Skip to comments.Mass etiquette: Obey rubrics, be charitable (Catholic Caucus)
Posted on 09/14/2012 11:14:09 PM PDT by A.A. Cunningham
Mass etiquette: Obey rubrics, be charitable
By Nissa LaPoint
Its likely a familiar scene to Mass-goers.
Across the pew, one man strikes his breast to the words of the Penitential Act while a tardy couple with a baby apologetically stumbles past him. The majority prays on bended knees, but at the consecration, one woman slips out to answer a vibrating Blackberry. One sniffling parishioner clasps hands with another during the Lords Prayer. Others pray with folded hands.
Many Catholic faithful have fallen victim to and grappled with such liturgical conundrums and church faux pas.
As the one-year anniversary of the revised Roman Missal approaches, local priests and Mass experts discussed continued education and adoption of not only the new responses but its prescribed liturgical gestures with some added tips on Mass etiquette.
I think the beauty of the new missal is a rediscovery of those practices, prayers and gestures that unite and thats the whole point, said Deacon Chuck Parker, director of the Denver Archdioceses Office of Liturgy. Theres no real individual when we come together for Mass. We gather together as the body of Christ. So gestures are meant to unite us, not divide us.
The General Instruction of the missalalso known as rubricsoutlines the gestures and bodily postures of participants to make the Mass a beautiful and reverential experience, rather than a mishmash of private inclinations or arbitrary choices.
Its importance, Deacon Parker said, is traced to the ancient Latin phase lex orandi, lex credendi, usually translated as the law of prayer is the law of belief. The way Catholics pray, he explained, Says a lot about what we believe.
Acts of hospitality
Ask nearly any priest in the Archdiocese about the new missal, and hell report a wonderful springtime in the Church and a sincere embrace by his congregation.
Ask about unity of pious gestures and Church manners, and the answer varies.
I think its caught on for a lot of people, but we still have a jumble here and there, said Father Steven Voss of St. Joseph Parish in Fort Collins.
Punctuality to Mass is a struggle for some.
At St. Mary Parish in Aspen, Father John Hilton recommends adopting the old adage, The priest should be the last one in and the first one out of Mass.
Liturgy experts add that some have an acceptable reason for a late arrival or early departure. Deacon Parker said exercising charity and hospitality can minimize a latecomers offense.
These virtues should be taken to the pews.
As C.S. Lewis said, Next to the Blessed Sacrament, the holiest thing is the person seated next to you, Deacon Parker noted. If we would view everyone as holyas our brother and sister in Christwe wouldnt mind moving over a little bit to let someone in (the pew).
At All Souls Church in Englewood, Father Bob Fisher said that to avoid commotion by latecomers, The hospitable thing to do is to sit as far forward in the church as you can and sit in the center.
There are someperhaps the elderly and those with small childrenwho prefer the end of the pew. After Masses at St. Louis Parish in Louisville, Father Tim Gaines heard reports of elderly parishioners sore toes due to repeated trampling by those squeezing past them.
We have addressed it in the parish and said, Please be careful of the elderly sitting on the end of the pews, he said.
Parishioners may also show respect to others and uphold the sacredness of the Mass by dressing appropriately.
Father Andrew Kemberling saw a woman at St. Thomas More Parish in Centennial wearing a bathing suit and cover-up.
I kid you not, he said. Instead of complaining about it, I wanted to compliment people for dressing nicely.
He started Dress-up Sundays to encourage better wardrobe choices. If someone looks like they just weeded the garden, he said, he approaches a well-dressed person within earshot and gives them praise.
Old habits and renewed tradition
Just as poor Sunday dress codes take time to change, gestures take time to evolve, Father Kemberling said.
The Penitential Act is one example.
Former rubrics of the Massbefore Vatican IIhad instructed faithful to cross themselves during the act, formerly called the Confiteor. This has been dropped in the ordinary form. But faithful have always been instructed to strike their breast to the words through my fault.
The Holy Sees clarification said that striking ones breast either once or three times is the acceptable practice, said John Miller, associate director of the Office of Liturgy.
Genuflecting has also been modified.
Today, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops instructs participants to bow during the Nicene Creed to the words, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. Genuflection is observed at Christmas Mass and the solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord.
Before receiving the Eucharist, a bow is also recommended over a genuflection, although both are allowed, Miller said.
Mass rubrics dont instruct U.S. Catholics to join hands, much less make any gesture during the prayer. Its origin is unknown.
There is nothing in the rubrics to indicate that holding hands is mandatory. The adage has been if people want to hold hands, they can. But we should be respectful of those who do not wish to, Miller said. Its not a practice that is encouraged.
Last year, Bishop James Conley, auxiliary bishop of Denver, offered that ordinarily the faithful fold their hands, in a traditional posture of petitioning, to signify the humility of our congregation before God. Other gestures, such as extending arms or holding hands, are not found in the norms of the Mass. That our gestures are different does not mean that one role is more important than anotherrather it points to a diversity of parts to the body of Christ.
Other parts of the Mass are not addressed in the rubrics, including when to sit down after Communion. It should be a time of quiet prayer. Practices vary between dioceses: some faithful settle in their pew after theyre done praying and others remain kneeling until the priest sits. In Denver, faithful tend to the latter, experts said.
However, the purpose of kneeling is to adore the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
Father Hilton advises, as long as the Blessed Sacrament is upon the altar or being distributed, my preference is people should be kneeling.
Consideration of those still kneeling in the pews is advised.
In all matters not specified by the Church, Father Michael Warren, O.M.V., of Holy Ghost Parish in Denver said its important not to cling to unimportant habits unless theres good reason.
We have to set proper priorities and observe the weightier matters of the law, he said, referring to a passage in the Gospel of Matthew.
With all considerations of Mass gestures and church etiquette, Deacon Parker suggests the following: Lets follow what the Church asks. Lets have openness to where the Church gives us freedom, and lets have charity with one another in all things.
Forgot to mention the disoriented-looking woman who sits in the front row and holds her arms straight up in the air in supplication during the standing parts of the Mass.
“Church fauxs pas”
Gee, I hardly know where to begin. Some observations:
Whatever happened to sliding over toward the middle? People cling to that aisle seat like either they’re on an airplane or they’re claustrophobic. I slide over rather than get run over.
The “sign of peace”. I’ve endured it for four decades, it sucks. Nowadays the “most precious thing in the church besides the Eucharist” whips out the Purell & sanitizes the hand that just shook yours. What really gets me is people waving at those too far away to press the flesh.
Celebrants whose witty words or congratulations provoke either laughter or applause during the Mass. Not appropriate, IMO; I would rather hear after “the Mass is ended” the words, “Please take your seats, I have a few announcements.” Even that is an assumption that the parishioners are too dense to take a copy of the church bulletin.
Excessive reverences at the taking of Holy Communion. Matter of opinion, got it.
Catholics are the worst singers (I know, have to keep it low in case Henry VIII’s police are lurking nearby) but do we have to be the worst dressers as well? I throw on a sport coat over my dress shirt & dockers & I’m considered a fop! Meanwhile a few blocks away at the A.M.E. church the black folks are dressed to the nines, right down to the smallest children. Something about entering the House of the Lord.
(Rare) Aggressive ethnics. I was at Mass out of town; behind me was a woman pointedly saying the responses in Spanish even though there is a Missa en espanol on the schedule. Loud & proud.
What else? As for women in miniskirts or bikini coverups, I have learned to elevate my eyes & pray, “I thank Thee, Lord, for granting Thy humble servant this heavenly vision of some of the beautiful things which Thou hast made.”
We have a congregation that likes to clap at the end of the Mass for the choir as if they were doing a concert. Why can’t choirs just continue soft music as people follow the priest out of Mass??
I do not hold hands during the Our Father, although I get a lot of funny looks and nudges. The Our Father is a prayer between me and God; I don’t need to hold anyone’s hand to say it!
The lack of people praying after receiving Communion also bothers me. Why can’t the choir sisng at the beginning of Communion and be quiet at the end of it? (So that people have a time to pray in silence.)
It was the last straw for me. Led me right out the door (prior to the priest in that case). Can't believe the other abuses (both liturgy and rubrics) I'm reading about in this thread. Oh, BTW, I found another door where an ancient, obscure language was being spoken inside and find myself going there frequently now.
Whatever happened to reverence for the Blessed Sacrament.
My parish is mostly old fuddie-duddies like me, most keep their hands to themselves during the Lord’s Prayer. Among family members, yeah, OK, hold hands if you prefer.
There used to be a woman at daily Mass who always, always took the left front pew aisle position. During the Confiteor at the words “and you, my brothers and sisters”, she would turn toward the congregation and extend her outboard hand, like a concelebrant extending his hand. I thought, give me a break!
At least some of the younger priests are trying to undo the liberal excesses of the Sixties & return to traditional rubrics. At the recessional the unspoken hint of this is “We are going to sing every last verse of this hymn and I will not even START down the aisle until well into the last verse and furthermore you will all keep your feet planted until the organist plays the final note!”
By the way, every so often the celebrant has to lecture those who receive Communion & then head for the exits (”How would you like it if I came to your house for dinner & when I was finished eating I just got up and walked out without saying a word!!?”)
During a diaconate ordination at the Cathedral in Denver a few years ago I told a Knight who was decked out in his costume; cape, chicken feather hat and pretend sword, to spit out his gum; he looked like a cow chewing its cud. That clown gave me a look like I had just taken away his birthday. We had a quiet yet spirited discussion about the rubrics, breaking the Eucharistic fast and just how seriously he took his faith other than the silly outfit he was wearing. Haven’t seen him since.
Those committing the most egregious violations of the rubrics (both clerics and laity) could not possibly truly believe in the REAL PRESENCE, or they wouldn't be doing what they're doing.
“Whatever happened to reverence for the Blessed Sacrament”
The loud yacking in the sanctuary both before and after Mass bothers me. My Dad told me he has shushed people which offended one woman. It’s like people think they’re in a social club. They seem to either not believe or not care that they’re in the Real Presence.