DECORUM FOR THE WORSHIP OF GOD AND HIS HOUSE

 

Dear sisters and brothers, peace!

SOME NEED OF WISDOM
I must touch on a delicate subject. The topic is Mass. At Mass there have been some disruptive experiences. They are occasioned, I trust, by an absence of wisdom or understanding. There is an odd trend. Folks come to worship equipped as for the movies. There is candy-eating and gum chewing, the imbibing from containers of water. Then there is the growing custom of using various electronic devices to talk and text, etc., and even to play electronic games. Also there is the understandable nuisance of cell phones ringing with ensuing conversations on the phone even while Mass is being celebrated. Moreover, as good weather arrives there is the possibility of folks arriving dressed immodestly. I say that all of this is the result of a lack of wisdom. So, therefore, I write to you to instruct everybody that such activities are inappropriate and I trust they’ll stop. But why are they wrong?

UNDERSTANDING GOD, HIS WORSHIP, HIS HOUSE
The Church strongly calls all of us to “full, active participation” in the Liturgy. At Mass everyone is invited and expected to follow along, mentally and physically. Worship is an action of all of us, a corporate effort. Thus suggestions as to the place where readings, responses and hymns may be found are offered so that each person is enabled to take his or her part in offering Mass. The ultimate purpose of following the lector’s reading of Scripture and responding and singing is that everyone may be caught up with Christ Himself in His Church’s worship of Our Heavenly Father. Mass comes to its climax with the offering of Christ’s perfect Sacrifice of the Cross being make present on the altar at the Consecration so that we become one with Jesus both as we give ourselves with Him and as He gives us Himself in Holy Communion.

REVERENCE
The whole Mass should be done with a great sense of reverence. God gathers us. God unites us to His Son. Therefore, Christ is present in several ways. He is actually present in us as a gathered community. We are His Body. He is with us as our Head. He is present in the Word of Scripture proclaimed and preached. He is present in the priest who acts “in the Person of Christ” because of ordination. And in the most important way of all, Jesus is present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the consecrated Eucharist. And lastly, He is truly present in each communicant as she or he receives Our Lord in Holy Communion. All of this is ultimately a divine reality, a work of the Holy Spirit and therefore any abuse like the ones I have mentioned must be challenged and stopped. Mass is holy. The Church building is holy. It is where Mass occurs. And in the Tabernacle Christ is present, making the whole structure a holy place. Reverence here is essential. But you are much more reverent than my words might indicate.

DEVOTION
Often I have noted your reverence at Mass. Two of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are “piety and the fear of the Lord”. We are a people gifted with reverence and awe of God. What a blessing for any group of Christians when they find in their sisters and brothers this holy zeal for God! This gift of devotion is expressed by sensitivity to personal, quiet prayer, particularly before Mass and at times of quiet during Mass especially after receiving Jesus in Communion. This quietude and reverence is just as important as enthusiastic song and audible prayer. There is no substitute for this deep, personal, reverent prayer. Long may Holy Spirit grant it to us! As I mentioned, this prayerful devotion is a must after Communion for then we are truly in union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus. His Divine Presence within us calls for excluding everything in favor of attention to Him. My friends, let us attend to a better, more devout practice of our Faith. Let us reject the temptation to let Church and Mass be affected by irreverent practices.    

God bless! JFH

 

 

LEAVING DURING MASS
Perhaps there is a need for a brief tutorial on the etiquette of when one may leave during the celebration of the Mass. For example, when a child, or anyone for that matter, has need to use the rest rooms, when may one leave and when should one not? Firstly, there are of course times when there will be an emergency and one must simply exit. Baring that eventuality there are two points during the Mass when one should not leave the assembly.

1. LITURGY OF THE WORD:  Ideally by the time we get to the first reading we should be all settled in and ready to listen. Visits to the rest rooms, usually, should be postponed until the homily is finished. The Word of God and the homily explaining it deserve our real attention. Distractions should be at a minimum.

2. LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST: Once the Great Prayer of the Eucharist has begun we are at the heart of the Mass. No one should leave and distractions should be non-existent. Specifically, the Consecration of the Mass when the bread and wine are transformed into Our Lord’s Body and Blood, should be sacrosanct. Until we rise after singing the Great Amen everyone should be fixed in adoration.

THE IN BETWEEN There is a natural break between the Liturgy of the Word and the Eucharist. The gifts are presented. The collection is taken up. It would seem that this point in the Mass is the appropriate time to exit for a necessary reason, returning in time to participate in the most sacred part of the Mass.

OTHER ISSUES
Worship takes effort, interest and attention. Adoring and thanking God involves the full engagement of body, mind and spirit. God deserves our total attention. Consequently as I have often said, leaving Mass early, except for real necessity, is disrespectful to the Lord and is totally unacceptable if one has just received Communion.

FOOD AND BEVERAGE IN CHURCH
Put simply, food and drink are not allowed in Church.  The exceptions involve common sense: folks with medical need for water, etc., perhaps choir members and surely little children some of whom seem to do well at Mass if they have their Cheerios handy!  I remind us all that there is a one hour fast from food and drink prior to Communion; and, gum chewing just shouldn’t be happening in Church, and certainly not at Mass! 

CELL PHONES AND PAGERS
T
exting, twittering, cell phone use, conversations, especially during Mass itself, and other activities which deny the Church building and especially the Divine Liturgy the respect they deserve or which cause others to be distracted from worship need to be avoided as a matter of principle. We must shut off cell phones and pagers in Church.  Exceptions would be emergency personnel, etc.  If one forgets and gets a call?  End it.  If you must carry on a conversation, please do it outside.

MODESTY AND APPROPRIATE ATTIRE AT CHURCH
A difficult and hard to define subject.  Certainly folks who must worship wearing work clothes should feel completely welcome in the House of God.  Certainly when visiting the Blessed Sacrament for quiet prayer, during the week, attire shouldn’t impede.  Come.  And since we live in a casual era, casual dress is appropriate for worship.  But, neither gender should participate at Mass dressed, for example, for swimming.  If a code of modesty is passé culturally, not so in God’s House.  One difficulty which I find hard to address is formal occasions, such as weddings and even funerals.  Some current fashions are inappropriate, especially when worn proclaiming the Word, for example.  Taste and modesty are offended, frankly, by excessive décolletage.  I’m trying to be clear yet kind.  I honestly believe that folks need to have their consciousness raised: often offensive dress occurs because people are not aware of what is appropriate.  “A word to the wise…”

The word modest is defined as “behaving, dressing, speaking, etc. in a way that is considered proper or decorous” and its synonym is chaste. Modesty and chastity are key Catholic values; and they are linked. Therefore, before the warm weather arrives and before I should embarrass anyone, because embarrassing folks helps nothing, let me make it clear that modesty in dress must be practiced in Church. Shorts that are too short, plunging necklines, bare shoulders, tank tops may be acceptable elsewhere, but they can be immodest and they certainly cannot be worn in Church. Let me thank everyone for considering this counsel. Adults, teens, all of us, are prone to go with what current fashion indicates. It is hard to buck the tide of popular opinion. Thank you all for your attention to this advice, especially parents for your taking time to explain to young people the values of modesty and chastity. Let us all strive to practice them both because this is directed ultimately to both genders: there are several things that can inappropriately be in the eye of the beholder: see Matthew 5:28. 

 

PHOTOGRAPHY DURING THE LITURGY
This topic can be very hard to address also.  Generally speaking, taking photos during Divine Worship is prohibited at Holy Family.  This policy has wonderfully enhanced the spiritual power of our worship, especially at events like First Holy Communions and Confirmations.  On such occasions and also during the Holy Week Liturgies and other special events professional video personnel have recorded these beautiful events so as to please everyone (I trust!) and yet allow the Liturgy to be carried out unaffectedly.

WEDDINGS
It is wonderful when professional videographers and photographers carry out their work with respect for worship.  The few exceptions sadly are more easily remembered.  The guidelines are fairly simple and, I trust, fair. Photos may be taken as the wedding party comes down the aisle and as they recess.  During the actual Rite of Marriage photos may be taken from the head of the aisle.  Photos may not be taken during the Liturgy of the Word nor during the Eucharistic Prayer and Communion.  Video recording of weddings may continue throughout the Liturgy using the norms for still photographers with this exception that stationed to the left of the pulpit on the floor of the Church, with leeway to move somewhat in the area before the Tabernacle, videographers may record during the whole ceremony.

TALKING IN CHURCH
This is a really tough topic.  In the past forty years since the reforms of Vatican II the Church building as a gathering place of the faithful has had preeminence.  Consequently greetings and conversation now figure as an important part of our life as a community as we gather to worship.  And, were we more blessed with a “gathering space”, conversations would have a natural, designated space.  But we don’t; at least not yet.  So there needs to be an awareness that while greetings before and after Mass are fine, the Church nave is not only for communal worship but also for private prayer, especially since the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament calls for reverence.  There is a balance and I believe for the most part we find it.  One further point: prayer after Mass, an extension of devotion following Communion, is an ancient practice with us.  Respect for people being able to have private time after Mass might urge us to talk and meet in the foyer, or outside.

REVERENCE
I mention this topic by way of encouragement.  We seem to have a good sense of Presence, of faith in the Blessed Sacrament, thus genuflection toward the Tabernacle entering and leaving is beautifully done; with bowing used for the Altar, and images especially the Crucifix and Ikon of the Holy Family.  So: congrats!

ENCOURAGEMENT
We form “a priestly people”: empowered by Holy Spirit and united with Christ Jesus, our High Priest, we offer His perfect Sacrifice to Our Heavenly Father.  You as Holy Family parishioners, affect many who come to worship as our guests.  They are moved by your music and singing.  They note your reverence especially for the Eucharist.  They can see your faith.  These thoughts on decorum are meant as guidelines given with the hope that we may continue to grow together as the Body of Christ worshipping the Father in Spirit and Truth.

God bless!                JFH

 

See also Sacraments

 

Summer:
MODESTY OF DRESS IN CHURCH

If the last notice was difficult to bring up, this next one is even more so. The word modest is defined as “behaving, dressing, speaking, etc. in a way that is considered proper or decorous” and its synonym is chaste. I had the experience recently of someone reading during a wedding liturgy and the word, chaste, was mispronounced with the ‘a’ softened or shortened instead of being said long as in cake. I found it sadly interesting that we use the word so seldom that it is now mispronounced. Modesty and chastity are key Catholic virtues; and they are linked. Therefore, before the warm weather arrives and before I should embarrass anyone, because embarrassing folks helps nothing, let me make it clear that modesty in dress must be practiced in Church. Shorts that are too short, plunging necklines, bare shoulders, tank tops may be acceptable elsewhere, but they can be immodest and they certainly cannot be worn in Church. Let me thank everyone for considering this counsel. Adults, teens, all of us, are prone to go with what current fashion indicates. It is hard to buck the tide of popular opinion. Thank you all for your attention to this advice, especially parents for your taking time to explain to young people the values of modesty and chastity. Let us all strive to practice them both because this is directed ultimately to both genders: there are several things that can be in the eye of the beholder: see Matthew 5:28. God bless. JFH