Thursday, January 11, 2007

Sacred space

Mulier Fortis has a post on mobile phones going off in Church. She gets unhappy with people who actually then take the call, something which I think is an increasing trend. In the past year, I've also seen:

- the best man at a wedding chew gum throughout the service.

- a family bring their breakfast with them to eat during the Mass: each child had a plastic bag full of cereals to tuck into with great relish.

- people verbally abuse a friar who was politely asking them not to stand in the space that was being kept clear for the entrance procession.

- a man stand on the Priest's chair in order to film the entrance procession at a First Communion, and then complain about being asked to move by the Priest.

Many of these incidents undoubtedly involved people who aren't used to being in Church, and perhaps reflects their nervousness at not being sure how to behave, but I think it also goes deeper than this. I've also seen a number of incidents involving people who are regular Mass-goers.

My brother was recently at a Mass where the Priest finished his announcements at the end of Mass with an innocuous joke. The leader of the music group didn't like the joke, and used his microphone to have an extensive rant about it.

I was at a Mass when the leader of the music group decided the Eucharistic prayer would be a good time to have a noisy discussion with the organist about the music for the following Sunday.

The Eucharistic Prayer also provided an ideal opportunity for the concelebrant at another Mass to pull out a camera from under his chasuble and start taking photos.

I think all of these incidents are due to a deeper sense of loss of the sacred, of what the Eucharistic sacrifice is about. On this topic I can strongly recommend David Torevell's excellent book Losing the Sacred.


Anonymous said...

Oh - I now you are trainee Priests but lighten up. Yes, some of these incidents are 'unfortunate' but these people live in the real world with all the trails and tribulations of work and familiy commitments and you live in the protective bubble of a Seminary - which do you think is more reflective of Jesus life? I do worry sometimes that Seminaries are becoming bastions of pompous theory rather than training grounds for the loving acceptance of all humanity. Do you percieve that the 'theory' takes precedence over the 'practice'?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, the laity feel the same way. Why so anonymous? Sign your name. :(

Gildas said...

Sorry to have upset you.

Yes, Seminary is a comfortable and sheltered environment, but I would hope that doesn't make us too pompous and distanced from everyday experience.

We all come from Parishes, and spend considerable time in them doing pastoral work, so are not totally insulated from "practice". I have tremendous love and admiration for parishioners who manage to come to Mass despite all the complications of work and family commitments.

I fully accept that liturgies in parishes are going to be full of crying children, people who have forgotten to turn their mobiles off, people who will arrive late or leave early, or need to go to the toilet. That's all part of the rich reality of a parish life. None of this upsets me.

At baptisms, funerals and weddings, many of the attendees will not be regular churchgoers, and not have much idea what is expected of them. I would do my very best to make them welcome and feel included in the liturgy.

What I am concerned about is with a sense of loss of the sacred. Some of the examples I gave were perhaps trivial, but I think they all illustrate a loss of the most profound understanding of what we are involved in when we come together for Mass. I honestly believe that the incidents I describe would not have happened if people had that sense of the transcendent. I don't see this as some kind of abstract theory. On the contrary, I passionately believe that this is a truth and meaning that is accessible to everyone, and that all are entitled to find and live out.

Noisy Parish Award said...

Hmmm...Loving acceptance has it's limits, though.

Pay the Noisy Parish Awards site for some examples!

Ttony said...

Actually, the title of Torrevell's book: "Losing the Sacred": is the answer to Anonymous.

Anonymous said...

Limits to loving acceptance - who would make the final decision on those then?

catholicandgop said...

I once saw a man light up a cigarette at the end of mass, and people playing games on their cellphone during mass. My brother once saw someone drinking a coke during mass. I always just wonder if these people would do the same if they were meeting an important individual. I always say, "What if they were meeting the President" or insert important person of your choice there. :\

Christopher said...

None of those examples seemed trivial to me; and most of them seem to be bad manners as much as anything, and there is no excuse for that. I mean, I wouldn't have put up with any of that behaviour in a classroom while I was teaching, nevermind in at Mass!

Anonymous said...

I teach in a deprived inner city environment and experience bad manners and bad attitues as the rule rather than the exception. I, however, believe manners and attitudes are learnt not innate and some young people do not have 'access' to alternative approaches. This is why I think it is important to 'meet people where they are at' and work from there with a non-judgemental attitude.

Fr Julian Green said...

If I were about to meet the President of the United States of America I would probably light a cigarette... And I don't smoke. Yes of course seminaries are full of young men with ideals wanting to implement them. We were when I was at Seminary, and we thought we knew everything. The practice of priestly ministry does change you. But I'd still rather have seminaries full of young men with ideals that full of the alternative, which is generally young cynics. Pastoral charity comes with time, but for the moment stick with your ideals. But do try to avoid pomposity. I recently went back to my Alma Mater - the English College, Valladolid - and the students (all of them in their first or even pre-first year in seminary) were terribly formal and pompous. I think the problem there is that there's no fourth and fifth year to knock the edges off, and no sixth year to encourage and guide. That's how it worked when I was at Valladolid. Anyway that's enough before I slip into nostalgia.

Anonymous said...

altar rails would solve all of those problems