Sunday, June 6, 2010

Manners at Mass

In her 1965 book, American Catholic Etiquette, Kay Toy Fenner makes some very good points about manners at Mass, all of which relate to consideration for others:
"Proper behavior at Mass and other church services begins outside the church door. If the church has a parking lot, a driver should take care to park properly, to obey all church rules on the subject, and to strive not to inconvenience any other parkers or take up more than his due share of the space. If the church has no parking lot, one should not inconvenience the church's neighbors by parking in front of a driveway or a hydrant. One should never park double or disobey any of the laws of the road.

"Other rules to observe are:

"Come to Mass on time.. . . .

"Always be seated whenever there is space to permit it. Never stand in the back of the church unless you are sure that all seats are filled. . . .

"Move into the pew as far as space permits; leave the entrance to the pew vacant so that others seeking a seat may easily find one. (The exception to this rule is a wedding; those who have the foresight to come early may step into the aisle to let others enter the pew, thus retaining their seat on the aisle, where they can better observe the ceremonies.)

"Those intending to receive Holy Communion should remember to observe the ordinary social amenities as they do so; they should walk up the aisle at a pace that is fast enough to avoid holding others back and slow enough to keep from brushing past others. One should wait until one's turn arrives to approach the rail. If the church has adopted a special method of approaching the Communion rail -- up the main aisle, down the side, etc. all communicants should observe these rules exactly as requested.

"Prepare your contribution before you come to Mass. If your church, like so many others, uses the envelope system for collecting, use the envelope proper to the day; mark on the face of it such information as your church has requested. If you have pledged yourself to contribute a set amount each week, keep your word unless some extraordinary change in your financial situation makes it impossible. . . .

"Mass is not over until the priest has left the altar; the congregation remains until he has done so. When there is an invalid or a baby at home, a man and wife may attend separate Masses. In such a case, one of them may need to leave the church a minute or so before services are ended so that the one waiting at home may be in time for the next Mass. When one has this excuse or some similar valid reason, it is allowable to leave the church before the final prayers have been said. But it is not allowable to leave merely because it is a warm day or in order to escape the crowd."
I would add the following:

Leave your pet at home or get a sitter.  Not only is it irreverent to bring your pet to Mass but it is uncharitable since many individuals are allergic to pet dander.

Turn off your phone.

Leave your water bottle, coffee cup, cookies, pillow, and blanket at home or in your car.  You are assisting at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, not attending a sports event.  Christ spent several hours in agony on the Cross.  Surely you can manage to sit on a wooden pew for an hour and a half. You are not a toddler who must drag his bottle and security blanket with him everywhere.

Practice custody of the tongue: Do not talk before, during, or after Mass except in the vestibule or outside the church.

Do not use gestures or facial expressions to communicate with your family members or friends. Keep your focus on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Practice custody of the eyes: Do not look around at others.

Do not take off your shoes or put your feet on the kneeler.

Do not permit your children to lie down on the pew or wiggle and writhe around, much less run about the church or play with toys.

Absent an emergency, once you are seated, do not leave the pew except to go to Communion.

Go to and return from Communion at the same time as others in your pew. For example, do not come back late by making an excursion to the statute of your favorite saint and then climb over others to return to your seat. Similarly, do not leave the pew late because you feel you must read a large number of prayers before Communion or that you must practice humility by being the last to receive Holy Communion.

If you have an emergency that requires leaving your pew during Mass, quietly let the person next to you know that you need to leave. Give those between you and the exit of the pew a chance to stand or step outside the pew.

When putting down a kneeler, make sure you do not drop it down on someone's foot. Use your hand, not your foot, to bring the kneeler down.

Fenner, Kay Toy; American Catholic Etiquette (Newman Press; Westminster, Maryland; 1965), pp. 230-232.

Catedral Nuestra Senora de la Almudena; Madrid, Spain. From Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.

No comments: