Monday, May 24, 2010

In the "it had to happen eventually" Department

From the Messenger-Gazette, a local paper in Somerset County in my diocese:

Police responded to Mary, Mother of God Roman Catholic Church on Sunday for a report of a fight in the parking lot between an usher and a parishioner after the usher told the parishioner to stop videotaping during Mass.

For the whole story, click HERE. Evidently there also was a video of the altercation(s) put on YouTube, but these have been removed.

Now, let me start with the disclaimer: I'm not assigned to this parish. I have been there twice in my lifetime, once about ten years ago to serve as Master of Ceremonies for a retired Bishop who was administering Confirmations, and nor have I ever been there, and the second time for a Priest's funeral. So I do not know the characters involved. But, that being said, let me make some general observations (i.e., tirades, rants, whatever) about such a situation.

First, about the general Catholic public. Quite honestly, the vast majority of Catholics do not know how to behave in Church. This comes from a whole variety of reasons, some because of a cultural "relaxation" of rules of decorum, and others because a deliberate attempt to remove the transcendence and mystery from the Church's doctrine. But it will not come as a shock to any Priest, Deacon, seminarian, or CCD coordinator or teacher that people who come to a Church for a Sacrament of initiation (a baptism, 1st Communion, or Confirmation) when I say that people treat God's house like crap. They are totally unaware of the Divine Presence (which is at times a monster we created by moving the Lord to some obscure spot). They've come to treat liturgy like a performance, a show. If it's only that, they they're perfectly correct in acting like a church is a movie theater in which they can sit and chat (either with the person next to them or on a cellphone) and drink Dunkin Donuts coffee whilst buying their kid's silence by feeding them Cheerios, as long as they promise to be quiet once the "show" starts. If we say something to them, then we're being "cold", "rigid", and "unpastoral". If we say nothing to them, then the few Catholics who are trying to spend some time praying get the impression that we approve of such behavior, and begin to chit chat themselves. Add to this the fact that these Catholics are, by their actions, teaching their children that this is the way to behave in a church, and you see how this weed will keep growing back.

Now, about Catholic Church ushers. For the most part, your task is about taking up the collection and handing out bulletins, and these are necessary things in the life of a parish. I also know there's times when you get asked to do the priest's "dirty work" (telling someone to sit down when all they want to do is stand in the back of church because they want the quick escape after Communion), and for that, I thank you. But, let me also say this: I don't care what you do or did as a profession, putting on the blazer does not give you superpowers. It does not exempt you from sitting through Mass like everyone else. It doesn't allow you to stand in the back of church chatting away with fellow ushers whilst Mass is going on. I have visited lots and lots of churches over the course of my years as a Catholic, a Seminarian, a Deacon and a Priest. I think there's a lot of ushers who are going to be quite shocked when God makes the delineation for them on judgment day between the Masses they "attended" and the Masses they were merely "at".

I'm sure this will become a thing that involves police, lawyers, a lot of yelling, and very little will be remembered about the children who received the Sacrament of Confirmation. There's no way to "punish" this family for their behavior, since in all likelihood they aren't Mass goers and won't be back in church next Sunday.


Ellen said...

Oh how well I remember this from my days as CCD coordinator. Now my parish is a result of a merger in the Diocese of Trenton. Many of the people from my former parish have left because the merger has been quite one sided with the other parish running the show (thanks to the Bishop who sent us a relatively new priest who has admitted to many, including me, that he doesn't want to be a pastor - ever). The parishioners who came from the other parish walk in late to mass and walk during the readings to the front of the church, think nothing of taking a bathroom break during mass (I'm talking adults), talk through mass, and the minute the priest turns his back to genuflect before leaving the sanctuary, begin to talk, loudly, to people across the aisle.

So it's not always just the C & E Catholics or non-Catholics who act improperly in church - sometimes it's the people who are there week after week too.

Kathy said...

Oh those ushers. I have to close my eyes at most masses so as not to watch them.

About the Cheerio thing, I see your point, but sometimes the only way for mom and dad to pray at mass is to keep the toddler happy and food works really well. We break them of that habit once they're old enough to sit still and be quiet.

Barb Szyszkiewicz said...

Unfortunately there are parents out there who think that children of kindergarten age are not "old enough to sit still and be quiet" without food. Or toys. Last Sunday I was treated to the vision of a little boy with Cheerios, fruit rollups, and juice box. He's over 5--and the little girl in the next pew was dangling a barbie doll by her knees from the edge of the pew. Parents didn't say boo.

ProudCatholic said...

Could not agree more with you once again, Father. As an usher, I have always realized the need to participate in Mass with my whole heart. Even when helping out at two Masses, I will gladly go to a third so that I can enjoy (yes, enjoy!!) the celebration wholeheartedly in the pew. God deserves at least that.

Something does have to be done to restore reverence in the Church. As you said, it is like a weed that has spread and has wound up taking over our places of worship. Trying to pray has become a battle to overcome the many and increasingly obnoxious distractions.When you do say something, too often you get admonished by "leaders" in the church as being intolerant (often, they are culprits as well) so you try to be nice, try to tolerate. But it's as if whatever you do learn to tolerate just has to be pushed to the next level until your patience is at the breaking point. I can't tell you how many times, I have been told to pray at home, that Mass is for community and praying is for anywhere else by yourself--Excuse me?

No exaggeration, at a recent confirmation I was kneeling and saying the rosary to myself about 1/2 an hour before the start and a sponsor was in front of me and leaned back so I leaned back so as not to interfere but she felt my presence behind me, turned around and looked at the beads in my hands and said, "This is not really Church, you don't have to say the rosary here." Huh? My eyes shot to the Tabernacle, to the altar, the Crucifix--not church? Even on one of the holiest days of our year, Holy Thursday when a silent dismissal is required, people stand right there in mobs laughing, screaming and when you say something, you are the wrong one.

What some of these Catholics have forgotten is that we are the ones who believe in the Real Presence, and so if anyone should understand the need to respect the Church, inside or outside of it, it is us! St. Francis I believe used to fall down in adoration if he was even with mile of Church simply because the Lord is present.

Many people don't respect God or his house and of course their fellow parishioners who are looking for peace and talking or listening to God and worshipping. The first words out of those who are admonished for their loud and irreverent behavior is--you don't own the church, we can do what we want, if you don't like it, go somewhere else.

Do we wonder why people don't get it..why they do not believe or understand in the real presence, why less and less people are coming. Fellowship is bombarding us everywhere outside the church, we don't need it taking over the church. What we need inside is to walk in and feel humbled and in awe of his Holy Presence ..this is the place he sacrifices himself for you, and is here to be with you as one. Our church is holy and should be treated respectfully and so should parishioners who know this and want to experience it to the fullest. I pray our Holy Father and His shepherds find some way to restore what we so sadly have lost.

Anonymous said...

Proud Catholic - I couldn't agree more!