Skip to comments.A church's parting thought (Catholic Caucus)
Posted on 01/30/2010 6:57:31 PM PST by markomalley
MOUNT CLEMENS Some people still take off right after Communion at St. Peter Church, but not as many now that they have to walk under signs that read "Judas left early too."
Fr. Cooney says putting the signs up at each of the three exits was "a bit of Irish diplomacy" aimed at addressing a long-standing source of frustration for many Catholic priests: people who leave Mass early, rather than staying for the dismissal.
Perhaps one of the reasons the signs had a positive effect is that he introduced them with humor, rather than scolding the congregation, he believes.
"Like all Catholic churches, immediately after Communion we experienced a great leaving, of people heading right out the door. So, about a year ago, I was preaching about what I called the phenomenon of Catholic CEOs those who come to Mass at Christmas and Easter only, and that got people laughing," Fr. Cooney recalls.
"Then, I told them I also wanted to talk about another problem, and showed them one of the signs," he says.
While regular Mass-goers knew they weren't among the CEO Catholics, many no doubt realized the "Judas left early too" sign applied to them.
"It did have an effect. And I think seeing it makes people stop and think," Fr. Cooney says.
He says he first learned of the signs from parishioner Brendan Wagner. "He had seen it in a catalogue, and ordered it just to bring it in as a joke. So, he started to leave with it, and I said, 'Where are you going with that?' He said, 'You wouldn't dare put that up, would you?' 'Not only will I, but I want you to order two more,'" Fr. Cooney recalls.
Fr. Ronald Babich, pastor of Our Lady Queen of All Saints Parish in Fraser, says he began addressing the problem of people leaving right after Communion not long after he came to the parish 16 years ago, and has used a banner bearing the "Judas left early too" message "off and on for about 14 years now during Lent." But in Fr. Babich's view, it hasn't just been the banner that has reduced the problem to only a handful of people at the Fraser parish, but constant education from the pulpit not just about not leaving early, but about respect for the Blessed Sacrament in general.
"I think the priest has to be consistent," he says, adding that he believes in supplementing preaching on the subject with monthly holy hours and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
And his parishioners know his feelings on the subject well enough that, if they have a good excuse for leaving before the dismissal such as a nurse called in to work an extra shift at a hospital they'll tell him so he won't think they are simply skipping out early, Fr. Babich continues.
Now, he says he just wishes there wasn't such a "stampede" of people leaving as soon as the recessional hymn begins.
Still, what really annoys Fr. Babich is parishioners missing Mass altogether. "The ones I get upset about are the ones who are not coming," he says. Dan McAfee, director of the archdiocesan Office of Christian Worship and an expert in liturgical law, says, "The expectation is there that you're there for the whole service until the dismissal."
McAfee notes that the Latin word for Mass missa is the root for both "dismissal" and "missioning."
"When the priest says, 'The Mass is ended, go in peace ' that's a missioning to go out into the world," he says.
McAfee says the habit of many people leaving right after Communion dates to pre-Vatican II hair-splitting: "In the old days, there was a lot of concern about what was the minimum required to constitute valid Mass attendance. And the rule was that, as long as you were there before the priest removed the veil from the chalice and until the priest received Communion, that fulfilled your obligation."
But he says that approach to the issue is "almost like, what is the minimum I can get away with? that's not a very full understanding of what we're doing."
Not only is there now a greater appreciation that the Liturgy of the Word is an integral part of the Mass, so it is important not to arrive late, but leaving right after Communion is bad manners, in McAfee's view: "You don't eat and run at a meal that's rude."
While the old legalism about the minimum for valid Mass attendance may have fallen by the wayside with the Second Vatican Council, the concern that Catholic lay people not be mere idle spectators at Mass goes back at least several decades earlier, McAfee says.
"Most people associate the goal of 'full, conscious and active participation' at Mass with the council, but it was there in the writings of Pius XI in the 1920s and even earlier with Pius X," he says. People leaving right after Communion rarely occurs at St. Cecilia Church in Detroit. "It is not a big problem, it really isn't," says Fr. Theodore Parker, the westside parish's pastor.
"If the announcements run on very long, one or two will leave, and it's the same ones every time. But for the most part, people actually stay for the recessional," he says.
Fr. Parker, however, has a different frustration, stemming from how some parishioners who stay to the very end behave after Mass. "I'd like to see something done about the level of noise in Catholic churches," he says.
"Back in the old days, when everything was in Latin, there was a very hushed atmosphere. While I do think it's fine for people to feel free to greet each other, to say hello in the church before or after Mass, I don't feel they should be talking about everything they did that week or how their dog or cat is doing," Fr. Parker says.
He says parishioners are welcome to talk as much as they want after Mass at the post-Mass social hour in the parish's activities building or outside the church, "but I do think there needs to be a sense of respect for the Blessed Sacrament and for people who come early or stay to pray."
A novel way to handle that problem.
My personal thoughts were to employ the local color guard from the Knights of Columbus 4th Degree. Have them stand at the entrances with crossed swords.
You've got to be kidding me. The band rehearses up to the very beginning of the mass, and the recessional sounds like a rock concert.
As for leaving, I was taught that once the priest has gone past the pew, you may leave. And one of my pet peeves is the extended do it yourself The mass is ended, go in peace [insert a bunch of stuff here]. Not to mention the extended joke filled announcements followed by the teen minister's extended joke filled announcements and mini homily. Meanwhile, the next mass is due to start in 15 minutes and parishioners are arriving in the already full parking lot . . .
What band — We have silence before our Saturday evening Mass. The lector gives an announcement to urge all to quite meditation before the start of Mass. We also have a Rosary before that Mass.
We also ask parishioners to silence their cell phones.
Our priest isn’t shy — that’s for sure.
I love it.
One of my pet peeves growing up in Catholic school was those who left early. And I wasn’t even Catholic. Besides being rude, it is an insult to the Mass itself.
No one has to wait for a priest to put up a sign. Let those in a hurry leave, get back in the pew, kneel and pray.
It is, I noticed, catching.
Our church in Texas had a very large deacon, retired police officer, who would stand blocking the door, with a big smile.
The issue at my service is people’s arriving late. They generally don’t leave early. Today we’ll be praying at home, though, unless we get a sudden thaw before noon. 3” of solid ice on the roads. Maybe I won’t be able to make it to the dentist tomorrow, either!!!
I would like to offer a couple different suggestions.
1. Speed up the mass. The choir doesn't have to sing every response. The homily has become too long. When I was younger Sunday masses were 45 minutes, weekday and holy day of obligation masses were 20-25 minutes (no homily).
2. Return the Latin mass. It provided a sense of seriousness and sacredness that in turn made Catholics respect the mass more.