Friday, August 09, 2019 - Updated: 3:13 pm
QUESTION: Week after week, I see such disrespect in our churches during Mass. It is not only the attire, but the way people act. Why don’t priests direct some remarks or even a whole homily to this issue?
ANSWER: Bad manners might be one way of describing what we see at Sunday Mass. It is no comfort to know that bad manners are not limited to churches, but occur almost everywhere people gather. Believe me, priests are certainly aware of what goes on at Sunday Mass. It almost seems that some people have lost sight of the impact of their actions on others.
The fundamental issue is that people have a right to worship without unnecessary distractions. Everyone expects that infants are going to cry and children are going to make noise. That is far different from unattended children who are allowed free access to every surrounding pew or even the entire center aisle. It is also different from children who are allowed to repeatedly drop toys on pews because it sounds great to them.
Bad manners (not considering the feelings of others) can also be seen in the way some people guard their end seat and look irritated as they step out to let others in. How sadly that conveys no real sense of welcome.
Bad manners also extend to the throngs who leave Mass at Communion time or almost trample the priest in the middle aisle as he exits at the end of Mass. Whatever happened to remaining in one’s seat until the hymn is completed? Whatever happened to remaining to greet the celebrant and one’s neighbors?
Most times, it seems it is just not thinking sufficiently of others. I notice this at funeral Masses when those receiving Communion feel the need to address the grieving family in the first pew. Those people are praying (as well as reflecting on their loss). Why would we feel it is perfectly fine to interrupt them?
Not thinking of others extends to how some people treat the public space that is our parish churches. It is not only the restrooms that suffer a lack of care by some of the faithful. If you have any doubt, linger after Mass and look around at the pews and floors littered with almost everything imaginable.
You might then ask: If priests notice these things, why don’t they address them at Mass? I can’t imagine most people come to Mass to hear such corrections. Priests realize that it is a small percentage of those who worship with us who routinely display bad manners. Priests and deacons take the opportunity to address the people seriously and are not intent on embarrassing anyone, especially during the Eucharist. We must find opportunities when these matters are addressed.
It is also important to remember that the clergy are not the only ones who are responsible for helping to form patterns of behavior. Perhaps it will take courageous parents to stem the tide of bad manners (by how they dress and act at church and how they allow their children to do so).
Father Bober is administrator of the grouping that includes St. Kilian in Adams/Cranberry townships and Holy Sepulcher in Glade Mills.