Forced to pray in church

Have you ever been distracted by the number of people who swarm the sanctuary at Communion time?

Have you ever wanted a little more time in the context of Holy Mass simply to pray?

While we know that sometimes Mass schedules can be a little tight, this comes from a reader:

I attend the EF every Sunday, and took the opportunity of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception to attend today, which was well attended (around 200 people). Every Sunday, there is a Deacon or other Priest to help with the distribution of Communion.

However today, there was just the Priest celebrating to distribute communion.

<Begin Sarcasm>
Oh what a bleak and grim experience it was to have to wait 20 minutes after receiving communion. All that was left to do was to sit in silent prayer, before our Lord present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I mean, can you imagine, being forced to contemplate the Divine, after receiving him into yourself, in a beautiful sacred space. I can’t believe I had to stop and pray, in a church no less! Don’t they know I don’t have 20 minutes to give reverence to the Most Holy Trinity. It was just awful.

Thank goodness my local Novus Ordo parish has (no joke) 20 EMHC’s, guaranteeing I never have to sit silently, in prayer and contemplation for any more than 3 min.
<End Sarcasm>

Food for thought.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. adt6247 says:

    I don’t know, with 20 EMHC’s, wouldn’t it take a while for them each to line up, receive both species, congratulate each other, and get to their positions?

  2. Recall that up until forty or so years ago, the EF was the ONLY Mass one could attend. I suspect there will be a High Church, Low Church approach as we see in Protestantism today. Google up Presbyterians, Methodists, United Church of Christ, Episcopalians. All are pro abortion. They play a very small role as “faith communities” in the national picture. Frankly, who cares what they perform in their Sunday “liturgies”. Obedient, believing, practicing Catholics will gravitate to the EF and all the others will stay with the NO. A Korean physician client of mine converted recently from Methodism to Catholicism in a NO parish. He says his biggest disappointment is that the liturgy is basically the same!

  3. Kimberly says:

    How wonderfully horrible!

  4. southern orders says:

    As one who was a vociferous advocate for the laity to receive from the chalice since my ordination in 1980 at all Masses and for Extra-ordinary ministers of Communion to be numerous as a sign of the laity taking more of a leadership role in the parish, I have to now say that I realize that this was brought about by the theology of confusion in terms of the roles of the laity and the clergy and a blind acceptance that no germs, viruses or diseases could be transmitted by the common cup because some obscure person somewhere began to spread this so-called clinical approval. I have become more “germaphobic” as I enter my 57th year and I no longer trust religious people when they give medical or biological advice. I also realize that there are other ways to allow the faithful to receive the Precious Blood by intinction, which requires fewer extraordinary ministers of communion.

    With that said, though, our bishop mandated four weeks ago because of H1N1 that the common chalice no longer be allowed or the “sign of peace.” And yes, the Mass seems to me to be more reverent and less distracting especially at the Sign of Peace and at the time that hoards of EM’s would come forward. As always happens because some EM’s don’t show up, others had to crane their necks to see if others were needed, thus distracting them at this important time of spiritual preparation for our Lord. No more. We only need two EM’s at any Mass and it is wonderful. It is easier to prepare for Mass, purify the vessels reverently and there is no chaotic movement during the sign of peace as EM’s come forward.

    I will not reinstate the common cup or the sign of peace, although that really doesn’t prevent anyone from doing so if they must–it is a free world after all. I do plan to begin offering the Precious Blood through intinction in the New Year. [Which will also help to eliminate Communion in the hand.]

  5. Tom Ryan says:

    I don’t know, with 20 EMHC’s, wouldn’t it take a while for them each to line up, receive both species, congratulate each other, and get to their positions?
    Comment by adt6247 — 10 December 2009 @ 7:59 am

    It does. Expediency is not a valid argument for Unnecessary Ministers of Communion. At the O.F. Mass, where less is said to the communicant, we have timed 2 priests using a communion rail versus a platoon of EMHCs that invades and takes over the sanctuary. The priests do it faster every time.

  6. o.h. says:

    It’s not just the time taken up waiting for the EMHCs to assemble, receive, and disperse (time *not* spent after having received the Lord).

    It’s watching while people who, through the first half of Mass, were just regular laity like the rest of us, suddenly ascend into the sanctuary, and receive the Body and Blood in person from Father while the rest of us gaze upon the sight. Then they come down from Sinai, bearing Our Lord, and we the rabble receive from the chosen dozen, down on the floor and queued up as if in a cafeteria line.

    Even before I discovered the beauties of the TLM, I far preferred Communion at daily Mass, where there weren’t two classes of laity, with the distinction ritually illustrated in the pre-Communion EMHC Show.

  7. DisturbedMary says:

    There is another valuable way to force prayer and reverence after receiving Communion. Announce and take up the second collection immediately after the first collection at the Offertory not after we receive. What do you think?

  8. Marq says:

    I congratulate that priest for choosing not to utilise EMHCs. It’s things like this that will reintroduce a sense of the Divine into the liturgical experience of many.

    William H. Phelan: I beg to disagree with your statement that faithful Catholicw will gravitate towards the EF, leaving the OF only to all the others. I consider myself a faithful Catholic (at least I do my best), but a well-offered Novus Ordo Mass is quite dear to me. Granted, I’d prefer it to be offered ad orientem instead of versus populum, but there is much in the OF which I consider good. I black and white distinction between faithful EF and left-over OF won’t fly, I think.

  9. William: Obedient, believing, practicing Catholics will gravitate to the EF and all the others will stay with the NO.

    Not only do I think that it not true, I think it is unhelpful.

    Many faithful people attend the Novus Ordo and I don’t think it is quite right to imply that those who don’t chose the older form are therefore not faithful, disobedient, non-practicing, etc.

    Over time, we shall see that the older form is exerting an influence on the newer form. Over an even longer period of time, we will see even more changes.

    But let’s keep a realistic perspective.

  10. Rob Cartusciello says:

    I am also reminded of the liturgical abuse where the priest & EMHCs received Communion after the faithful and out of sight behind a screen behind the altar.

    That one was from the bad old days at Loyola University of Chicago in the mid 90’s. It was among the least of their abuses.

  11. “Announce and take up the second collection immediately after the first collection at the Offertory not after we receive.”

    They hold a second collection at your parish _after Communion_? I’ve never heard of such a thing, much less ever seen it happen. Seriously, I am boggling and croggling. How long has this been going on? Does your priest want to encourage people to leave right after Communion, or what?

    So… um… yeah, I agree that moving the second collection back to the offertory would certainly be better for reverence. Also for feasibility.

  12. kenoshacath says:

    With all due respect Fr. Z, most of us have grown very weary of the word “change.” We’ve been hearing it for the past 40 years in the name of “progress.” [You are not now hearing from those you heard it from in the past. You are hearing it from me.] However, the faithful require stability. [Not when what is “stable” is not very good. Then we need some changes, slow and careful, so we can avoid the shock treatment Catholics got in decades past.] The EF provides the constancy and firmness necessary to help us become more obedient, more believing, and good practicing Catholics. [That’s nice. Not everyone wants to or can go to the EF/TLM.]

    As a simple example, children seem to fair better when parents are consistent with their discipline.

    As a note, we have been very active Catholics in both the NO and EF. Although we support the EF, this does not mean that we reject or despise those in the NO.

    To keep a realistic perspective, Catholics need True Continuity; by the grace of God, we have this in the EF. [And I suppose people who have the OF don’t.]

  13. Magpie says:

    ”Even before I discovered the beauties of the TLM, I far preferred Communion at daily Mass, where there weren’t two classes of laity, with the distinction ritually illustrated in the pre-Communion EMHC Show.”

    This reminds me of something which takes place in my local parish: the EMHCs get up from their pews and walk up to the sanctuary just as the Our Father has started. This is very distracting and sends out the message that the prayer is only for some people, obviously not for the EMHCs who are exempt and manage to create a spectacle during this important prayer. Everytime it happens, people look at the EMHCs, as if to check, ‘Who is it today?’ I know I am distracted by it.

  14. gloriainexcelsis says:

    Whenever there is a second collection, and generally it is once a month for the building fund, it is after Communion. It was always so in the “old days,” and takes place as the Celebrant is performing the ablutions. Half the time I am still offering my thanksgiving and miss the collection. So I take it after Mass to our bookstore! Friends who attend local NO Masses complain that they try to make thanksgiving after Mass, but the chatter makes it almost impossible. I have to say that, even with two or three priests at our EF Masses on Sunday distributing Holy Communion, it takes perhaps 15 minutes for the crowd. The altar servers, sometimes 15-20 after High Mass come out to make their thanksgiving at the altar rail after Mass. The celebrant likewise, enters the sanctuary, kneels and makes his own. At least half the congregation is still praying after Mass for anywhere from five to fifteen minutes. And you can hear a pin drop.

  15. Aaron says:

    When I read the actual instructions for EMHCs, I realized none of the parishes here have any excuse for using them at all to distribute the Body. The larger parishes have multiple priests who could pop in to help distribute during the Masses they don’t celebrate, and the smaller parishes don’t have more people than one priest could serve in five minutes.

    I’ve also noticed what Tom mentioned: since a priest at the Communion rail doesn’t have to wait for each person to get out of the way and the next person to step forward, I think it may actually go faster that way, even though the words he says are longer.

  16. momravet says:

    The main difference I’ve noticed between the NO and EF Masses is that the EF provides a much longer time post communion to thank Our Lord for coming. Some places where I’ve attended NO Masses we were at the final blessing within 5 minutes of the last person receiving communion.

    Second collections were rare in the diocese where I live before 2000. After 2000 the frequency of second collections increased from during the school year to every Sunday. This month there were eleven envelopes in the packet from my parish (we had two “social justice” envelopes in the November packet. Some of the second collection requests are practical, like parish improvements or religios education.

  17. Aaron says:

    When we take a second collection, it’s after Communion, but we wait until the priest has closed the tabernacle. I don’t like it much, since people are kneeling and praying, but fortunately we don’t have them very often.

  18. AnnaTrad51 says:

    I truly feel for those who are struggling with the EMCH problem, been there done that. I am just so grateful that I have a Traditional Latin Mass Parish to go to now where I can find all the peace and quiet I need for prayer without been distracted about these things.

  19. We have plenty of second collections during the year, but they’re always right after the first collection, at the Offertory.

    On the bright side, our choir can do a really long Offertory motet on those days….

  20. MichaelJ says:

    Marq, you mentioned that a “well-offered Novus Ordo Mass” was dear to you. Where can I find one of those? Some have mentioned Chicago and others have mentioned the Mass televized by EWTN. I would tend to agree that those are “well offered”, but think about it for a moment. In a nation of 300 million people, we can identify two(!) Masses that are done well? What a sorry state we find ourselves in.

    Consider also that a Mass in the vernacular, versus populum, with EHMCs, Communion in the hand, girl altar boys, banal sappy hymns, stripped down least-common-denominator prayers, the sign of peace and the laity receiving from the chalice – all practices that we (to a greater or lesser extent) object to – do not, by the existence of these and other elements violate any of the rubrics so by definition would have to be called “well offered”

  21. Marq says:

    MichaelJ, for ‘my’ well-offered NO Mass you’d have to cross the Atlantic. I’m in a parish in the Netherlands.

    Granted, the Mass you describe may not violate any NO rubrics, but rubrics alone do not make a Mass a Mass. There is a sense of divinity, an awareness and acknowledgement of the Presence of Our Lord which makes everything new and different from our mundane life. That is an element which can’t be caught in rubrics, but is no less present because of that. Rubrics are to large extent there for us.

    I have been at a Mass where the priest followed the rubrics, but his attitude was so visibly at odds with what the Mass should be that I couldn’t call it a well-offered Mass. In fact, the frustration, even shock, was quite new to me then. Not an experience I’d recommend.

    However, a Mass containing the proper hymns and prayers, a good homily and a prayerful attitude in the priest, that is what makes me quite happy, actually. Even if that Mass has EMHCs, Communion in the hand (in addition to on the tongue), the sign of peace (in moderation) and female altar servers.

    It’s a personal opinion, of course.

  22. Ossus says:

    First off, the priest who serves that EF (he’s an FSSP priest) strictly adheres to rubrics and the traditional liturgy of the Church. He intentionally includes the 2nd confiteor in order to stand in that Tridentine Tradition.

    I suspect it never entered his mind to have someone other than a priest or deacon distribute at that mass. It was heartwarming to see the second acolyte go and sit in prayer.

    As for EMHC’s making communion go faster/slower, I can only comment on my N.O. Parish, where communion goes much faster with the 20 EMHC’s. I really wish my N.O. parish would eschew them for more time of contemplation and prayer.

    Although I ought to be careful what I wish for. A longer time of distribution means more “worship songs.” God help me if I have to listen to all 5 verses of “Sing a New Church.”

  23. wolskerj says:

    20 minutes of silent prayer wouldn’t be such a trial if it were truly silent. Unfortunately many music leaders seem to feel a need to fill up such “dead air” by banging away at multiple verses of “Taste and See” or some other such dreck. It’s sometimes hard even to get out a simple “Anima Christi.”
    They may be very sincere and are often very good musicians, but they inevitably draw attention to themselves and away from the Blessed Sacrament.

  24. MarieSiobhanGallagher says:

    I love when sarcasm makes such a good point. Well said!!

  25. Rachel Pineda says:

    Good post. I love the extra time to pray at our FSSP parish. Even then it usually doesn’t seem like enough time and most people stay after mass to offer their thanksgivings. I have to say I have been forced to pray in a different kind of way at an O.F Mass by the priest or some lay person actually saying the usual thanksgiving prayers outloud after the communion. While I think the priest is trying to teach the people that this should be a time of deep gratitude and contemplation it might be better to adress that before Mass several Sundays of the year. Or just before the homily? The worst was when the priest broke out in spontanious prayer for the whole parish just after communion and said,” Dear Lord, I thank you for coming down into my stomach…” it just went pretty sour after that. I’m am sure this priests intention were very good, it was just very distracting as it was 1. Not very beautiful and 2. not exactly what I was trying to communicate to our Lord. I felt forced to listen instead of enter into communion with Him.

    It would be nice if priests just taught how to pray at a different time instead of using the time just after communion. At our EF parish there are prayer AFTER the Mass, but that is after the whole Mass.

    Again, I know these priests very good intentioned. They are trying to teach there parish the importance of speaking to our Lord and acknowledging His presence just after they’ve received Communion. They are fighting a hard battle of years of poor catechisis and as a result people that are approaching communion in an irreverant manner. I know the priests are just trying to combat this.

  26. Jerry says:

    “First off, the priest who serves that EF (he’s an FSSP priest) strictly adheres to rubrics and the traditional liturgy of the Church. He intentionally includes the 2nd confiteor in order to stand in that Tridentine Tradition.”

    If the priest is celebrating the Mass according to the 1962 Missal, wouldn’t including the second Confiteor be a violation of the rubrics? I do not see it presented as an option in the “General Rubrics of the 1962 Missal” published by the Latin Liturgy Association.

  27. Personal Note: I came into the Catholic Church because of the impact the liturgy had on me when I discovered it. It was celebrated according to the Novus Ordo books, well, and with Gregorian chant and other polyphonic music.

    I was ordained with the Latin edition of the book for ordinations.

    I am in these things somewhat an exception to the rule. I was lucky and graced.

    But my experience indeed points to the rule.

    Don’t simply bash the experiences of people who have the Novus Ordo.

    Just don’t. Not around here.

  28. Ossus says:

    “If the priest is celebrating the Mass according to the 1962 Missal, wouldn’t including the second Confiteor be a violation of the rubrics? I do not see it presented as an option in the “General Rubrics of the 1962 Missal” published by the Latin Liturgy Association.”

    My understanding was that the 1962 Missal made it optional. The term I have heard used is “Permissible, but not ma mandatory.”

    Thats just my understanding, I suspect just about everyone here could give you a better answer.

  29. Dave N. says:

    You’re right though, Fr. Z, about mass schedules being (actually) more than “a little tight”–we often have people clamoring at the door at the end of one Mass for the following Mass the way it is–the existing schedule wouldn’t accomodate the luxury of a 20 minute period of silence. The EMHCs at least provide the possibility for a couple of minutes of prayer for thanksgiving after Mass for those of us who wish to do so and I’m grateful for that.

    …which of course begs the question as to whether the Mass schedule shouldn’t be re-organized. But our pastor already complains that Masses are cutting into Sunday afternoon. Praying for vocations.

  30. Rachel Pineda says:

    It took me 8 years to come into the Church. The impact the liturgy had on me stayed with that long and am sure would have stayed with me longer if I needed that. This was at a Novus Ordo parish. In a language I did not even understand. It was especially the whole parish kneeling at the consecration that stuck with me through the years.

  31. Colin says:

    Dear southern orders,

    I received my First Holy Communion through intinction back in 1977. Our Monsignor used a hybrid chalice that had a circular trough surrounding it for the Precious Blood. Ironically, it was not too long after that that Communion in the Hand began. Outside of receiving the precious blood, I do say though that too much stock is put into the concept of “the orderly distribution of communion.” It is used as a primary excuse for the common brigade of EMHC even when they are not truly needed (at least not so many of them). In one parish where I used to attend Mass, it took the priest almost 10 minutes alone just to finish distributing the Body and Blood of Christ to the EMHC Brigade.

  32. Mike says:

    I must say that when I was 20 I returned to the Church via a completely vernacular, albeit reverent NO Mass at a Benedictine Abbey at a Catholic College in New England. Sad to say, while the school is doing well, vocations are down. Now, with the perspective of almost 30 yrs, I can see what pulled me in–the sense of deep, interior peace, the reverence, the almost slow-motion, rock-solid sense of the transcendent. I wish these monks would put more Latin in their liturgy–I visited a few yrs ago, and it all seemed a little weak–it was only noon prayer, not Mass. Yet. Fr Z. is right. NO is the ordinary right, and let’s not forget what the adjective means–common, not vulgar, and certaintly worthy of our adoration and love.

  33. kenoshacath says:

    Fr. Z: Thank you for sharing your interesting personal note. (I hope you know that I only say this with sincerity.) We all have spiritual and life experiences which are important to each of us. Although, I’m quite certain my life story would not be as exciting as yours. Even so, I believe it is safe to say that we are on the same team. Go Catholics!

  34. tygirwulf says:

    Zing! As a new convert, not just to Catholicism but to Christianity in general, I often do wonder what others think is so bad about just adoring Our Lord for a few moments after Communion. I can’t receive Him yet, but I thank Him for humbling Himself, loving us enough to be present for us. I learned very early on to either keep my head bowed or gaze up at the crucifix during most of Mass, so as not to be scandalized or distracted by what other people are doing.

    I have been to a total of five EF Masses and none since August. At first, they left me feeling kind of cold and I had no real desire to attend them again. I can’t understand the words I hear if I can even hear the priest speaking at all, etc. etc. but yet, I find myself really missing it now. Maybe it’s because I am highly introverted, but I like not being constantly reminded that there are other people around me when I am worshiping (and I’m not talking about babies fussing here). I like not having to hurry up and say what I want to say to Our Lord because Father will be dismissing us very soon after the last communicant has gone back to his pew.

    By the way, Father, do you have any suggestions of hymns to be sung at Mass that wouldn’t be off-putting to a NO parish but better than the Marty Haugen type stuff?

  35. mpm says:

    WRT extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. From memory, the original idea here was to allow laypeople and religious to assist the parish priests in bringing Holy Communion to shut-ins and hospitals, etc. A very laudable and pious purpose.

    Some of the Liturgical Guild types then set upon this permission and found additional “conveniences” that they could use the permission for: especially to demonstrate what they conceived of as the “common priesthood of all the faithful”, so it was KEY to get such “ministers” up in the Sanctuary, for various “pastoral reasons”.

    Now, in some parishes, the clergy (celebrant and any con-celebrants), SIT DOWN during the distribution of communion as if they were Pontiffs, and benignly smile while Communion is being distributed. In continuity with the hermeneutic of discontinuity this is interpreted as the “laity taking their rightful place in the Church” (LG), which AFAIK, is rubbish.

    [I’m not speaking about priests with injuries or sickness: these guys get lots of physical exercise and brandish Florida tans!]

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