THE MAILBAG: VIEWER SOUNDS OFF AND MAKES SUGGESTIONS ON THE PROPER BEHAVIOR DURING THE LITURGY
by: Luellen Hoffman
First of all let me say that I do not hate going to Mass, in fact I love going to holy Mass, receiving Jesus in the Eucharist and attending Mass every day. But Sunday is a different story, dramatically different. On Sunday the church is turned into a zoo with people acting and dressing inappropriately, causing much dismay to their fellow parishioners. It has gotten so bad that I need to speak out, so they hear and understand how their actions are negatively affecting others during Mass.
- Do not talk in church. So many people, (especially women) see a familiar face and start chatting it up as if they were sitting in a conference center. This is understandable but you need to take your chatter outside the church, because you are disturbing others in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Get up and move away to a place where you can talk and freely get caught up. Go to the vestibule or outside, or wait until Mass is over and go outside to talk.
There should be silence inside the church because people are praying to the Lord.
Don’t think just because you are a senior citizen that you have the right to sit there and talk. In fact because of your age, many of you are hard of hearing and the conversation is much louder and more disrupting than you realize. Please go outside and do not talk in church. There should be a three word whisper rule. That is, only three words should be spoken in a whisper at Mass, if you need to speak to a friend or family member.
- Turn off your cell phones and stop texting during holy Mass. Leave your cell phones in the car or at home on Sunday, because you can live for one hour without them. There should be a rule in every church that for each cell phone that goes off during Mass, the person must put five dollars in the poor box.
- Dress appropriately for Sunday Mass. There should be a sign outside the church stating there is a dress code. What? A dress code? No one tells me how to dress! Well yes they do, and in many places you comply and think nothing of it. For example if you go to the Army Navy Club, or Congressional Country Club, or any other established country club, there is a strict dress code and men must wear jackets, or collared (golf) shirts, no jeans or sandals allowed. If you do not comply with these dress rules, then you are often turned away. Many restaurants, especially at beach, post signs that shirts and shoes are required to enter. Same goes for night clubs, there is a dress code and the youth dress up before going out at night. They know they can be turned away for not being in appropriate attire to enter the night club. This is a commonly accepted practice.
Parents keep in mind on Sunday morning that you and your family are not stopping by church (for Mass) on your way to a soccer game. Your kids should not have their soccer clothes on at Mass and this is very important for you as a parent, to stop and think about what message you are sending to your kids.
At all Catholic churches around the world there is an unstated dress code and we all need to abide by it because dressing in a dignified manner shows respect to the Lord who is present in the Blessed Sacrament.
This dress code means men should not wear t-shirts that advertise their favorite bar, college or football team. You know what I mean. All females, including little girls, should dress modestly for Mass. Always remember to cover your shoulders with a shawl when wearing halter tops, and don’t wear mini shorts or play clothes to church.
Again, parents it is okay to review your children’s outfit for Mass, especially for teenagers. Stop and ask yourself, would you want them to wear this outfit to the most important meeting of their life? Would you have your kids dress this way for an important meeting with a person in a very high place? Be honest and take a good look in the mirror, before you or your kids step out that door, and think how you are presenting yourself to God. If it isn’t a modest, respectful appearance, then take five minutes to iron that shirt or comb your hair before leaving home. After all this is God’s house you are entering and it is a holy place, so always dress appropriately on Sundays.
- Behavior of children. Most little kids have a difficult time sitting quietly for a whole hour and that is understandable, however they can do it, if their parents’ guide them.
Explain to your children where they are going and what is expected of them at Mass. Kids usually do very well if they know what is expected of them. If your children have a hard time sitting still then please do not sit in the front rows of the church, because their constant movements are a big distraction to others who attend Sunday Mass and who are trying to focus on what is going on at the altar. Kids should never be allowed to run around inside the church, this is very disrespectful to our Lord and to everyone who is there.
Parents with babies or small children need to sit in the back of the church, so they can get up quickly and leave church to attend to their child, when they start crying in the middle of Mass. Some churches have “cry rooms” but most parents don’t even like going in there because of the distractions they experience from multiple babies and infants in the same place. Remember there is a high probability that your baby will cry sometime during Mass, and a crying baby inside the church is very loud and distracting for everyone, so you need to immediately address this.
If your baby is fussy don’t pace back and forth inside the church during Mass, in hope of calming them down. Go outside or to the back of the church and calm your baby down there. Once quieted, bring them back inside the church. We know having babies at Mass isn’t easy, and we all understand this, but it is your responsibility to do what is best for the baby, and to keep them calm and quiet, while being mindful of others around you who are trying to pray.
Mothers, do not breast feed your baby during Mass inside the church. If you need to breast feed please go to a quiet private room and come back after you are finished. We realize babies are on a schedule so look at the schedule of Masses and pick the time that best fits you and your baby’s needs.
Thank you for considering how you look or your children’s behavior during Mass on Sunday. And thank you for making those small adjustments that will help make Mass a better experience for all of us. Showing common courtesy to others, and more importantly respect for our Lord is really greatly appreciated, especially by that little old lady (me) who is sitting next to you. God bless.
[Lellen Hoffman is from Fairfax, Virginia]