Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Chit-chatters at Mass

Sunday at Mass, there were two men who were chatting. I’ve seen this before and attempted to sit fairly far away from them. Due to other circumstances, I couldn’t get too far away. Throughout the entire Mass, they chit chatted. During prayers, even during the consecration, it didn’t matter to them. Just blabbering on. It may have been one more than the other.
Sadly, this isn’t uncommon. Most people don’t talk non-stop, but randomly whispering is very common. Not one or two words, but a few minutes. Sometimes if you are unlucky enough to overhear what they are discussing, it’s not something earth-shattering. Usually it’s the most mundane topics. What are we having for supper? Did you call Jim about that hockey stick after? When do you want to go up to the cabin next weekend?
My question is, why are these people coming to Mass in the first place? Do they have absolutely no idea what it is? Pope Benedict wrote a great article addressing this problem overall. He said it comes down to a lack of understanding of what the Eucharist and the sacraments in general are. If you are unaware of the significance of what is going on, you may not have an issue with talking throughout.
Basically Benedict attributes the problem to seeing the Mass primarily in terms of its side effects rather than the main purpose. People have come to believe the primary purpose of Mass is a social gathering, where people greet each other, hug, catch up, etc. There is a vague sense of Christian community. But there is a lack of knowledge or understanding of the divine, or the sacramental, of the supernatural. It’s seen entirely as natural.
As a corollary to this, people place inordinate attention on the homily. But even that they are misjudging. The homily is meant to educate and illuminate. But in the incorrect understanding of its purpose, people see the homily as intended to “bring people together” or create a sense of community. Therefore, if the priest ventures into an area of controversy, people are quick to react. Even priests who dare bring up challenging topics often spend much time preparing the hearers about what he is about to say and offering many nice and loving thoughts beforehand lest the congregation feel attacked.
The congregation generally dislikes being challenged and is looking to be praised or congratulated in various ways. Again, this is contrary to the purpose of the homily.
I see these attitudes very often in Newfoundland. The sacramental nature of the Mass is ignored. People see their attendance as a social gathering primarily. The supernatural and sacramental are largely unknown. People just do what they are “supposed” to do because that’s what they were shown as children.
Liturgy can be an important aspect to changing the behavior of the congregation. If the priest is very nonchalant about everything and shows no reverence, then can the congregation be expected to act differently? But it’s not the whole solution. Catechesis is very important. People need informative, thought-provoking, and challenging sermons. If a priest is talking in a very monotone way about vague ideas, how will people learn things or be motivated about the faith?
Fulfilling your Sunday obligation is more than being physically in a church. It’s about being aware of what is happening. No one is off the hook for this, including the parishioners and the priest.

No comments:

Post a Comment