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Want Reverence? Be Reverent.

“I thought all the way home on what to do about church,” my husband said late one night last week when we finally had some quiet time together, “And we are going to stay put.” Our disappointment with irreverence at Mass, simmering for years, had come to a full boil over the summer (meaning that he had become increasingly grumpy on Sundays and I had become increasingly whiny). It was time for a Decision.

prayingMass reverence is a charged topic, pew to altar. Google it and see, but be prepared to practice your Bradley breathing techniques for blood pressure management. There are as many opinions on reverence versus irreverence as there are millennia of cultures and subcultures. Organ? Band? Hymns? Choruses? Kneeling? Bowing? Hand-holding? Dancing? Reverence is defined as feelings or gestures of honor and respect. Gestures vary throughout time and geography, but should stem from and manifest feelings of honor and respect to our loving Lord. All rites of our Holy Mother Church have their theological and historical roots in Judaism, our elder brothers in the faith, even as exclusive traditions evolved. Christianity is a child of Judaism, and is a faith that embraces the whole person, body and soul. As our bodies are engaged with gestures, artwork, incense, music, prayers, responses, scripture readings, and (glory of glories) the Eucharist, our souls are enlivened with Grace. This is Mass. This is worshiping God in spirit and truth (John 4:24), by the Spirit of truth (John 14:26), and within the pillar and foundation of truth (the Church ~ I Timothy 3:15). It is where we belong, body and soul.

Rather than curse the darkness of fluff and dissidence, my husband has called our family to a reminder of the honor and respect due to Jesus, present Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, at every Mass. “We are going to practice more reverence,” he said with his characteristic quiet resolve, “Because Jesus is still there.” Driving an hour away (how far we’d need to go for something different) is not an option, as he commutes over an hour on weekdays; this is our focus for now. We made list of practical, reverential particulars:

holy water font• Sunday-best outfits
• On time
• Holy water blessing and genuflecting slowly upon entering the sanctuary
• Kneeling in reflective prayer beforehand
• Purchase Magnifikids for the middle children
• No sarcasm or complaining in the van on the way home (If damage control is necessary, it will be thoughtful and planned)
• Read through a children’s catechism for morning prayers
• Purchase, fill, and use home holy water fonts for blessings at least before bedtime

padre pioSaint Padre Pio, whose feast day is today, also had some choice words about reverence in Mass.

In order to avoid irreverence and imperfections in the house of God, in church – which the divine Master calls the house of prayer – I exhort you in the Lord to practice the following:
Enter the church in silence and with great respect, considering yourself unworthy to appear before the Lord’s Majesty. Amongst other pious considerations, remember that our soul is the temple of God and, as such, we must keep it pure and spotless before God and His angels…
Then take holy water and make the sign of the cross carefully and slowly.
As soon as you are before God in the Blessed Sacrament, devoutly genuflect. Once you have found your place, kneel down and render the tribute of your presence and devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Confide all your needs to Him along with those of others. Speak to Him with filial abandonment, give free rein to your heart and give him complete freedom to work in you as He thinks best.

And so our plan for the foreseeable future is to “do everything without grumbling or complaining that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world (Philippians 2:14-15). We do not want to honor God with our lips alone, but have our hearts far from Him (Isaiah 29:13). We want our hearts to be close to Him because we honor and respect Him. We want reverence so we will be reverent.

Saint Padre Pio, please pray for us.

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About Allison H.

Allison is a 40-something mother of seven, living in Alaska, accepted into the Church (together with her husband, thank God) in 2004. She spends her days homeschooling and packaging meat that her menfolk hunt and bring home. She cannot garden to save her life but picks wild blueberries like a champ. She has been published in an edition of Chicken Soup for the Soul and keeps a blog at www.northerncffamily.blogspot.com, writing about living out the Faith with children with cystic fibrosis.

September 23, 2013 - 7:09 am

Suzanne Walther - Super post. I pray for your parish and family. I respect your husband.
I do not know if your pastor will allow it, but he might also announce and lead the Rosary 20 minutes before Mass time. That helps SOME recognize the need to gather quietly. Granted they seem to be quiet out of respect for people praying instead of the Lord.
Also, you might petition your bishop to request a Canon from the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. Their job is to restore the Holy in all the world.
Pray hard for enlightenment in your parish. As a convert, I went thru 4 parishes before learning reverence to Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. Once I was exposed to a very reverent Mass, I was stunned.
Like you, our family lived nearly 2 hours from a reverent Mass. We opted to auction off our farm and home and move. I cannot recommend such a drastic choice for others. Our move brought us near the main house of a reverent religious order, the Fathers of Mercy in Auburn, KY, at a time in our family life when our oldest children were most impressionable. Now our 21 year old son is in formation for the priesthood in an extraordinarily reverent religious order. Our sacrifices to move are being rewarded, thank the Lord.
Please know that you are salt and light, called to DO for love of God, not to SUCCEED fir Him. Being the odd ducks can be difficult. Always remember to be loving outside the Mass so that others witness that your reverence is for God and not because you are holier-than-thou snobs. Some folks will choose to see you as snobs still. Such is life. You can still set a good example.
May Mother Mary be your Queen and intercede for you.

September 23, 2013 - 11:44 am

Katie - I am feeling you on this one! We live 7 minutes from an irreverent church and other more reverent choices are 30 to 45 minutes away. My husband is a pilot and works most Sundays attending Mass all over the US, but it’s a struggle to get 4 kids 8 and under to Mass by myself. I find myself cringing and asking mercy for all those casual souls that enter without showing honor to Our Lord in our Blessed Sacrament chapel and then preceed to high five their friends and talk about the upcoming ball game. Prayers for your family and for all those parishes where people are being called to be a light in the darkness.

September 23, 2013 - 11:54 am

BirgitJ - Yes! This came in a timely moment for me. I have been bouncing back and forth between frustration, studied resolve, anger, sadness…you get the gist. Your solution has also become our solution – at least for the time being. It IS the same Jesus, no matter where or how He is presented. And that has led me to still my pounding heart and humbly focus – on Him. Wonderful post that I’ll be sharing.
BirgitJ recently posted..Approved for Diocesan Use – Pro-Life Display for Your ChurchMy Profile

September 23, 2013 - 12:55 pm

Karyn - Oh, this is so timely for me as well. I’m particularly guilty of complaining about all the things I don’t like in front of the kids until my oldest called me on. I’m trying to do better and will keep your suggestions in mind!

September 23, 2013 - 12:58 pm

Karyn - I’m also guilty of getting proud and feeling like I’m better than those “less-than” Catholics who aren’t kneeling as long or receiving on the tongue or wearing modest clothes or the whole other long list I keep in my head. I know it’s ugly to admit but perhaps it can help others not to fall into this same sin….Remember that many people aren’t doing some of these things because they don’t know. I was a convert and have had to learn a lot of things from reading and praying instead of from watching my congregation.

September 23, 2013 - 8:30 pm

Cindy Coleman - My problem with reverence extends to the end of Mass….yesterday we were still singing the closing hymn and you could barely hear us over the growing volume of chitchat as parishioners left in the midst of the hymn, streaming out of the church chitchatting. I love chatting. I love socializing. I love that parishioners like each other. But please, can we take it to the narthex? I KNOW of some folks that just want to stay and pray in revenence after receiving the Eucharist–not to mention the lack of respect for them all leaving, noisy or not, in the middle of the final hymn.

September 23, 2013 - 8:33 pm

Pam - Thank you for this post. I have felt the tug of the Holy Spirit through different means lately regarding my reverence…not just in Mass but in daily life. God bless you!!

October 7, 2013 - 6:30 pm

Vilma - I appreciate the article. I have a question I’m hoping one of you can answer. At the Church I attend the Blessed Sacrament is kept in a different chapel, Jesus is not in the Church. I think because of this there are problems with reverence. My question is whether one should genuflect even though the Blessed Sacrament is not in the Church? If not, would at least bowing towards the altar be appropriate…any suggestions? Thanks!

October 7, 2013 - 6:41 pm

Allison H. - It’s so good to read your comments and to know that we’re not alone, which I *knew* had to be true. God bless us all, every one!
Allison H. recently posted..We’ll SeeMy Profile

October 12, 2013 - 1:42 am

Allison H. - Vilma, Is the tabernacle not even in the same building?

Anyway, though, I believe we should genuflect forward because the altar is the focus for Mass, where Transubstantiation happens. We’re there because He’s there!
Allison H. recently posted..Home Organization ResponseMy Profile

February 17, 2014 - 4:37 am

Marie Lancton - Excellent post — clearly and well stated.

February 17, 2014 - 2:36 pm

priest's wife (@byzcathwife) - a beautiful post! My big problem- people trying to talk to me right after the service has ended- inside the church! (and we always have fellowship in the coffee room…) it is very frustrating
priest’s wife (@byzcathwife) recently posted..we preach the Gospel at our church…don’t we?My Profile

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