“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.
Mass 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:
• 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
Saint 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.
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.