Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
It has been a while since I’ve written about housekeeping items in church, but since we are coming into the summer season and it seems that the complaints are coming in more numerously, now is as good a time as any to cover some of these things. So I have a few invitations for you, as you come to Mass.
Please reflect on what you are about to wear to Mass. Fashion, like language, says so much about you, and I suspect there are many people who are saying a lot of things that they do not intend (at least I hope so). Some forms of clothing are never appropriate, and definitely not at Mass. I understand that people just don’t spend money on dress clothes anymore, and maybe can’t, but when you buy attire please consider items that include sufficient fabric to actually clothe. I think this is important. Sometimes when people come to confession and ask if cussing is a sin, I say to them that, for some words, the verdict may still be out. But, I ask, is that how you want people to remember you? We as a society have bought wholesale the cheap look of disrespect for self and others: it isn’t appropriate anywhere.
If you are parents with young children, you are invited to check out the cry room. I spoke with one family with young children last weekend, new to the parish, who were not aware that we have one. We welcome children, we love them,too—but you have no idea how hard it is to focus on giving a homily when there is so much going on in the church. I am also aware, from what I have heard from many, how hard it is also to pray. Phone conversations in the pews, reading children’s books to your family, conversations, noisy toys—all these things need to be kept outside the doors of the church. Church is for one purpose,for us to pray as Jesus to the Father. And when we get in the way of people who are seeking that goal, we are the problem. And we are not teaching our kids to be reverent and attentive.
Here are a few rules for the cry room.
1. It is for crying. If your children are crying this is your place for the moment. If your children are good, don’t go in there until you need to.
2. It is not for playing. Parents have told me that they don’t go in there because there are children playing and they don’t want this to be what their children learn about church.
3. If you do not have crying children, you may not use the room. A number of people seem to like going in there; those seats are for parents who are trying to hold it together with their kids.
To be helpful, if you don’t have young children, try to sit on the choir side of the church; then parents with crying children don’t have so far to go. Don’t fill up the seats in front of the cry room windows if you don’t have young children. Likewise, if you have potentially upset children, please sit near the cry room or vestibule so you can gain rapid escape. When I was a kid the Monsignor of the parish frequently put in the bulletin: “Good intentions, like crying babies, should be carried out immediately.”
I invite you to consider the need for silence in the church before and after Mass. It is the general and honorable practice of the Church (and a good one) to pray silently in preparation for Mass: “Lord, open my heart to hear your Word; Lord open my heart to receive your Life.” People might be trying to pray the rosary, meditate on the readings of Sacred Scripture for today’s Mass in the missalette, even praying Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours. But imagine how hard this can be when there is so much going on around you. For this reason I ask that everyone observe this respectful silence before Mass. Actually, we are one of the best parishes for this that I have seen, but we get a little off our form in the summer. Also, after Mass is a good time to make a special silent prayer of thanksgiving to God for his goodness today.
This is the one people tell me to write about the most, many want announcements before Mass begins… Beware the diabolical devices of mobile communications! Really. We all have to have one, but there is a silent mode that we should all take advantage of. I’m guilty, too, but it only took one time for my phone to ring during consecration for me to remember to switch it off before entering the church. Please, I invite you to shut off anything that is going to speak with any kind of tone other than human praise and thanks.
God bless you.