Posted by: L. E. Barnes | September 20, 2011

Mass Manners

A Catholic lady I know recently complained that the cantor (yes, the cantor, not just a person sitting in the pews) at her parish brought coffee with him to drink during Mass. This past Sunday a little child in the row in front of me was given a sandwich bag full of Lucky Charms cereal (I could tell by all the colored marshmallows), which he promptly tore open and spilled all over the floor. Another little boy on the same row had a little coloring book that he decided to start ripping up during the service. And then there are the folks who want to chit-chat, leave their cell phones on, or dress like complete slobs at church. Sigh… Whatever happened to reverence?

How should we behave at Mass? It is, after all, when we come together to celebrate the Eucharist, the partaking of the body and blood of Christ. It is, or should be, a sacred time, and our comportment should show the Lord that we value and honor this gift (yes, the Eucharist is a gift as well as a sacrament, is it not?). Furthermore, how can we set an appropriate example for the children? You’ll probably agree with me that many Catholics take a far too casual attitude toward this holy celebration. Frankly, some probably demonstrate much better manners at some secular events than they do when at church.

Such is the complaint of fellow Catholic blogger Dorothy Pilarski (a.k.a. “Gutsy Catholic Mom“), who has this to say about appropriate Mass manners:

 I am thinking of publishing a booklet and a poster to distribute to parishes. It would read something like this:

Mass Etiquette:
How to behave during a Catholic Mass

Remember you have entered into the house of God for the purpose of prayer, adoration, reflection, or  to celebrate a sacrament. Now is not the time to talk to your friends, but to talk to God. Please do not bring in any cups of coffee!

In order to help you enter into a sacred space we ask you to remember,

1. Turn off cell phones. Do not text messages or check your Facebook account from the pews or the back of the church. Leave your social media devices in the car. It’s time to focus on God. It’s distracting for others who are trying to pray. If you are waiting for an important phone call, consider going to mass at another time. Cameras, likewise should be left in the car, unless you are coming for a tour of the church and you have checked with the tour guide.

2. Do not chew gum during mass or put it in your side cheek, to chew on it later. Spit it out before entering into a church. Did you know that you are supposed to be prayerfully fasting for an hour before mass? There is a possibility that if you keep the gum in your mouth and resume chewing after receiving the Eucharist, you may unintentionally spit out a bit of the body of Jesus. That would be sacrilegious.

3. Dress with dignity for Mass. It seems that many women, many girls in this day and age have a need to always have a ‘sexy’ look. Mass is not a cocktail party. Mass is not a hockey arena. Come dressed with decorum, an aura of dignity. Consider teaching your children the different types of dress are important for different occasions. For everything there is a time. Please remember to dress modestly and ensure sure your daughters do too-, bare shoulders and visible bra straps are not a good idea. They are highly distracting..

4. Do not bring children’s activity bags, granola bars, cheerio’s, juice boxes, water bottles, toys including a child’s DS, play station, game boy, iPod touch or similar types of amusements to church. Mass is only one hour long. Children would grow in virtue if their parents expected them to detach from these things for at least an hour a week. For little toddlers there are beautiful is a series of little Catholic books put out by Father Lovasik. There are plastic rosaries or books about saints. Immerse your children in spiritual treasures during mass.

5. Parents have a duty give their children ongoing, on the job training, all the time. That includes the obligation to train their children in the appropriate times to kneel, sit, stand and face the altar If children are engaged in playing with toys, eating, and drinking, they are surely not being taught about the fact that Jesus is really up there on the altar, significance of prayer, self control, and the importance of participating in the mass. Parents themselves get distracted with managing the dispensing of food and toys. On top of that it is a distraction to others in the pews who are hungry themselves, or who are trying to fully participate in mass.

6. Do not drink bottled water in a house of worship. If an adult, for some reason needs to drink water to take some medication, please leave the church premises or at least the mass and drink the water, if you must outside the celebration of the Eucharist.

7.  If you are late for mass, please do not walk down the aisles looking for a seat until it’s appropriate. You are disrupting others. The Toronto Symphony does not allow late comers to waltz in at ‘whatever’ time. Church ushers should be trained to enforce this. Please do not leave mass before it ends. You will be missing the supernatural graces of the final blessing. Besides it’s a bad example for your kids

8. Do not be an observer of the mass, but a participator. Don’t ask yourself, ‘What is this mass doing for me?” Instead, ask yourself, ‘What can I do to participate in the mass more fully?” Make an effort to listen, follow the readings, the homily, read scripture passages before mass, learn the prayers of the mass, follow along in the misslette and sing! You will become an outstanding role model for your kids.

9. Do not have conversations during the mass. You would never have a conversation, during a performance of the symphony. If you did, you would be asked to correct your behaviour or leave. Quite simply it’s rude.

10. It might be useful to ask ourselves, Who am I? Why am I here? The answers: To know God, to love him and serve Him especially at Mass!

You can read her full blog post here, or an edited version here.

Do I hear any “amen’s” out there? 🙂

Thank you for this excellent advice, Gutsy Catholic Mom.

Can you think of any other ideas about how people should act at Mass? Or do you have any particular pet peeves to share?

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Responses

  1. I’ll add my “Amen”. Regarding #3, it’s never OK for women to dress “sexy” because it’s an occasion of sin for others. Today’s styles make women sex objects while at the same time women are saying they want to be treated with respect. We don’t have to look like frumps, but we also shouldn’t be displaying everything we’ve got. That’s for our husbands only.

    I’d add to her list to clean up after yourself before leaving the pew. Put hymnals and/or missalettes into the holder. Don’t leave kleenex or other tissues – used or otherwise – for somebody else to clean up. This is the house of God and it should be kept clean. The angels aren’t going to fly down and do it. How hard is it to glance at your place in the pew before you leave and put things in their proper place?

    • And an “amen” to your ideas as well! 🙂 Let’s respect one another and the house of God.

  2. Football jerseys are a huge pet peeve for me. Even ushers wear them. It just makes me think that these men’s admiration for these ballplayers trumps their devotion to God. My two-cents.

    • Ushers wearing football jerseys?! Yikes… Thankfully I haven’t seen that at my parish, and I hope I never do! The worst I’ve seen is folks wearing t-shirts and shorts. I’m not saying that men have to be wearing a coat and tie or that ladies have to wear dresses, but I still think people shouldn’t dress too casually. Thanks for commenting.

  3. AMen

  4. When my son was little, he would bring a mass bag that we got on catholicchild.com. And I confess, I used to let him eat some fruit snacks during mass to keep him quiet; but, in my defense I always made sure he cleaned up after himself if he dropped anything. 🙂

    My biggest pet peeve is people talking during mass. I almost always seem to sit behind or in front of a couple (or a few people) talking during mass. I remember going to my nieces first communion, and people all around the church chattering throughout the whole mass. Not to mention the lack of reverence during communion.

    • At least you taught him to clean up after himself. I realize that parents are trying to keep the kids quietly occupied lest they become too fidgety or noisy out of boredom. But I still think that it’s better not to give them food, as they’re only going to be there for an hour or so, as a general rule, so there’s really no reason for them to have to eat during that time.

      I know what you mean about people talking in church. It’s bad enough that they’re being inconsiderate to the others around them–I mean, it’s just plain old common courtesy for people to be quiet when in class, a concert, etc. so as not to disturb others. But running their mouths in church is worse as they’re being disrespectful not just to the people attending the service but especially to the Lord. If they want to have a conversation instead of paying attention to the Mass, then they should step outside.

  5. I agree with some of the list. Not with others. Or should I say, I can live with some things. Like children eating cheerios. You cannot reason with a 2 year old. If cheerios keeps him or her quiet and in her seat, then good.
    I used to bring my two boys to the front row and give them each a book. That was it and it worked fine.
    As for drinking water, some people need to for medical reasons. I don’t think any other kind of beverage would be appropriate however. It is important not judge what others are doing and why.
    I agree that everyone should clean up the pews as they leave. Amazing how messy they are left sometimes. I have cleaned up after many people.
    And I agree the chatting is not good. People were talking behind me the other week during communion! I couldn’t believe it. I had to pray for them!
    None of us are perfect. That is why we go to Mass! We need to give each other a break. But we also need to respect each other and the Eucharist.
    Thanks for the food for thought!

    • I see what you mean about, for instance, a parent letting their child eat cheerios or some little snack, though I still tend to side with what was said in the list. But as long as the kids aren’t noisy eaters or making a big mess, I suppose it’s not worth raising a fuss over. A child’s age is probably going to have to be the main consideration. School-age children, imho, are old enough to not need to be pacified with cereal or other treats for the mere hour or so that they’re in church. Likewise, I think they’re getting old enough so that they shouldn’t need to be given toys or coloring books or whatever to occupy their attention. Rather, wouldn’t it be better for them to start learning to pay attention and respect the Mass? Very small children, on the other hand, may very well need those things to keep them from becoming restless, but even then parents need to make sure they don’t become noisy or otherwise distract the people around them.
      I agree that if someone needs to bring water with them for medical reasons, that’s more than acceptable. But bringing coffee, soft drinks, or other beverages is inappropriate and should be discouraged.
      And I think those folks at your church who were running their mouths during communion needed a good spanking! 😉
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  6. You should read the post on this subject by Mary at the Beautiful Gate.
    A priest I know once said that parents trying to quiet down their children usually make more noise than the children! He always said, let the children be. Kinda like what Jesus said – let the children come to me.

    • That may very well be the case. Of course, if a child gets too noisy, especially if they throw a tantrum or won’t stop crying, the parent should remove them from the sanctuary and not come back in with them until they have quieted own. Otherwise, I see where you’re coming from.

      • I agree!!


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