most beautiful and unobtrusive way — engages and lifts your soul and sensibilities toward God, powerfully reminding us that this is a place not for social dialogue but of personal and communal engagement with our Lord.
It’s about creating an atmosphere that orients our senses and attention not toward one another but toward God’s presence. Sadly, our many stripped down churches have removed the visible signs that help us to disconnect from our all-too-harried lives and collect ourselves for prayer. Pastors may want to consider introducing music — whether performed by a church choir or through appropriate recorded liturgical music — prior to and immediately following Mass — to help quell excessive chatter and to encourage the prayerful engagement of parishioners.
Steve, this idea of playing Gregorian Chant before Mass is inspired. I would never have thought of it. Our church, sad to say, has the chatters going strong before Mass. It has helped to some extent that the pianist/organist has taken to playing some prayerful type music before Mass. I would only hope that it has created a heart full of prayer rather than just listeners. I am grateful for anything that can lift our minds and hearts to God.
Attend Mass early in the morning. You’ll find quiet there. Go to Mass later in the morning or in the evening, and there will be talking. Oh, in the parable mentioned in the Perspective? <> The Blessed Sacrament WAS present at those weddings, just that nobody knew it at the time, as it wasn’t quite his hour! 😉
I just dont understand why people have to talk in church, why not just talk outside before or after mass. A few whispers I can deal with when some important need arises, but loud conversations are so annoying 🙁
In my experience, in various churches mostly in Kentucky and Indiana, those places with a reverently done mass do not seem to have this problem to the extreme that some have described here. For a time, in my own parish, there was a bit of talking but our priest addressed the matter. The talking has diminished greatly since that time. Sometimes, the choir (which is excellent) is also applauded, but that has been snuffed out as well.
In terms of the cultural argument- I have a hard time buying that, as it relates to the matter of talking unnecessarily before/after (during?) mass. It is one thing to worship with a certain physical exuberance; quite another to be loud and boisterous in conversation to the point of making an idol out of yourself.
The point you make here is very valid. If the conversation is to draw attention to oneself, like so very much conversation is, then perhaps this is the type of conversation that should be addressed as being in appropriate before the Lord, King of Kings.
A couple of years ago I returned to the Catholic Church after being away for 30 years. I could see the direction things were going even back then. I think it was part of the reason I left. What was the difference between trying to pray to God in a noisy Church and praying to God in a quiet room? I can actually pray to God and feel a sense of connection in the quiet room.
The problem I see is that the talking is not ‘praising the lord’, it is ‘how do you like you new car’ or ‘how was the golf game’. Not exactly conducive to directing our minds and hearts toward God.
I love one thing about the new Churches, the lobby where people can visit without disturbing those of us in prayer in the Church itself. But what I have seen is that along with the visiting at Church has come a sense of it being just another place, like Walmart or the office. How can one enjoy the Mass if one doesn’t mentally prepare themselves for it through prayer?
I attend a very quiet and reverent Church where after Mass, everyone visits in the lobby afterwards and most go down to the basement for breakfast or lunch as well. (It is a TLM parish.)
Before I found this Church, I was having a hard time coming back to the Church. I would go to mass, watch all the people talk, try to pray, and find the whole experience a very difficult way to become more spiritual. I love people and I love to talk, but I have one hour a week to enjoy God in the Mass, I can do all my talking to people the other 167 hours a week (minus my prayer and study time). Does God deserve one hour per week? If not, what is the point.
I don’t know what the cause and effect is, but since the relaxing of Catholic belief and reverence, the percentage of Mass attendance has dropped from 80% of all Catholics to 20% of Catholics. I don’t think the visiting and lack of reverence is helping fill the Churches at all. In fact, it is having the opposite effect. Of all the fastest growing Catholic Churches I have experienced, 100% are them are those that show reverence through prayer and silence.
Your experience mirrors my own, Donatus. Thank goodness for the preservation of Tradition or else me and my whole family would still be wanderers.
Very well said.
I would just like silence during communion time and not ‘entertainment’ by the choir &/or organist.!!!
Finding ‘quality’ prayer time seems to be part of the issue.I’m fortunate to
have time during the week to spend in prayer, and I think it’s important before mass to have some chat with the person near me. However, after receiving Communion, I want, no,I think need to go into my interior private quiet space and spend time in the Presence. I find that singing during and after Communion time aggravates this need.
Everyone has their view on what they perceive the Mass should “sound” like when they enter the mighty doors. Once inside, let’s first read michaeljournal.org/holymass.htm and then make judgement. I think once this is read, everyone will have a beautiful and spiritual visual of what 1 hour at Mass with Jesus means to you.
I attend a Traditional Latin Rite Mass and of course it is silent. And the greatest thing about this silence is that the more Masses I attend “in silence” the greater the insight and participation in the Mass occurs. Of course I read everything I can about the liturgy but the sacrifice brings me right up to the gate of Heaven. Most ,not all, the children are very quiet. Some babies like to hum a little and every so sweetly and spontaneously. Beautiful! We as a parish are typical -w/ every age range. We have all learned from our pastor what an immense sacrifice it takes to maintain this. We pray heartily for our priests and our parish and for our wonderful Bishop! If ever you are in Sarasota, Fl. please stop in at Christ the King. We have a website. Pax
How are we supposed to “prepare ourselves to celebrate this SACRED mystery” when we have to listen to talk about gossip, football, school, etc? How is anyone supposed to meditate on sorrow for their sins before HOLY mass in a festive atmosphere? If the Pastor is afraid to speak up for the Lord, then he’s just not doing his job. He doesn’t have to be a mean guy to do this, BTW. He just has to be a FATHER.
Do you really think though that it is helpful to simply call all talk “gossip” ??? Perhaps some is. But as the article points out, when pondering the problem of noisy churches (and it IS a problem) fellowship ought no be wholly excoriated by terms such as you use. As “moderator” I am attempting here to “moderate” the tone and we ought to find more constructive ways of discussing this than simply dissing everyone who annoys us. Some of the talk is charitable and expresses mutual concern…can we not at least admit that and begin from a presumption of good faith? Then perhaps we can find some reasonable ways forward to moderate the problem which will not go away simply by sneering at it.
In all the discussion I have read here, nobody has mentioned the view of the hierarchy, such as the pope, heads of curia etc. We think too small these days, our church is universal and has a magisterium (teaching office) and they seem to favor respect and silence, and have commented many times on how we have lost consciousness of the true meaning (and purpose) of the mass. We cannot limit the church to our parish or even the diocese, the mass does not belong to the parish, it belongs to the church. One day, after several generations die off, pastors and laity will do as pope Benedict XVI desires for the Year of Faith, they will read the documents of Vatican II and will practice the faith as described in the documents rather than by the unintended interpretation of them used today. It is why the Hebrews wandered in the desert for forty years, to purify them of the Egyptian (pagan) culture they had become accustomed to. We are now accustomed to a different pagan culture, but it’s all the same to God.
another good point.
For the last couple of weeks, articles about the necessity of silence for communing with God have been appearing to me without any searching on my part. After the first two or three, I’ve wondered if God is trying to tell me something. Then, yesterday evening, something happened that got me really thinking about it.
I am a catechist for Confirmation. I arrived quite early for class last night so I decided to pray the Rosary before Our Lord reposing in the tabernacle. As I was trying to meditate, women arrived to change the floral displays on the altar. The kindergarten class, which was in session at the time as our parish staggers the class levels, was led into the church for some basic instruction. Even though it was apparent that I was praying, there was no effort made by the catechist to subdue her or their voices. Then the fourth grade class was enlisted to help with the floral displays. They were allowed to run through the church shouting. They grabbed gourds that were to be used for decorations and were having mock sword fights with them – on the altar. Again, no effort was made to subdue them. I actually had to block my ears with my fingers to try to concentrate on my prayer and considered just giving up. I was thinking what a sad state of affairs it was that a person cannot find the silence needed for prayer in church.
Then something wonderful happened. The fourth grade catechist had her class kneel at the tabernacle for a moment in silence. After a minute, I asked the children if they knew the “Hail Mary”. They did and I led them in a decade of the Rosary. My annoyance subsided as I watched their young, smiling, open faces and their willingness to follow with the prayers. I don’t know if they learned anything with the experience, but I sure did. Children are so open – they just need examples. All of those children smiled at me as they exited the church quietly even though the adults continued their loud chatter. I completed my Rosary with peace and hope in my heart, as well as clear direction for next week’s class – on how to pray. I later spoke with that catechist who explained to me that she was trying to direct the children towards interior silence for prayer, and each week was bringing them to the tabernacle to practice. God bless her (and the children) – it’s a start.
Greeting from the Archdiocese of New York to you Msgr. Charles and our Sisters and Brothers participating in this blog. As a member of the Church for the past few decades and based on all of my experiences in many of our forms of prayer and building community I do think the Blessed Sacrament is key to this conversation. Jesus is present in many ways in our temporal world. When we are at the sporting events, He is there. When we are at the movies, He is there. When we gather as a family or community to share a meal He is there. When we are Sacramentaly married and united as husband to wife, He is there in the three way union. Every step and action we are part of through the 24 hour day, He is there. When we enter that Chapel, Church, Cathedral or Basilica and are in the presence of the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord and Savior, somehow we are transported outside of time and place and are at the window of eternity. All that was, is and will be is there in that moment. As the temple priest of old entered the Holy of Holies, this is the Holy of Holies place today. Heaven and earth are joined and we stand at uniting spot. Without the rope around our waist we have most of our bodies on terra firma and a small part of us can enter into The Presence of God like no other Presence available in our world waiting in the tabernacle or on the Altar of Sacrifice. When we begin to understand this, there is awe, respect and the recognition of Creator – created. We become focused. We see our place as created and receivers and channels not creators of love, mercy and forgiveness. If I were to walk into the Oval Office on Pennsylvania ave, wearing sneakers, nylon shorts and playing basketball would be the last thing on my mind. This is a special place with a special purpose. If I was on a basketball court several blocks away behind a school and the President of the United States was jogging by and asked to play (excluding my political choices and practices) I would drop whatever I was doing, toss him the ball and enjoy a couple of shots, a possible dunk or two and maybe even see if one of us would get “stuffed” by the other. In a world today where we are bombarded with continuous sights and sounds overloading our seven senses and experiencing the Presence of God should be the first goal of our spirituality. The second goal should be to experience the presence of our neighbor. When we do both, we begin to fulfill Jesus’ direction to: “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (MATTHEW 22) May our good God continue to continue to guide and protect us as we yield to Him on our way to be with Him forever.
At the churches I attend there is a lot of talking before mass starts, hushed talking during, boisterous talking and hugging at the Sign on Peace, greetings to people after communion going back to the pew and loud sharing after mass. The most quiet times are during the readings, the homily and the Eucharistic prayer. I guess these would be the most important times to be quiet during the mass. I think the noise is an expression of the way people dress for mass. Do you think louder people dress more casual in the average Catholic Church. One odd thing is parishioners like to talk, but very few will sing or sing loud enough to go beyond their pew space. The pastor has a tough job.
Silence?? No but signs and a demeanor of “Please, respectful Dress and Quiet and in the house of the Lord” is appropriate.
I conducted an RCIA class in our parish. One of my Protestant candidates complained to me that he worked in the noisy world all week and wanted that few minutes of silence at last before Mass to pray to God and not have to listen to someone’s latest shopping trip behind him! And he was a young man in his 30’s and it was in the recent 1990’s.
Most of the newer churches today have Gathering Places just outside the body of the Church. That is the place for talking prior and after the Eucharist. People nowadays need to have more times for silence in this noisy, distracted world. There is a place for public space and Sacred Space. Gathering places are public space, but when entering the nave of the church, that is “sacred space.” We need to know the difference. God does merit respectful silence and attention and prayer in his special presence.
Also, what ever happened to parishioners staying a few minutes after Mass to make a proper thanksgiving for Holy Communion. The few that do can’t hear themselves think for all the boisterous conversation in church from those walking out or carrying on an extensive conversation in the aisles with no concern for those in prayer.
The problem lies with the priests; as they behave, so will the congreation. Fr. Paul Sorgie has much to say about that.
The problem is, that people nowadays regard Jesus, as their pal, one of the boys.Ask any of them, “if her majesty, Queen Elizabeth, were waiting for them in the church, would they behave with so much disrespect? I noticed this unspeakable din in the church when I came to live in Canada, 35 years ago. Even my children could not believe it.
Where there is noise, which pervades our world, there is no room for God! Sad, but true.
I think most folks have it right as seen above. We need a place to talk and a place of silence before mass. Protestants do this quite well with their church bldg. structures even without a Eucharistic presence.
Having Latin chant would be wonderful for taking down the chatter and helping to focus on prayer.
But most of all for me would be the realization in our churches, that we spend 40 minutes of preparation to receive our Lord at communion, then…. two minutes…. WITH Him…. in some kind of haphazard fashion, before we run to the cars or whatever. No wonder we can’t put any of the above in some kind of meaningful expression. And no wonder many non-catholics think we have no real belief in the True Presence.
Would it be so difficult to add 5 minutes of quiet time in deep prayer (even with quiet chant) to give to Him who waits all week to see us for an hour?
Ask yourself a simple question..’How many friends would you invite back for another dinner, who having sat and eaten with you, got up two minutes after dinner and ran away?’ Hmmmmm……..? Possibly no one you wanted to really spend an Eternity with.
I think that silence is very important in a church, where the blessed sacrament is present, because if we dont have silence in a catholic church, then where are we going to find silence. Furthermore if we want to hear the Holy Spirit of God talking to us in our hearts it will only be in silence. We must be silent and teach our children the discipline of being silent. We need a time for silence in this distracting, noisy world. Silence is vital for our faith to grow.
I am from Hyderabad, India. And here we have strict silence. When we attend Mass, it is our duty to concentrate on and be part of the celebration of the Mass. And if we keep on talking, it would not only be a distraction but also we would not be allowing others of the congregation to be part and parcel of the celebration. Our minds would be wondering. Also I would like to state that when Mass is celebrated, it is not only the congregation taking part in it but the whole Heavenly host being part of the celebration. Reverence to the Lord can only be shown by our silence.
I am from Hyderabad, India. And here we have strict silence. When we attend Mass, it is our duty to concentrate on and be part of the celebration of the Mass. And if we keep on talking, it would not only be a distraction but also we would not be allowing others of the congregation to be part and parcel of the celebration. Our minds would be wondering. Also I would like to state that when Mass is celebrated, it is not only the congregation taking part in it but the whole Heavenly host being part of the celebration. Reverence to the Lord can only be shown by our silence.
Several years ago, I visited the famous Alamo in San Antonio, Texas. Before entering this national historic site so important to the history of Texas, there was a sign at the entrance which read, “Out of respect for the events which took place at this historic site, gentlemen are requested to remove their hats, and all are kindly requested to observe a respectful silence.” Once I entered the building, not a pin could be heard! People got the message, that this was an important place which called for a certain formality and respect.
To say that times have changed and we have to go along with situations which are less formal, in my opinion, is not correct. That other times and cultures have different forms of respect regarding “sacred space” no one doubts. However, we are not in first century Christan Palestine nor are we in Africa. Observing silence when in “sacred space” is our cultural expression of respect. Therefore, lack of it denotes disrespect for the sacred. Hence, the tension and concern .
Certainly, we are not talking here about greeting ones neighbor in the pew with a simple, “Good morning.” We used to do that even in the ” bad old days” of the Latin Mass. What we are talking about is turning “sacred space” into a public meeting hall, a football stadium, or pep rally atmosphere. This is inappropriate either before or after Mass and is disrespectful of sacred actions which take place in a sacred place.
Lastly, as unfair as it may be, priests who remain silent or indifferent to the situation are viewed by the faithful as not only part of the problem, but contributing to it.
The Catholic Charismatic movement brought me back to the Church in a “new way”…God is always doing something new and He is a God of surprises:) Growing up with the changes from Vatican II, I had lived through the Latin Masses and Holy silence in our Churches, the nuns who taught us demanded an attitude/posture of silence in us and it was not all bad but fostered a heart for reverence & awe in God’s presence! However, my re-conversion experience in 1978 through a “Life in the Spirit” seminar reoriented my spiritual life back to communal prayer at Mass, and our priest, who fostered private devotions, actually instructed us that the Mass was not a time for private prayer, and our little country parish was transformed into a welcoming, wellspring of grace for many lapsed and nominal Catholics. We initiated coffee & donuts after Mass which was new & only done in the Protestant churches, we started pot luck dinners and adult faith sharing groups and other activities/devotions that would encourage each other in the faith/fellowship . When we arrived at Mass we would naturally greet our neighbors (which we now had began to know & care for) in the pews, it was charitable to inquire how a person was especially they had been going through difficulties, had a new baby or needed a hug:) Of course in charity, we knew not to disturb one another while in prayer before or after Mass, and once Mass began we all, collectively entered into the Holy Mass, worshiping together and honoring Our Lord with great reverence and love throughout the liturgy. Priests and pastors came and went over the years, but in the early 1980’s one priest (who was not our pastor) was so disturbed by our friendly chatter before Mass that he actually posted a sign at the door that stated “Jesus was present and silence was required” before & after Mass in the Church, he even tried playing Gregorian chant to create an atmosphere of silence/prayer. This was a difficult time for many us in the parish because we were faced with either disobeying the priest or disobeying the Holy Spirit who was giving us this special grace of fellowship & Holy worship. We honestly tried to temper our joy & greetings but we could not give it up completely. One day the priest, angrily yelled at the congregation prior to Mass beginning and basically told us to “shut up”…we did not feel the peace of the Holy Spirit in his action, and frankly, peace was not present in any of his gestures and attempts which were not rooted in charity towards his people. Eventually, this priest left for another parish, and our Catholic community continued to manifest the joy & peace of Holy Spirit….to this day this parish still has this beautiful, welcoming charism that attracts many back to our Catholic faith! Sooo….I have always felt silence/talking was a matter of “balance” and both are necessary components of our Catholic, communal worship. This article really confirms for me that Jesus loves to gather His people and He understands our humanity and our need to reach out and touch one another physically and spiritually as He did throughout His earthly ministry. Jesus loved people and always greeted them where they were at in all the human experiences of our lives. We live in a universal Church that embraces all cultures and vernaculars and it would be uncharitable to expect our African brothers and sisters to give up their spirit-led worship services to conform to another culture’s way of worship. The early Christian communities were all different and had their own unique charisms but it was the Holy Spirit who initiated, “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone” (1 Cor 12:4-6). I pray that we will be all open to the grace of the Holy Spirit in our lives and parishes as He leads us to deeper understanding of what it means to “the body of Christ” in our world bringing His peace & joy to others through the New Evangelization…lets us not stifle the Spirit and surrender to His Holy Will in all things!! Then we will truly reap the fruits of the Spirit and bring many people to Christ!
God’s peace be with you all!
Susana, couldn’t that balance be achieved by talking outside of the immediate church area? At least it would let others who need more silence to be able to enjoy the joy and peace that the Holy Spirit communicates to them. I understand in the “parable” quoted above that Jesus was present ( read was in bold for emphasis or italics if you prefer) but as the Church evolved, I guess that Jesus being exposed in the monstrance came to communicate to us( passage of time I mean) a certain sense of Awe, know what I’m saying? It’s very difficult to enjoy, let alone “enter” into any peace and joy of the Holy Spirit when you have people chattering in however low of tone of voice it is, about the difficulties they’re experiencing or the latest good news that they want to share. Meaning no disrespect that’s stufff that I for one think you can just as easily share behind the closed doors ( such as the glass ones in my parish that swing) and ( read in italics/bold here) let others “try” to get into the silence that they really and truly need. I can have that silence at home (I’m single) but spending so much time on my own at times ( at least in these last ten months being unemployed) and not having the “atmosphere” of the “church”, I find it “easier” to get distracted, even if the apartment, which it is, is “dead silent”, smiles. For me, there’s something about the spiritual/theological “reality” of God being totally present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in a Catholic church that money can’t buy or quiet time at home. At least for me. Talking has no part in Catholic “worship”. If you’re talking about your having lost your job, a new baby you had, a meeting that you think your fellow parishioner could attend, etc… that can just as easily be “described” as non-spiritual talk. Yes I understand that it is and can be explained as charity towards one’s neighbor. But it does and can be “balanced” as you say by limiting this “small talk” to an area of the church where “silence” doesn’t have to predominate that much. Asking others to wait literally twenty minutes till you ( i.e. fellow parishioner) “finish” your conversation updating your other parishioners as to what went on during your week while I’m dying for you to leave so I can get some peace and quiet before the chapel closes isn’t charity in my eyes. I’m sure that the Holy Spirit isn’t limited in showering his graces of fraternal charity in an area closer to the doors, where worldly “noise” is closer to smiles. And Jesus would be just as happy. He would also know that we don’t “need to reach out and touch one another physically and spiritually” “just” before Mass or “immediately afterwards”.
It really causes me pain to witness greetings to other parishioners at communion time. This seems so disrespectful and inappropriate as communion is a time when we should be concentrated on Our Lord. I have witnessed people returning from communion waving to others, shaking hands with others, and even pass up their pew to shake hands with someone seated further back, thereby holding up the returning line and causing commotion.
I asked my parish priest in the Uk if we could begin saying the rosary prior to mass on the Saturday evening to try & drown out the noise of everyone chattering. He was very reluctant for many months but eventually agreed but stipulated it wasn’t to be done to drown out the noise but to bring an element of prayer into the Church.
A handful of us have been doing this for almost a year now. It hasn’t stopped the talkers, but as someone on here rightly commented, there are a fair number of attendees who are only there out of a sense of obligation & not to have a dialogue with God. I also showed a copy of michaelsjournal to my priest because for me, reading that really brought the Mass alive, & to know Jesus is on the altar looking at each one of us as if we were the only person there makes you wonder what He thinks when so many people ignore Him & carry on a conversation of no consequence. If He would manifest Himself, would the same people still carry on their inane chatter?
There have been a couple of occasions during the last year when I have become so disheartened about the very few joining in the rosary that during Adoration on Saturday mornings I have said to God that maybe He doesnt want the rosary said & if there was only going to be a couple of us that night then I wasn’t going to do it anymore. On both occasions it has turned out to be the best rosary with the most number of people joining in. I think that means that He is pleased with it & wants it to continue!
A prophecy from a couple of centuries ago, I can’t remember if it was the children of Salette, or maybe Blessed Ann Emmerich, found it shocking to be shown that in our times nobody would have the respect for the Church & would openly talk in them. Given that the vision came from God, it would seem to me that makes plain His feelings on the matter!
We started reciting the rosary before Mass in my former parish many years ago. At first, it was well received, and seemed beneficial to the life of the parish. People would come into the church early and either slip into private prayer or simply join the rosary at that point. Then something happened that changed everything. Two men, that were well intentioned, I am sure, took over leading the rosary @ 10:30 Mass. One would always leave out the word womb and then when that was corrected, he left out the word woman. Unfortunately, because he was an elderly and beloved parishioner, the pastor would not correct the problem. It was not conducive to meditation as it was so distracting; like waiting for the clown to jump up out of the jack-in-the-box. The other man, would lead by, what we, in the south, call whooping. We live in the Bible Belt and many Catholic, especially African American Catholics are heavily influenced by the Black Protestant culture. This dear man (a convert) thought he was enhancing people’s prayers by amping the rosary up. It became a show. The new pastor gradually eased the rosary to an earlier time before Mass. Anyone who wanted to, could come early and say the rosary with these gentlemen. But Father wisely put a cut off time and started playing recorded Gregorian chant 15 min. prior to Mass. It lowered the volume considerably. Because of our human nature and the chaos of the world we live in, need an appropriate transition coming out of the marketplace into God’s House.
There’s a lot to be said for silence. Indeed it is golden and lacking in this society now. Crying babies at Mass are a blessing. We all understand that! BUT having said that, I work as a nurse in a very busy hospital. There is no silence, even in patients’ rooms. The patients themselves have their TV’s on constantly and will not silence them or mute them, even when the doctor comes in to talk to them. Many will stay on their cell phones while a nurse or doctor is trying to talk to them (and these are not only younger people!) There is no respect for the verbal anymore, it’s all just noise to the ears of a population that is desensitized to almost every assault, be it visual or auditory. We live in an age of wondrous technology that has turned us into lemmings. To sit before the Blessed Sacrament and engage in our usual behaviors, talking loudly or texting, chewing gum, joking around, is so sad to me, so sad.
Interesting article. I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s. Even as a child, I loved the periods of silence before and during Mass. I could sense God’s presence and learned to just “be” with Him. In my early adult years I attended Charismatic Masses and loved the praising and singing joyfully to God and the coming of the Holy Spirit in a beautiful way. Today I go to Charismatic healing Masses once a month and am a Secular (Third Order) Discalced Carmelite. As my love grew deeper, I longed for silence and to be more intimately united with Our Lord. Although one could say we need a balance in the church setting, more silence would, by its very nature. help people to “hear” what God is saying to them and bring them closer to God.
Mass is finished, WORSHIP AND ADORATION ARE OOOOOOOOOVER, grin, aren’t they?? So a parish priest should have noooo difficulty in asking parishioners to talk in the vestibule. Talking quietly can be heard by people with even a moderately severe degree of hearing impairment ( don’t understand what people are saying) and is veeeeeeeeeeeeery distracting when you’re trying to get your mind and heart quiet to “try” to center on God. How well I listen to him even in silence is another story smiles…. I understand that Jesus had company but… maybe.. Jesus was in his human form? And I don’t think that apostles stood thunderstruck, holding their breath until Jesus put down his next foot down, see what I’m saying? So the Jesus loved company phrase to excuse people who talk in church after Mass doesn’t hold water at alllllllllllll.. Please excuse any gaps here. Am just reading this. Have not scrolled down through all the comments either. I’m a convert to the Catholic faith and you have no idea how much I treasure the awesom silence that there is in a Catholic church. Because of His Real Presence. Yes, I know that God is with us everywhere etc… but many times I find it easier to pray in a church rather in my own apartment and that marvelous thing called SILENCE is really something that is made so extra special in a Catholic church because of the whole Presence of Jesus in it. Again, if people were talking about stuff that others could hear and understand, that would be edifying, (spiritual topics), ….don’t know if that would make it more tolerable for those of us who really want the silence in church, but I have high doubts, and no I don’t listen in to what other people might be saying( am lucky if I get three lines out of a homily with both aids) that people AFTER MASS IS SAID, are talking about anything that COULD ( caps for emphasis only okay) be said out of the ears of the rest who stay in church until the “noise quiets down”. Sometimes I stare at people till they realize that they’re bothering, however unintentionally, a couple of times have had to tell people who have been talking within speaking distance of a pew for fifteen minutes straight, if they could please stop talking, and best of all, I found some travel ear plugs which I can use. End of story for now. Will probably be better informed after read through comments
I’m in Los Angeles where people walk out during the Consecration to a nearby fast-food place and return with food which they eat during the rest of Mass! Even in the Communion line. The priests do nothing. The choir members also eat during Mass. They play salsa music, dance, etc. Some parishes cook and sell food outdoors during Mass; people wander outside to buy a snack, bring it back inside and eat during Mass as well. Kids play in the aisles, people talk loudly on cell phones, nobody says a thing about it. Yet when I was homeless 2 yrs. ago and dared to sit at the back with a small “granny cart”, and wasn’t begging, just wanted to go to Mass, I was kicked out. Does that make sense? Jesus was homeless. But He also drove out the vendors who were defiling His Father’s house.
Gee, that wouldn’t happen to be the big place down town would it? Would not surprise me in the least if it were.
Once went to an Easter Vigil at St. Peter and Paul in Wilminton, CA. That is a heavily Hispanic church. Let me tell you, not one moment of silence to be had.Outside, the Mexican food vendors hawked their wares at the top of their lungs causing children to shriek at their Mom’s that they wanted this and that!!!
Inside, cell phones going off, people talking…oh, but I forget! It IS all about THE PEOPLE isn’t it, no longer is it about CHRIST.
Father, just read through one of your comments and a few others. Willl leave soon since mind is on jobhunting and can check on this later. I wouldn’t call anything “gossip” that’s talked about…. What’s a big thing for me, as a convert, as someone who was “drawn” to the Catholic faith by the specialness of the Presence in the tabernacle, is people talking in church, whether before or after Mass. Yes I can get distracted even with Jesus in the church, ( as in more directly present, to my human “experience” than at home, where I don’t have Him in the tabernacle) but…. it’s hard to explain. I wonder if Catholics realize how huge huge huge it is to have God Himself available to us. To me since the King is there, there is absolutely no reason to talk before or after Mass. If you want to get to know your neighbor, you could sit at the end of the church or talk in the vestibule. I certainly don’t come to church to get to know my neighbor. I come to church to receive Jesus and Jesus alone. If I want to get to know my neighbor I could attend a prayer meeting, a parish activity, etc… The Real Presence of Jesus in the tabernacle is above everything else for me. Okay now will disappear smiles. thanks.
My first born grandson made his First Holy Communion at our Catholic church. Present where twelve drums next to and in front of the altar (4 drums were bongos). Friends that attended were shocked at the noise and lack of any formality. The women lectors had on gymnastic stretch pants and the altar girls were decked out in costumes. There was not a second of silence during the entire mass. Welcome to then next generation of Catholics that hold absolutely nothing sacred.
Holy Holy Holy is the Lord, Hosanna in the Highest. Was the first Mass of Jesus Christ quite and meditative or was is a Dinner with Laughter, Joking, Sharing, Eating, Crying, Singing, Discussion of the Torah, and a celebration of LIFE together. Thus I will enjoy a Jesus Christ type of Mass. Amen
I am one who would like to pray before Mass and spend at least ten minutes after Mass with Jesus, since having received Communion I want intimate quiet time with Him, not just for a minute, which seems all we generally get, but for at least ten minutes. People who want to talk after Mass can go to the vestibule or keep it very low. Instead, it is very noisy. Certain saints experienced souls from Purgatory who were there because of talking in Church. That should give people pause. Also, when Jesus turned the tables over of the money changers and said, “My house is a house of prayer and you have turned it into a den of thieves,” most people say it’s due to the devious money changers angering the people outside the Temple. In an excellent book called, “How Christ Said the First Mass” by Fr. James Meagher, he goes further, stating that the money changers had moved very close to the doors of the Temple and were disrupting those inside who wanted to pray. Now it is no longer outside the doors but inside. If the ability to pray in the Temple was so important to Jesus in His day, and if souls have found themselves in Purgatory because of their unwarranted talking in Church, then isn’t it a leap to say it’s fine now? Were one to read the volumes of Luisa Piccarreta who died in 1947 (or see http://www.comingofthekingdom.com) , he would find that Jesus deeply desires that intimate time with us after Mass. Instead, He is greatly wounded by those who do not spend some time with Him. No sooner is He received than He is ignored. In other words, one minute is enough for Him but fifteen minutes of chatting with friends. Luisa had daily encounters with Jesus over most of her 82 years and lived off the Eucharist and nothing else for about 62 of those years. She wrote 36 volumes regarding the Kingdom of the Divine Will under strict obedience (actually penalty of mortal sin) of her Confessor(s). Those volumes were recently approved as free of error by two theologians who had for several years studied them for the Vatican in regard to her cause for sainthood. Indeed Luisa wrote at length about how Jesus suffers greatly from such coldness of people’s hearts toward Him. I hear people say Jesus doesn’t mind this nor that. Is that wishful thinking? Oh, should we not develop a deep love of Jesus that He be more important than the comradery of friends.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not a Protestant fellowship gathering. It is the commemoration of Our Lord’s Passion and Death, and the one and only Crucifixion is made present before us at that time, and we before it. This very Sacrifice is then offered to the Father in atonement for our sins. We must THINK about that for at least a moment. For centuries, silence was the appropriate posture for such a solemn occasion, yet the spirit of pride now sells us the lie that it’s not necessary. I suppose it isn’t if you don’t believe in Transubstantiation.
I am afraid for all of those who will find out otherwise, but once it’s too late…
Yes, silence and kneeling. In Los Angeles, we are commanded to “stand in unity”. Some churches even mock those who wish to kneel after having received by snarking that kneeling at communion goes back to the middle ages when people competed to be the lowest of the low in God’s sight.
“You must be a very bad sinner” they sneer.
Yes, yes I am. That is why I am here and why I kneel before the God who is there.
Charity as some call it has done wonders for the faith, eh?
As always, I love reading your wise words! Last Sunday we had a con-celebrator, Fr. Fidelis Igwenwanne at our parish here in Phoenix. The people in our parish create a very reverent atmosphere, which does mean it’s quiet often. After mass Fr. Fidelis, who moved here from Nigeria in 1990, spoke to us. He told us he was feeling so happy, and proceeded to lead us in a round of “If you’re happy and you know it”, which included verses of praising God and shouting Alleluia! It was fantastic, and surely jolted many (most?) of us out of our comfort zones. To be honest, I’ve want to be able to shout Alleluia to our Lord for a while, and am so grateful to Fr. Fidelis to giving us the joyful opportunity to do so! We should never hesitate singing praise to our God. 🙂
I’m sure that Mary and others present on Calvary did somthing similar prior to Christs sacrifice.
You can surely go down to the local Protestant church for that…why be Catholic at all?
You ever notice that those of us who want reverence of our Lord are always admonished to have “charity” for those who will not?
Why can’t they have “charity” for us sometime?
One more point: the story of the priest upset over the wedding party going on. You see, back in Jesus’s time, they truly did not know that the Christ was present.
But now, we DO know. To not insist on respect for that presence is basically denying that presence.
Think about that next time you smile with charity as someone carries on with their cell phone.
Chatter in the House of God is an outrage. The Catholic Church demands Holy Silence. Have your fellowship in the Hall, please.
After Mass, I am drawn to pray for a few minutes in a spirit of awe, wonder and gratitude. Overlooking the noise with a charitable heart, I offer any distraction as a symphony of love to Our Dear Lord. If someone stops to ask a question or share a greeting – it’s so important to respond kindly. Sometimes, a fellow parishioner just needs someone to listen. Other times, the Holy Spirit is leading the conversation, and we are both edified. Often, It’s possible to return to personal prayer after the interruption. Whether in personal prayer or in the spirit of community – may Our Great God be glorified! Praise God!
I think that the phenominon of talking, not genuflecting and basically not praying when inside “Gods House”, as it was considerred, has to do with the devaluation of the Mass, as the unbloody sacrifice of Christ on thre cross, being made present, for my (preventable) sins. The Churches where the traditional Mass is offered seem to, almost naturally, follow the quiet norms of old, and the attendees, pretty much seem to pray before and after Mass.
I rarely go to the old Mass but when I do, it seems consistantly quiet and condusive to worshipfull prayer and it’s always spiritually uplifting. I wish that we had an old Mass.
The talk that occurs before and after Mass is NOT communal prayer, with people worshipping and praying together. There is no praying going on at all. It consists of people chatting together like they are at a party., making plans for later, etc. I disagree completely with your characterization of this issue as either private prayer vs. communal prayer. What occurs is actually private prayer vs. Hi, how are you? What have you been doing? How’s your Mom? When are you leaving for your vacation? Including loud laughter.
I liked how you began this article, but then I was very disappointed when you began to identify the conversations taking place in the main nave as people praying communally together. Sunday morning is time for prayer, whether private or communal, but it is not the time for having long conversations in the main nave of the Church. There are other areas to gather for conversations as you mentioned. So for a priest to ask people to relocate their conversations to a more appropriate location is not negative, it is giving people rules to follow in obedience. The lack of having rules for everyone is a disaster in that there is chaos everywhere these days. When children are spoiled and undisciplined, they become selfish, and self-centered adults, and this is how our society is today – filled with unruly, undisciplined people who care only about themselves. This can be seen while driving, while shopping or doing anything else in public. People cut other people off, are not aware of anything going on around them. The last bastion of hope should be going to Mass. Unfortunately, many Catholics are as worldly as everyone else. We should be an example of good behavior, not participating in the ways of the world.
We actually had a pastor who required everyone to introduce themselves to others near their pew just before Mass began. It irritated me to no end because I would be trying to prepare myself mentally and spiritually to attend Mass properly. All of a sudden there is an outburst of irreverent chatter in the Church for 2 or 3 minutes prior to the priest ascending the steps to the altar. We shouldn’t be focusing on one another at Mass; God should be the center of our attention. Just my opinion. Must confess I’m a pre-Vatican II Catholic and will always believe the Latin Mass, and priest facing the altar was a more awe inspiring liturgy than the razzle-dazzle Masses we participate in today. I love attending the teen Masses because of the music but honestly it’s like attending a rock concert; fun, but is it truly worshipping God or is it just entertaining the people?
I guess some other site linked here because the post, after dying down lit up again. And how disappointing most of the comments were. Generally they were nasty, accusatory, over generalized, and just plain mean. I wonder if most of you who support silence (and we DO need more silence) have any sense how awful you come across, how (pardon the expression) “LOUD” you sound. I cringed as I read many of the comments. How on earth will you ever convince with your nasty and just plain mean demeanor (with the emphasis on mean). Wow, it is simply awful. The worst enemies of tradition are traditionalists. If I were on the fence with sympathies for tradition, you would just send me running….
Gosh, y’all gosh….
Maybe we’re coming across so “loud” because we’ve had to be silent in “charity” for so long. We’re tired of being told that we’re mean because we’d like mass to be respectful to God, not for the entertainment of man.
But Monsignor, don’t all the comments that seemed “nasty, accusatory, over generalized, and just plain mean” indicate to you just how fed up many people sitting in the pews are? It also indicates that it has been going on for a long time without correction, or even moderation. I am sorry you are not sitting in the pews week after week. Up on the altar it may not seem so bad. My comment, which was not published, is not an exaggeration or an over generalization. I hope it was not mean. I have witnessed all the things I mentioned. One time, I kid you not, I saw a mother pull out a bowl, pour cereal into it, pour a small carton of milk over it, and hand it to her 8 or 9 year old son who proceeded to eat right there in the pew. Even if the child was developmentally disabled, (which he did not appear to be, but that is not always obvious) is that is that really necessary?
Last week our pastor put a notice in the bulletin that from now on unattended children would be escorted from the church hall, since the week before some were found climbing the newly painted pillars in that room. He pointed out most parents would not allow their children to put their shoes on newly painted walls at home, and should not do so at church. Another time he put in the bulletin that parents should be aware that there is no way to monitor who comes through the church door, and it is a dangerous practice to allow their children to use the bathrooms or wander church property alone during or after the Mass. Another time he mentioned the plethora of snacks and Cheerios found in and under pews after Sunday Mass, and wondered why even young children cannot go one hour without food. Our pastor is an extremely charitable and kind man. So I imagine it must be worse than it appears for him to be driven to say anything at all. Why do modern parents need to be told this? What is their theory of parenting that is so permissive that it does not even recognize, let alone correct unruly behavior in their children? Please help me to understand.
I was really bothered a few weeks ago by something that happened at mass. We were sitting near the front because we were offering the Mass for my late father in law and my 2 year old was playing and talking to himself. A man behind us very angrily shushed him which nearly brought him to tears. A woman behind this man then loudly thanked him for shutting our son up. I ended up spending the rest of the Mass outside the church because it is not possible to force a 2 year old to be quiet without causing a massive tantrum. I love quiet personal prayer but those who come to Mass for that are missing the point. We should all be praying in silent prayer throughout the week but Mass is to come together to worship as the Body of Christ and that includes children.
And anyone who thinks there was ever a golden age when Mass was completely silent is kidding themselves. A fruitful church is filled to the brim with loud, screaming infants… The cry rooms can’t contain them. Our entire faith is about letting go of our egos, laying down our lives. I suggest to those complaining about noise that they take this into careful consideration. The real irreverence is this self centered judgmental attitude. I think those who complain have never carried a cross in their lives. Remember that when Our Lord prayed during His agony, he was greatly distracted and he prayed all the more fervently. He was nailed to the cross and dying yet prayed, Father forgive them, they know not what they do.
No one is speaking about infants or necessary sounds. Let’s be real.
I love silence in Church. Yes, with all do respect for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Especially after receiving communion where Jesus is so special, almost beyond description.I seldom hear announcements. However, when I enter Church and I see all my brother and sisters in Christ, I’m also excited and often over come with joy. Just think before long we will all be together in heaven. (I’m praying and hoping) This very though encourages me to be joyful even if I see someone causing distraction by their joy or lack of respect. We the people are the body of Christ, the Church. Thus we are encouraged to see Jesus in each other, not only in the Blessed Sacrament. How can we do this without first love of neighbor. How can we pretend to love Jesus in the Eucharist if we can not love our brother or sister in the pew. . Their actions is an opportunity for us to grow in holiness. Also, when entering church one often sees someone they haven’t seen in a while. It’s only normal to exchange greetings by smiles and small gestures. Before mass if someone wants to talk to me, (usually important matters) I’ll motion to them to the foyer where we can share openly. Not everyone understands or see Church with the same eyes or values. We are all on a journey learning as we go and must be patient if someone doesn’t see things just the way we do. They are our brothers and sisters.
After reading all the comments, I am gratified to see I am not the only one who is bothered by talking at mass. I have actually tried to ask nicely to people talking to be quiet so one can pray. This brought on an argument by the other people. Most churches have a crying room where parents can take children. I really did not go to church to hear children cry and act up in church. All, this, and then the people running up and down the aisles during the Agnus Dei saying “Peace” and shaking hands. Do these people even realize that the priest is holding up The body and blood of Christ and here they are into themselves as always. The mass is the greatest prayer that we can participate in. It is not communal to me. It is between me and Jesus and that is all. It became impossible for me to attend mass and not get angry.
It has ended up that I go to a traditional latin mass where the priest faces the alter, the tabernacle is in the middle of the alter instead of the priest’s chair and there is reverence and silence. People don’t come into church dressed in jeans and shorts. They wear dresses or skirts and something on their heads. In this church I feel at home. Where do you ask can you find a church like this? It is a Pius X church, or you can go to the Byzantine Church. The Roman Catholic church is now protestant to me. I am no longer angry when I leave church. Someday this church may be the only true church left as it has not changed at all. We still use the 1962 missal. The biggest mistake the Roman Catholic church ever made was Vatican II.
Gosh, Msgr Pope, and I am ever so glad to have no dealings with priests like you!
This is helpful to me because I am naturally a reserved type and also appreciate praying before the Blessed Sacrament. I struggle with being charitable when I am hopelessly distracted and can’t do a proper thanksgiving for communion, but know that the people around me are often better people than I am in many ways. I belong to a very “horizontal” style parish and the disconnect can be difficult to handle properly. Thank you for so carefully going through everything.
It breaks my heart to be in a noisy church, as it does the hearts of most of your other commentators. What does it do to the hearts of Our Lord and Our Lady?
I don’t really know. But it is also worth wondering what they might think of some of the nasty tone of some of the remarks. It’s one thing to say that our churches are too noisy today. But why the venom of calling it all gossip, and presuming nobody cares or understands true presence, or calling them all rude, gossipers, irreverent etc. Really. Is that going to win a single convert to the cause? Most people mean well and are not simply gossiping, or “talking about the game” and joyful greeting is not evil. Maybe its good to remember that our Lord and our Lady love these people and don’t appreciate the demeaning descriptions of them. Maybe gentle correction of people we love is more appropriate in a case like this. And, frankly I wonder what our Lord and our Lady might think some of the nasty personal remarks directed against me, most of which I deleted? It seems that if I don’t simply adopt a “tell the talkers to shut up” mode, that I am, as some have remarked “a weak priest, another example of poor pastoral leadership….a cop out” And all this from people who probably don’t even know me. Talking in Church is problematic but I cannot think our Lord and Lady are pleased by the loud an unnecessarily nasty tone of some of the comments here.
Msgr, I agree that our Lord and Lady would not be pleased with most of the comments here. I, for one, appreciate your very charitable presentation of the “other side of the coin”. As one who has, in the past, been greatly disturbed by all the chatter, I am grateful to have been presented with another perspective. It is, in fact, quite true that my church provides a number of quiet areas in which I might reflect in order to place myself in the proper disposition prior to mass. Furthermore, I agree that it is not all gossip. Our society has become more and more segregated and people are so “busy” that one may not be aware of the suffering or need of our neighbor. It may very well be that these souls are asking their neighbor for prayer or consolation – or even reporting good news about a prior prayer request. We must be careful not to be like those who, in Jesus’s time, adhered to the strict letter of the law and not its spirit. God Bless You!
Thank you for getting the main point of the post, namely that there are other perspectives in this matter and a number of things worth balancing, including the need for greater silence. I am in the number of those who prefer greater silence but I have also come to understand that there are many factors involved in our current situation. I am quite sad at the tone this post generated. At any rate I surely appreciate your comment and understanding.
May God Bless you Hilde. The ultimate relationship is between us and our Lord. This is what we should focus on. I pray that the Lord shows himself to you, and captures your heart so strongly, that you cannot refuse to accept him.
I agree and concur that the atmosphere in some churches has become “noisier” than I believe it should be. Many people go to Mass for a peaceful, quiet time of prayer or meditation which is denied them in their normal course of life. Yes, Jesus is present in the tabernacle, and we should acknowledge that fact and be grateful for it. His presence should not be, I feel, a time of loud socializing. I also feel that every available opportunity should not be filled with music. It (music) should accompany the Mass and not be the main “show”.
I normally attend the Traditional Latin Mass, but because of a recent move I have to go to the local Novus Ordo church on Sundays. I am quite apalled by all the chatter among the parishioners these days. The saddest part is by far most of the talking is done by old ladies, who really should know better. It’s so bad in the Novus Ordo that the old hens even start prattling during Mass the moment there is any silence from the priest, lectors, or singers. I guess it can be expected since Vatican II has turned our churches into Protestant meeting houses.
God bless you, Father.
I, too, am older and so am bothered by the amount of loud talking etc. that are exhibited at Mass, both before and after but, I also know that the actual level of reverence residing in each person will manifest itself in its true form during such times and Our Lord takes note of all. We forget that far too many Catholics come to Mass on Sunday to “do their bit” legally and then get going. Many of us have the attitude, tacit or otherwise, that Our Lord should be darn glad we show up at all and not mind that we look at our watches or constantly observe the behavior of others. Where is our one-on-one communing with our Creator, the Living God??? It hurts my heart to know that Our Lord looks out at us from His Tabernacle and knows that so many of us are there, not because of our great sense of awe and wonder and deep love and devotion, but because we “have to be”, just in case. . .
Well said, Ellen! !
Thank you, your comments are long overdue. The lack of silence is so disrespectful to Our Lord and totally selfish in terms of other parishioners who want the silent time to pray to God and listen to God. The parish leadership needs to take charge and require respect. The thought that parishioners should guide this issue and everyone understand their need to socialize is ridiculous.
Father, so far and I just clicked on this today, haven’t read any nasty comments but sorry that you got them. Whatever Jesus and His Mother think is between them and their hearts. It’s difficult, as we all must know, to interpret accurately when we “hear” someone online, because of all the non-verbal things that are missing. I guess it is a good reminder to read that a church is a communal place. To be honest I never thought about these things a lot. The parish church that I started going to in Spain, where I grew up ( although born here) didn’t have a lot of people stay after Mass. Quietness was, honestly, just the way it was. I suspect that we probably didn’t have a choir because of lack of funds or many other factors. This was a parish where there were only two priests who managed everthing. At the other church, a bit more “downtown”, I discovered that they had a children’s choir, small, gathered from students at a school run by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. If you ever saw people pray before Mass at St. Joseph’s, in Spain, where I was baptized, it was a group of about six ladies who always sat in a group, kind of in the front area, and were praying the rosary.
Due to this , “atmosphere”, smiles, it was a huge shock to come to college to the States and find out just how way too much music ( my taste) was included at Mass. It took a looooooong time to get used to that, but thankfully, earplugs have helped when I started getting tired of not having ten minutes silence from the moment Communion starts till it ends.
By the way, I have never heard “loud” talking. I guess it depends on just how loud is loud right? And I understand that no church is or ever will be a “cloister”, silence-wise. But,…. I think that I, and maybe a lot of people, tend to associate a church or place of worship with silence. Probably because we know and are taught, I guess, that this is a place where silence really really does help the person to quiet down one’s mind. Habits are hard to break. If I had grown up here, or in parishes were audible friendly talk was the “norm”, in spite of seeing people right under you nose who “seemed” ‘to be in a posture of prayer, well, maybe I would be more used to it.
Not trying to be school teacher with a ruler, but I still take the position that if you need to update your neighbor about something, please please please try to do it in a voice so that no one else hears it except you and the person next to you. If you have good hearing I’m sure that it can be done.Because in that situation you wouldn’t have any trouble “blocking” out background noise ( something that people with good hearing automatically do when on the phone, restaurants, etc…) and you would “hear” and “understand( two diffferent things going on in “hearing” okay) at the same time. Anyways, I think the cow can only be milked so much grin on this topic.
I’m so glad this article was written. It brings out in the open the growing and very bad habit of irreverence in Church and rudely ignoring the right others have to pray in silence.
It doesn’t matter if we are in America or in the 21st century, or even in ancient Israelite temples, the house of God continues to be a sacred place all over the world for 2000+ years and respect for His presence should be observed within our power by all, at all times. If someone has an objection with that, they need to reevaluate their faith and instead of bringing Jesus down to our level of comfort, we should be allowing Jesus to raise us to His level of holiness. We pray this prayer during Mass, “We lift up our hearts to you..”? Didn’t Jesus already lower himself enough for us when He was kicked to the ground and crushed for our sins? Shouldn’t we then lift up our hearts and minds and voices in His praise at the appropriate times at Mass and offer to Him reverential silence at other times?
Do we observe respectful silence and quiet in a courtroom, as a guest in a hotel or a friends home, a classroom, at work, a lecture hall, a hospital a sick room? Yes, of course we do, then why do we make and accept excuses to be disrespectful to Christ in His house? If they say, “Christ enjoyed parties and all kinds of people, why then overlook the biblical fact that he often went away and prayed in silence? He so loved reverence for His Father’s house, that he chased out the money changers who had set up shop inside the temple saying, “You shall not make My Father’s house a den of thieves”.
Why is silence avoided like the plague? There is no doubt that sometimes our minds are distracted even when we try to be reverently silent for the Mass, but that’s normal and passing.
We live in a culture of noise, social activities, entertainment and knowledge at our fingertips anywhere we choose to go, anytime, so why do we make excuses to justify making distractions in Church, instead of putting it on hold for a brief hour a week to reflect on the presence of God? There’s plenty of room in the Church Hall and outside the Church for social gatherings.
But, like bad children, if we are seen doing something irreverent and nothing is done about it, then we will continue to do it and push the boundries.
We must give our Lord the respect out of our love that is due Him in His house and encourage others to do the same. I’m sure if people saw it that way, they would willingly agree. It’s not possible to pray well when we are distracted or unnecessarily talking in Church.
Thank you. Thank you so much for the most beautiful and truthful comment. I could not have said it any better myself. Although I did try at our Parish meeting when the Priest wondered why we have such a low attendance. I struggled explaining to him (while he glared at me), how difficult it was trying to get through (1) Hail Mary while doing the rosary, listening to everyone around me chatting as though we were at a football game. I do have a beautiful site that can be read, although a tad long, but worthy of every word. It’s michaeljournal.org/holymass.htm
If one person can read this and appreciate the Holy Mass, as I do, then I have not done this in vain. Our Sunday Mass will go back to quieter times as it should be. I am eagerly awaiting that day with a smile on my face.
Debra, Thank you for recommending this site at michaeljournal.org/holymass.htm.
I did read it some time ago and sent it to my sister who loved it.
I will enjoy reading every bit of it again and pass it on to others as well.
It gives us a renewed reverence and increases our love for the Holy Mass.
Hmm, Father, was just skimming. Need to stop browsing here. It’s been very educational to read the comments, as well as anything else elsewhere by people who grew up with Traditional Mass and those who didn’t. Just wanted to add one thing since I happened to scroll down a comment I made yesterday. If this is too repetetious dont’ post it I guess. I finished highschool in the U.S. My road to Catholicisim “started” in Spain. I was never long enough at a parish to really “feel” like a member. So when I write it’s coming from the “point of view” , of a convert, you know. Jesus, and He alone, was the most important reason for me to come to any church. I wasn’t coming from or still wouldn’t come from that no one else matters. But, I see, as I write this, that I still think that the main reason to come to church, ( building proper) inside, is to be with God and worship Him. It’s something that sunk in? in me……
Personally I do wish that the pastor would encourage silence. And Father, you can’t depend on the laity to do this themselves. At least not everyone. To tell the truth, I never “heard” people gather at the pews here and theare talking in a low tone of voice, till I came to the States. Not blaming anyone. Maybe the few people who made it to Mass back in Fuengirola, ( province of Malaga, southern Spain) were those who were coming because they had to? Maybe there’s something cultural too. I’d also think that whether people gather or not, and “where”, depends on what available space there is for people to do that don’t you think? Okay will disappear for now. thanks.
Msgr. Pope, I know you don’t have to post this comment, but I just want to reassure you that Catholics love our priests and look to you for leadership, showing us by your example the love of Jesus and care for all of your parishioners, leaving out no one, preferring no one over another, but bringing all to Christ. Living in the world, yet not of the world, apart from the world while in the world. Lead us to Christ Prayer: Father, “shake all the nations” and fill Your “house with glory” (Hg 2:7).
Being an old lady, I remember quiet churches. I suspect that what helped end silence is the “sign of peace”
which is given after the Consecration. All that turning and shaking hands and kissing and waving across the
church takes the mind off of Jesus and encourages people to socialize during the mass. Why not have people
greet one another before Mass begins. Another distraction from the Real Presence, is the song of thanksgiving said immediately after Communion. We used to talk to Jesus at that time. Some of the songs sung don’t even relate to Communion. I have heard that up to 70% of Catholics no longer believe in the Real Presence. Were they the ones who thought up these two new items. It says in scripture that the early christian left services singing hymns of thanksgiving. Isn’t that the recessional hymn? After communion, I talk to Jesus. All questions are rhetorical. Soon I’ll be in Heaven (God willing) and I’ll have all the answers!
I was away from the church for many years. I came back about 6 years ago. The church I go to is the church my husband grew up going to. The old church has been torn down and a new one built in the 70s. Very modern. No statues and no large crucifix on the altar. The piano and organ are actually on the altar to the right and that’s where the choir is too. The talking before mass reaches such a crescendo that its almost deafening, and people have forgotten how to whisper. I see nothing wrong with whispering a greeting to someone who enters your pew or sits in front of you. I have been guilty of frivolous conversation, so I can’t point a finger at anyone else, but it would really be nice if our Pastor would tell people to keep it down a little from time to time. No one prays before mass anymore, and I have stopped trying to pray a rosary before mass because I can’t concentrate between the loud talking (sounds like a town meeting) and the choir practicing on the altar. It all seems very irreverent to me, but I’m older and like you I remember the days of total quiet in church other than the babies making noise or someone coughing or clearing their throat.
I do think that the presence of a large crucifix on the altar and statues of Jesus, Mary and Joseph command some respect and help people remember where they are. Its just my opinion.
Some times the best way is to lead by example. When entering the church I keep my head bowed greeting the Lord & asking my guardian angel, Mary, & the saints to intercede for me, internally of course. If someone speaks to me I nod & smile & try to act like they were drawing me away from something very special, which they are. Anything that needs a reply of any length I simply say,”would you mind meeting after mass to talk about this.” I keep my hands folded & eyes lowered except to look up at Jesus or the priest. I sometimes close my eyes during readings so distractions will not prevent me from hearing what the Holy Spirit is telling me. I keep my eyes lowered & hands folded to & from communion, and always genuflect as best I can before and after leaving the pew. Not at communion of course. If people around me talk I offer this up to Jesus as a suffering for the holy souls and ask Mary to grant them the grace of a deeper understanding of what is taking place before their very eyes and in their very souls. I ask for myself that no agitation or anything negative enter in before, after, or during mass. This helps me. the mass is a very short time out of the week or day to offer to God. If I had only 1 hour a week to spend with my loved one I would not let anything,unless extremely important, interfer with that time. At St. Anne De Beaupre shrine in Canada there are some “silence, please maintain a prayerful atmosphere” signs.” All things for His glory through Mary.”
Jesus is physically present in our bodies for 15 minutes after we receive Him in the Eucharist. Can we not stay prayerful for at least that time? My daughters like to pray the rosary after mass but seldom are able to because of the noise and yes the last ones to stop talking are usually elderly ladies talking very loud possibly because they are hard of hearing. When asked politely if they could lower their voices so they could pray they get VERY hostile. Not that many years ago in our church a number of people stayed after mass to light candles and pray or just pray but that never happens now. During the Jubilee year you were to offer certain prayers after mass but it was always at least 20 minutes before it was quiet enough to pray. The saddest thing is the prayers that no longer get said because of the noise. I looked up the definition of gossip one time and it said it was useless chatter. Much of what I have heard said is that or even worse. Could we not make our entryways more conducive to talk there instead of the church? I went to a funeral once where the rosary was said by the Altat Society, then a break before the Knights said one. I got to the church at the break and was SHOCKED at the bedlam, the YELLING and running up and down the aisles and more. My thought was is this a Catholic Church? The priest was also shocked. He did stop at the altar before he started the mass, turned and said if you want to talk please take it into the hall. A sign at the entrance of a church I once attended said ” Please observe a reverant silence out of respect for the presence of the Eucharist. We have all week to socialize cannot we give one hour to adore our God?
It was the adults running and yelling, not children.
Read what St Padre Pio wrote about how we are to conduct ourselves before, during, and after Mass. ‘Nuff said.
Yes, you are right 100%, there is no more respect in church or in any other public institution. Give you an example, during the summer months we sell raffles in front of different churches and people come late and leave early. During mass they come out to answer their cell phones and be there for 10 minutes or they just come to get the bulletin and go home. Today generation are addicted to cell phones some people are constantly on it, I have noticed whole families go out to dinner and everybody is playing with their own toy and there no more conversation, its a sad world.
I have found that if one comes rather early to church, one can pray very nicely. So afterwards, as one person has said, someone may be so happy because a prayer was answered, or there is a need for a prayer request because someone is going into the hospital, or a parent has died, etc. and may even need a hug. Also, as one gets older, it really does get harder to stand for longer periods of time as well. So, sitting in a pew with a friend or friends for a bit, can be helpful. So I just suggest that you young ones here, get there early and let the older ones do what they can do. We don’t need to make assumptions either. I truly believe with all my heart, that our Lord and Mother will understand what is really going on inside each person.
I generally have great appreciation for your insight. Here, you have caved to the secular world. Your commenters have said it all. There are many places and times, OTHER THAN INSIDE OF THE CHURCH before or after Sunday mass, for the congregation to socialize. It is grossly self-centered to deny even one worshiper some gracious silence in which he can have a few quiet moments with our Lord.
You know, I wonder if you really think that your accusation “you have caved…” and USING CAPITAL LETTERS (the internet equivalent of shouting) is really the kind of tone you intend and if you really think that is going to encourage me or anyone else to consider your view. It is very strange to call for charity with harshness and for quiet by YELLING. This comment thread (188 and counting) gets stranger and sadder by the moment.
I do believe the caps were for emphasis, not to indicate shouting. Sometimes we don’t have the ability to italicize, bold, etc. depending on the device being used.
I also have found few comments on here to be uncharitable. It may simply feel that way as the view may differ from your own. I think people have been forced to hold all of these sentiments within for so long and now there’s a place to open up and discuss and they just “let it all out”, which believe me, is understandable. Most are not meaning to attack personally. Just a few thoughts… God bless you.
I think this is a very thoughtful, charitable, and well-balanced piece. We should always err on the side of charity, and minding our own business. If one is sitting in Church despising her brothers and sisters for talking, well…that one needs to collect herself, say to the Lord, “Lord, thank you for the gift of my brothers and sisters. I am sorry for being annoyed with them. Please bless them abundantly, and please forgive me.” And then go on with your prayer. It’s really quite simple.
Yes, thanks for this. I would certainly think too that even as we seek to re-encourage a little more quiet, that venomous anger is not likely to produced the desired result. Thank you for your help in balancing out the comments a bit!
the true nature and most important aspect of the Holy Mass is: the sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ on the Calvary. Said that any time before, during and after Mass should be of total reverence. With reverence comes silence, so we can come to be spiritually, in prayer with Jesus in His sacrifice for us as we prepare to receive Him, as we receive Him and at least 15 minutes after receiving Holy Communion. When my husband and I realized that three years ago, we left our parish which we had attended for almost 10 years, located 15 minutes away from our house and start attending every Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation a parish 45 minutes away so we could give our five children the experience of Holy Mass how it should be: reverent and liturgically orthodox. We promised in our children’s baptism that we would raise them in the Catholic faith, so we need to give them the fullness of that faith and the Holy Mass is where everything starts and everything ends in the Catholic faith. To us, as parents and responsible for their Catholic formation we owe that to our Lord and to our children. Our parish is totally dedicated to the Traditional Latin Mass and is part of the Archdiocese here. A heaven on earth. An oasis of orthodoxy, Tradition and reverence.
Lack of respect is right. Righteous anger is absolutely called for here in defense of Our Lord who is deeply hurt and offended in these scenarios. These are adults we are talking about with respect to this rude behavior. I think they can handle being reprimanded. But honestly if people were being taught Truths from the pulpit instead of empty fluff, in addition to seeking it out themselves as we are all required to do, they wouldn’t even need to be coddled like infants regarding this matter. They would naturally behave in accordance with their beliefs, as they are doing now.
We few Catholics who understand and truly know our faith as handed down by the Apostles — and the need and demand for silence — are regularly persecuted, ostracized, and labeled as “intolerant”. Oh? Never in my life have I felt more intolerance than that coming from liberal members of the Church. For this reason I left the Novus Ordo, and the difference and level in spiritual growth in myself as time goes on is extremely palpable. This confusion will end eventually and things will be made right and proper once again, likely and relatively sooner than later. History will then tell the tale. Our Lord first served!
You are absolutely right in your article, Father Pope. Lightening up on our attitudes in a case like this is a good thing. I love a nice quiet church, and encourage our kids to be quiet, having taken them out in the past as needed, but I just don’t see anything wrong with saying hi and pleasantries when seeing people you know in church after mass. I don’t think Jesus wants us to be sour-faced saints either. Personally, I would like to see more silence encouraged during mass itself like during communion for instance. Our parish priest chides the congregation frequently about the importance of singing all songs, including after communion. I’m surprised at the number of folks who return to their seats and immediately start singing, like they just gobbled up the Eucharist to get rid of it so they can sing the sappy modern church song! Sorry, I know that’s not nice! Maybe I need to lighten up about that, but I see receiving the Eucharist as the high light of mass! Anyway, God bless you and keep up the great work!
This article is helpful. In my church we have a man who passes out flowers and toys to church immediately aft church right in front of Mary’s altar. He has these there during mass although father has now asked that he cover them with a tarp u til after mass. I find this very inappropriate in a church. The children make a ton of noise and run there as soon as the ending song is over. This makes it very hard for those of us who would like to pray after mass and thank god for what just took place. There have been many complaints but so far no changes. Was wondering what people think of this. I have thought that this is nice idea fir the kids but should be done outside or back in the vestibule of the church. Thanks for your comments
I meant to say that he passes out the toys and flowers to kids after the mass
This is what St Pio wrote about behaviour at Holy Mass:
“In order to avoid irreverence and imperfections in the house of God, in church – which the divine Master calls the house of prayer – I exhort you in the Lord to practice the following.
Enter the church in silence and with great respect, considering yourself unworthy to appear before the Lord’s Majesty. Amongst other pious considerations, remember that our soul is the temple of God and, as such, we must keep it pure and spotless before God and his angels. Let us blush for having given access to the devil and his snares many times (with his enticements to the world, his pomp, his calling to the flesh) by not being able to keep our hearts pure and our bodies chaste; for having allowed our enemies to insinuate themselves into our hearts, thus desecrating the temple of God which we became through holy Baptism.
Then take holy water and make the sign of the cross carefully and slowly.
As soon as you are before God in the Blessed Sacrament, devoutly genuflect. Once you have found your place, kneel down and render the tribute of your presence and devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Confide all your needs to him along with those of others. Speak to him with filial abandonment, give free rein to your heart and give him complete freedom to work in you as he thinks best.
When assisting at Holy Mass and the sacred functions, be very composed when standing up, kneeling down, and sitting, and carry out every religious act with the greatest devotion. Be modest in your glances; don’t turn your head here and there to see who enters and leaves. Don’t laugh, out of reverence for this holy place and also out of respect for those who are near you. Try not to speak to anybody, except when charity or strict necessity requests this.”
Jesus did get very angry once – rare for Him. He drove the money changers out of the temple and said: My Father’s House is a house of prayer. All the chatting can and should be done before and after Mass in the vestibule, gathering space, or outside the church building. If our priests would explain to parishioners the importance of silence, and reverence when we are at Mass, or other times when people gather in the church, the people would appreciate the leadership, and in time would grow to love the silence. We go to Mass to worship Our Lord, not ourselves; to give Him thanks and praise. Why make it hard to do that? The world has gone mad. We need and want a place to escape from all that… in the world but not of the world. Please God let it happen.
Well there is a little more to Jesus’ concerns than you represent, and biblically he was concerned more with the fact that the part of the temple precincts reserved for the Gentiles had been turned into a marketplace where animals for sacrifice were being sold. Hence Jesus adds, “My Father’s house is to be a house of prayer for all people.” Thus his concern is more for justice than silence.
Historically your point is also flawed since silence of any sort would have been almost unknown in the Jewish Temple. Only at unique times such as Yom Kippur when the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies did the people fall silent. Otherwise the Temple was a noisy place of prayers being chanted both communally and individually, trumpets and horns being blown, crowds mingling as they waited in line with their animals to access the inner courts, animals be slaughtered etc. Thus while we want to advance arguments for more silence, your example here is not a particularly good one since it points more away from silence than toward it.
Dear Monsignor Pope:
With all due respect I must tell you that your reply doesn’t make the case. You state: …”only at unique times such as Yum Kippur when the High Priest enters the Holy of Holies did the people fall silent”… When we enter the church for Holy Mass we are soon to participate in the ultimate prayer of the Catholic Church, the ultimate sacrifice, when Jesus comes down on the altar to offer himself to the Father – the perfect act of atonement. The Jewish people took that Holy Day of Yum Kippur very seriously, and now that the foreshadowing of the Mass in the Old Testament has been fulfilled by Jesus, we should remind ourselves of this every time we enter the church for Mass, or to spend time with Jesus in the Tabernacle. Reverence, prayer, and, yes. silence. for this awesome gift from the Father. Some Protestants wonder why we don’t enter the church on our knees since we say we believe that Jesus is really present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity at Mass when the priest utters the words of Consecration, and in the Tabernacle, in every Catholic Church. The Sacrifice of the Mass was instituted on the Feast of Passover by Jesus himself, the night before He died so that we might live. We Catholics have the great privilege of witnessing this great event every time we assist at Mass. If people would only read what the Church teaches about the Mass – readily available in the Catechism of the Catholic Church – I don’t think this discussion about silence and reverence would be necessary. Again, our priests can help here by including a reading of the section on the Eucharist and the Mass in the Catechism maybe once a month. Would only take 5 minutes – 5 minutes that could change everything! Thank you Father, and God Bless, Kathleen
I love this joyous article! I grew up in a remote cabin with no one around for 100 miles and no roads only boat or plane. I relish silence, true silence doesnt frighten me, i go on many silent retreats at places that are truly silent in Mass, on the grounds, etc. But i love the noise of happy people after Mass it radiates an Adoration not found in stark silence. I sit at times at Seattle Center and watch the visitors, all ethnic groups laughing joyously and i thank God for such tremendous joy! I bless God when i retreat to my own secluded silence.
Yes, thanks, in this comment you illustrate that there are actually other perspectives on the matter, which is the point of the column. I do think things are out of balance today, with too much noise, but, your perspective reminds us that perhaps some compromise is in order here. Many commenters here seem to want only a “tell everyone to be quiet at all times inside the Church.” norm. But perhaps a middle position would be to encourage more silence prior to Mass, but to permit sharing and conversation after Mass.
When i was growing up, my parents used to park the family 3/4ths the way back in church, despite that the children could not see he altar, only the backsides of the adults in the pew ahead. As a child, I asked my parents why we could not sit in front to see the Mass. Mother replied that “only people who wanted to be considered holy” sat in front so everybody could see their devotion. I thought there was something wrong with her logic, (there was– she was a reverse-snob). I quietly resolved that when I grew up, I was going to sit in front and be damned to anybody who though I was “holy” (!) Now late middle aged. I am glad to have kept that resolve.
I do find that it is quieter in front pews– the “gabbers” tend to the back–. If I want to make a silent kneeling thanksgiving after Mass I am rarely disturbed there. On the few occasions people try to talk to me, I have a fail- proof defense: If tapped on the shoulder, I raise my head with eyes CLOSED (can’t underline, don’t have italics, hence caps) and put my finger before my smiling lips; then lower my head again, ignoring my would-be interrupter. It always works; try it. They cant deal with both smile and closed eyes. It is a polite refusal to engage, and a reminder that i am already conversing with someone else –God– and don’t want to be interrupted.
A visiting priest from Africa was approached by a parishioner who is active in the church and surely had a legitimate reason for conversing. This visiting priest took the parishioner by the arm and walked her out of the church. It was so beautiful. I wish there was more of this. The pastor himself talks loudly in church so I do not expect any strictness from him.
This problem is not only in church but all over. Children are not being reared as they were 40-50 yrs. ago. Young people call older people by their first name. They run, not walk everywhere, they are loud, not respecting others in what they say and how they say it. They are not taught morals in dressing , let alone in church! Women follow the fad dress code in bearing a cleavage and tight pants that leave almost nothing to imagination. The ushers wear baggy Tshirts and shorts. Hardly ever do you see a man in a suit or a woman with a nice dress. Our pastor has tried in vain to change the dress code , putting in the bulletin -“if your neighbors see you getting in the car and thinking you are going to a picnic, then you have not dressed appropriately for mass.” Again I say, in vain.
What does a pastor have to do to make people listen??? Are the gospels going over their head also? I think so… It has been said that when times get really scary, the people run to God. Don’t we need those scary events.?
I too, am joyful after Holy Communion and I see that joy in others too and that’s a good thing. Out of respect for Jesus still present in the Tabernacle, and for those who wish to stay and pray, I wait until I get outside to begin talking and laughing and expressing my joy and conversations with others.
Sadly, it seems in some Churches, we must give way to the din of noise, where it appears the majority rules, and the quiet minority are considered evil and mean-spirited for their love of silence in Church. I recommend going to the earliest Mass on Sunday morning. Fewer are there and prayerful silence usually reigns.
The parish usually has a coffee hour after Mass for people to mingle and get to know one another and for friends to talk with and enjoy each other’s company. That is the time for conversation. It is disrespectful to speak to one another and not speak to God in His own house. Besides this, silence is necessary for serious prayer, especially for contemplatives who desire to adore God in the Eucharist usually present in the tabernacle in the sanctuary. We should be aware spiritually and otherwise of the unity of Christ in the Body that we make up as members of the Church. The greatest joy besides silence for prayer is the sense of Christ’s presence in that union that is created by people worshiping together. And if you never noticed, at the Consecration and after communion, the True Presence quiets everyone down as people enjoy Christ’s presence. Let’s try a little harder to be Catholics and true to our tradition of reverence in the sanctuary by being quiet.
I do not agree with much of what was said about excuses for talking in church. One thing leads to another, voices rise, groups get larger and it sounds like a market place. A few moments ago most of the congregation received the Body of Jesus into their souls. It takes 10 t0 15 minutes before the presence of Jesus leaves. Can’t we give Jesus the courtesy of 10 minutes of thinking of Him instead of wondering what the latest text says? Jesus waited 3 hours before dying a horrible death and He did it for us. What do we do for Him? This is the Lord Almighty, the Great High Priest before Whom angels tremble and veil their faces. Who are we to turn our backs to Him and talk about what’s for dinner? I am not against conversation in church but for someone to say that Jesus doesn’t mind – how does that person know what Jesus would mind? Jesus is so humble that He accepts whatever little reverence we give him. We honor some humans more than we honor God Himself. May Jesus Christ always be praised!
When I go to Mass, the priests always reminds us where we will be…at Calvary. If we truely are at Calvary, take a look at the Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson. From the Agony in the Garden to the Crucifixion…which characters where loud, and which ones where silent or at least talked quietly with few words. When we attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, it is good to reflect on, asking ourselves, which of those characters do I mostly imitate.
When I attend church services I do not want to hear others talking about what they did, their doctor’s appointments, where they are going later, etc. Mass is a time of silence, a time to spend with our Lord. It’s a sign or respect and love to our Lord that he hears our prayers and not our mouths talking aloud. I think most people forget that this is God’s home and his real presence is in the tabernacle. I feel we have become ho-hum about church and many other things. Imagine if you are a guest at a friend’s home and everyone talked at once and completely ignored the host. How do you think they would feel…….sad at the very least. That is what we do when we talk endlessly in church……we ignore the Host of Hosts. If we could only comprehend that Christ is truly present on the altar during Mass then we would not walk to Communion, we would approach Communion on our knees. Silence opens our heart, mind and soul to his presence within us.
Yes! Agreed Barbara! Everybody just shut up! Shut UP! SHUT UP! Confound your stupid little lives! I didn’t come here to hear your pathetic little sharings with your even more pathetic neighbor! Let me talk to Jesus! He’s why I came, not you. Silence! Can’t you get that?!
Well, y’all look like it is time to close the comments here. Nuff said. So sad, so very sad. I find myself utterly amazed at the lack of Charity of some folks, indeed too many who commented here, who claim they come to pray and yet talk as they. I know that the noise in Churches needs attention. But honestly folks….listen to yourselves. Many of the comments here are so nasty and venomous, so unnecessarily personal that I almost wonder if someone didn’t send people here to fake most of these comments in some attempt to discredit tradition and piety. Nothing could be a worse advertisement for traditional Catholics than what has been done here. Wowsa. How awful.
Bottom from me, most noise makers in Church are not acting necessarily acting in “bad faith,” they are not “pathetic,” they are not necessarily or always talking about frivolous things, they are not all “gossips” undercatechized, boorish, or intentionally insensitive, as commenters have asserted here. Priests are not necessarily poor leaders or cowards, or copping out, as some have said. Believe it or not some just see things differently today, as the article states. They do not intend disrespect to God or you, despite your claim that this is their intent. Some just think it polite to greet people and don’t entertain a dichotomy between praying solo to God and greeting members of his body. I understand that many readers here don’t share that view. By why impugn the motives and the faith of others? Why not just say that you see it differently and wish that some middle grouind could be found. Why all the venom?
Most “offenders” are just committing the high crime of being joyful in the house of God and enjoying fellowship. And while there may be better places and times, and while the volume does creep up, they are not personally dissing you or lacking faith in God or any of the other terrible and cloddish motives attributed to them by many others here.
What gentle reminders and requests could have accomplished too many of you have use a cannon to shoot at.
Please listen yourselves, listen to what too many of you have become. Please…..
Comments are closed. They have to be….My Gosh….so sad.
Comments are closed.