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Liturgy & Liturgical Law Forum: distraction in daily Mass

by Catherine Frakas 19 May 2001

distraction in daily Mass QUESTION from Theresa March 17, 2001 We typically attend daily Mass every day. We had been somewhat late fairly often so the priest made an announcement during a weekday Mass about how important it is to be on time to ALL Masses, not just Sunday Mass, that being continuously late is downgrading the Mass. So we started being on time and continued doing so for four months. We were late only three times in four months. After that third time of being late, we approached by the priest in the foyer of the church asking why we are always late, why don't we just submit to our priest, and does he have to stop that particular Mass to resolve this problem? I explained, but he did not listen one bit, that we had been on time since his announcement except for three times. This was very disheartening because this hostile approach happened in front of several people and even in front of my own daughter who is still a child. I believe there is something very wrong with this emphasis on no distraction during daily Mass because I see it making other people become very judgmental of others. Am I wrong?
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on April 17, 2001 t Dear Miss Theresa:
Yes, you are wrong (and right). You are right in that any scolding from the priest should have been private and not in front of others. You are right that other people in the Church should not judge others who are late as they do not know the reasons for the tardiness (though the situation you describe seems to be not with fellow parishioners, but with the celebrant).
You are wrong however, if I am reading your words correctly, in thinking that it doesn't matter much about being late. The issue has less to do with distraction as it does with respect for Jesus. To be regularly late is rude. And I will lay odds that when you were late you were late about the same number of minutes most of the time. If a person can consistently be 5 minutes late, they can be consistently on time.
We should not be timing our presence at Mass to the minute anyway. One should be coming at least 10 minutes early to settle down for the noise of the world, to meditate, and to prepare for the Mass. If going to daily Mass is a rat race it defeats the real reason for daily Mass.
St. Augustine and others were opposed to daily Mass for precisely these reasons -- people not being properly disposed to participate in Mass and to receive the Eucharist. Until around 1920 or 1930, I think it was, the Church did not allow people to attend daily Mass.
We need to be going to Mass for the right reasons and under the proper disposition.
If you were regularly late and then after being told, were able to be on time (except for the 3 times), that would suggest that your previous tardiness was not really justified. That is evidenced also in the fact the priest cautioned you on this to begin with.
As to being on time after being told and the being late only three times, the priest may have overreacted. I don't know. You don't give the reason for the tardiness those three times in your question.
I do know that priests often get very tired at the casual and disrespectful way people treat Mass and the Eucharist. Leaving the Mass before the final blessing is another major problem. Repeated tiredness, or a history of tardiness, might cause some priests to be a little trigger-happy when they see someone coming in late. Maybe your priest was trigger-happy and too quick to chastise you out of frustration in general, rather then frustration at your personally. Priests are human too.
But, based upon your question and how you worded it, and if I am reading it correctly, I'm sorry, but I would have to say that my greatest concern is not for a priest who might have been rude, but the apparent casual attitude expressed toward this sacred time called Mass.
We need to remember why we are at Mass and remember what Mass is. The God of the Universe comes into the room -- LITERALLY -- when the Sacrament is consecrated. The presence of Christ is literally in the Church in the tabernacle. We must take a position of profound and solemn respect in this regard.
This leads to the general subject of respect of the Eucharist that goes beyond your question. Let me divert to this general subject as a close: People should NOT be talking in the Nave, they should be genuflecting before the tabernacle, they should be doing a profound bow at the altar if the tabernacle is off to the side, and they should NEVER go into the sanctuary area unless deputed to do so as an extraordianry minister. These rules of respect apply 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
When we come to be with our Lord and God, we should give him the respect of being on time, and not leaving until the final blessing unless an emergency occurs.
How do we feel if we invite the neighbors over for dinner and they consistently arrive 5-10 minutes after dinner is ready and leave immediately after eating before you, the host, have a chance to say, Thanks for coming over. We would consider this rude. So does Jesus.
Bro. Ignatius
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