Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
It’s Ordinary Time, I need to speak about an ordinary thing. I realize that I’m about to step out on thin ice. It is socially incorrect now to make any public criticism of anyone’s behavior – please know that this is not a public criticism. It is just a series of analytical, objective statements.
1. I regularly receive letters and emails from people demanding that I do something about the order and behavior of the congregation during Mass.
2. There is a growing trend for people to do things during Mass which seem new, two arise in particular: Talking on cell phones or texting during Mass; not taking any action when children are clearly melting down and disrupting the entire congregation.
3. There are times I am unable to concentrate on giving a homily because of these behaviors. Sometimes I have to stop and restart my thoughts several times after I have lost my train of thought.
We welcome families and small children to Mass. We also acknowledge that there must be a level of consideration for those in the church who are trying to listen, to pray, to participate in the Mass, to proclaim the Scripture or offer a homily. This is a personal responsibility that is held by each person in the sacred space of the church. And we agree that we share this responsibility.
The cry room in the back of the church serves a particular function. If there is no crying child in the church, it should be completely empty. It is a space where people must be able to go when a disruption occurs. Once it is past, people return to the congregation. It is the place that must be reserved for those who need it at particular times.
I have discovered that the cry room is being used as a play room, or even a place for overflow seating, sometimes by people who don’t want to deal with the large congregation in the church. I beg you not to do this. Some parents have told me they don’t want to go in the cry room because it is being used as a play room, and they don’t want their children to think there is a play room alternative to Mass. Bad behaviors apparently can be learned there.
All are welcome, but all must serve the purpose of why so many people share one space for Mass: we must be together to be the Body of Christ offered to the Father. But we also must be able to think and to pray, and focus.
I ask everyone to please consider the necessity of this request and honor my words. Like I said, it is not intended to single out anyone, and I say these words in all charity and pastoral sensitivity. Someone has to say them. As pastor, I guess that someone is me. Please don’t contact me and condemn me for this message. Let’s try to be considerate of one another in the way we join together and fulfill our roles in the celebration of the Mass.
There is one other item of housekeeping that now is probably a good time to mention. I apologize for as often as we have broken kneelers in the church. There seems to be a design flaw in the quality of the metal pieces on which the kneelers hinge. They break when kneelers are in the up position and people push on them with their feet; I guess they were not made to sustain such pressure – and the legs have probably the strongest muscles in the body. Often people don’t realize how strong legs can be. So I ask your patience as we continue to repair them, and your consideration to take care of them. For being relatively new, our pews have taken a beating and are often found with excessive scratches, writing, sometimes even carvings (which I really can’t understand). Please take care of these things.
God bless you.