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 Responses

  1. Hilde. says:

    Gosh, Msgr Pope, and I am ever so glad to have no dealings with priests like you!

  2. Ellen Fielding says:

    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.

  3. Mary says:

    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.

      • Mary says:

        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.

  4. Patrick says:

    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.

  5. Charles says:

    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”.

  6. Gorbachenko says:

    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.

  7. Ellen Klinefelter says:

    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. . .

  8. Katie Kent says:

    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.

  9. Tanya says:

    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.

  10. ciao says:

    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.

    • Debra says:

      Ciao,
      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.

      • ciao says:

        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.

  11. Tanya says:

    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.

  12. ciao says:

    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).

  13. Johnnie Phillips says:

    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!

  14. Susan says:

    Monsignor,

    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.

    Thanks Monsignor
    Susan

  15. Brenda says:

    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.”

  16. Berni Kandt says:

    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?

  17. Berni Kandt says:

    It was the adults running and yelling, not children.

  18. Steve says:

    Read what St Padre Pio wrote about how we are to conduct ourselves before, during, and after Mass. ‘Nuff said.

  19. ACHILLE says:

    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.

  20. Maggie says:

    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.

  21. THerese says:

    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.

      • Anon says:

        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.

  22. Jennifer says:

    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!

  23. Rosana says:

    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.

  24. Anon says:

    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!

  25. Donna says:

    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!

  26. Teresa says:

    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

  27. Teresa says:

    I meant to say that he passes out the toys and flowers to kids after the mass

  28. Mary says:

    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.”

  29. kathleen says:

    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.

      • kathleen says:

        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

  30. Mary says:

    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.

  31. Adrian Johnson says:

    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.

  32. Anonymous says:

    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.

  33. Phyllis Poole says:

    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.?

  34. bluesuede says:

    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.

  35. Silence says:

    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.

  36. Sr. Mary Macri says:

    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!

  37. Margaret Reinbold says:

    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.

  38. Barbara says:

    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.

  39. Stifle !! says:

    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?!

  40. 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.