February 22, 2007

Ask Cathy

Q: Cathy, as a revert, you seem to do a lot of reading on Church teachings. I pray you can help me. At nearly every Sunday Mass, a pair of gossiping old ladies will sit right behind and me and talk to each other during much of the Mass. It's very distracting and it angers me. Even though there are a lot of empty pews, they sit right behind me. Tell me, have you ever run across a scriptural, catachetical or legal justification for this? Is this type of behavior condoned? I want to go to my Pastor but I'm afraid that perhaps these ladies know some secret item in Canon Law that gives them the right to behave as they do. Can you help?

Sincerely In Christ,
Toolmaster of Brainerd.

Toolmaster of Brainerd:

God Bless You. Thank you for your letter. It's amazing but, I, too, have observed this phenomenon. Actually, that same kind of thing happens to me on the bus. The entire bus will be empty and the skank with the smelly breath must sit by me.

I have to think that your aura of holiness is attractive to these people which is why they want to be near you. Hey, are you a single Catholic man between the ages of 35-45? If yes, call me.

Anger before receiving the Eucharist is not a good thing. You need to calm down. Personally, I have refrained from receiving Communion when I have anger in my heart.

I don't think it's fair to stereotype everyone who does this kind of thing as a "gossipy old lady". I think there is no age limit to this type of insensitivity. Plus, really, if you think about it, people talking while in the presence of the Lord is nothing new. The historical record tells us there were people murmuring and muttering amongst themselves in the very presence of Christ, Himself, while he was trying to teach. And, we all can pretty much guess what happened to them can't we?... But, I digress...

You could respond in several ways:

1) Perfect the art of the Stone-Dead Stare. Look at some mugshots of mass murderers and terrorists for inspiration.
2) Interpret "pick up your cross and following Him" as picking up each lady and depositing her outside the door.
3) Verbal correction: "Hey, ya old bags, can't ya see I'm worshipin' here?!?!"

Frankly, none of these 3 ways, is a Christian solution to the problem. Tempting though...Ok, never mind.

I searched and I searched and I honestly do not believe these individuals have any excuse for what they are doing. I can find nothing to justify their behavior.

But, you just never know when a Catholic is going to invoke the "Spirit of Vatican II"-a spirit that seems to carry all before it in a tidal wave of dissent. You need to be ready.

I recommend you go to your Pastor and tell him what is happening. Respectfully, suggest that a reminder of the appropriate conduct during Mass may be a necessary. Father could print a reminder in the bulletin, mention it before the homily, or post a reminder near the doors. Be armed with actual documents of Vatican II, in case you find it necessary to back up what you are saying. Many priests know what the documents of Vatican II ACTUALLY said. Whereas, others, well....that "Spirit of Vatican II" is a powerful force of evil in our time.

Personally, I like this paragraph in Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy):

30. To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes. And at the proper times all should observe a reverent silence.

I don't have a high-level degree in Catholic Studies, Theology or Divinity, but I interpret this paragraph to mean that: unless the faithful are prompted by the "script" (read: your missalette or General Instruction of the Roman Missal) or invited by the Priest or the musicians to sing, verbally respond or contribute in some way to what is unfolding on the altar before them---


With reverence, of course.

Claiming the Protection of the Blood of the Lamb,


Blogger Sanctus Belle said...

Well Cathy, you did such an excellent job at answering that question, how about having a go with mine? I've had this happen to me twice and I still shake my head about it: How do you handle a situation in which you are in a Catholic church, a half hour or so before mass, kneeling quietly in your pew and someone/s comes to sit right in front of you and sit straight back. This causes you then to get all scrunched up, not being able to lean on the pew back in front of you. Now also keep in mind...the entire church is empty - plenty of places to sit. BOTH times I instictively got the feeling these people were PURPOSELY trying to interfere with my prayers. I was quiet, eyes closed, not bothering a soul. In fact, the second time this happened I heard one whisper to the other "Sit straight back" I was shocked. Ok, I can't make head nor tails of it, give it a shot? What do you recommend one does in this situation?? Thanks and good luck!

February 22, 2007 4:03 PM  
Blogger Sanctus Belle said...

Oh sorry, forgot to mention both times I was praying the ROSARY.

February 22, 2007 4:04 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Well, I've tried Cathy's methods #1 and #4 at my legal parish (#2 seems a bit extreme).

The "stare" (#1) does no good. I have a few scripts for #3, verbal correction, but only one has ever worked: "Hey pal, this is not a movie theater, get your hands off your friends ____!"

The the things that actual work the best is leaving that church and going to a different one for Mass. I've done that twice.

February 22, 2007 4:33 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

It would appear that Sanctus has a problem that could be solved only by choosing a front pew, up with the Pharisees. She will be forgiven.

She is blessed that her choir and/or musicians don't chose the time for Mass as their rehearsal time. I have found that often to be the case.

February 22, 2007 4:36 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Sanctus Belle: That's a tough one. I've had that happen to me too. Unfortunately, I end up scrunched or rather then holding the Rosary up just letting my hands dangle down (kind of like when you are at the communion rail).

There is nothing in Scripture or Church law etc.

You could refuse to move or say: "here can you hold this and move through the beads for me while I pray?"

I have deliberately sat up front because then I can just let the Rosary dangle or I have prayed the Rosary by a particular statue before Mass instead of in the pews.

Jesus could just as well have said: "The rude you will always have with you" instead of the "the poor you will always have with you"

Under no circumstances, let them stop you. I doubt you would but there are people that just can't stand to see the "old" devotions and will try to stomp them out.

February 22, 2007 9:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That drives me bonkers too when someone puts their back right against the pew back while I am praying especially after Communion.

I also HATE it when a smoker sits in front of me. That wretched smell goes right up my nose.

February 22, 2007 9:39 PM  
Blogger Sanctus Belle said...

I'll tell you, the first incident occured at the Basilica of St Mary in Mpls (I go to Mass there when I'm visiting in the cities). Every spot in the church open and two women sit RIGHT in front of me. I could feel what I would call "mild hostility" from them as they chatted constantly. I was shocked and stupified but continued quietly and pretended not to be disturbed. Only thing more shocking, is that when mass began - to find out one of these women was the LECTURE!! (grumble)

February 23, 2007 8:28 AM  
Blogger Sanctus Belle said...

Or is that spelled Lector...sorry. Oh and by the way, this is hilarious -

"Jesus could just as well have said: "The rude you will always have with you" instead of the "the poor you will always have with you"

Thanks Cathy of Alex!

February 23, 2007 8:31 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Sanctus Belle: I know exactly the type of radical feminist you mean (and I'm 99% sure they were radical feminists). When I wear my mantilla, I can say with certainty that if I get a foul look because of my veil it will be from a woman. Usually, a woman who looks to be between 45-55.

The Basilica is Ray from MN's parish. I'll send him an email and ask him to stop by and see if he has anything to add. He's had some good/bad experiences there.

February 23, 2007 10:51 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

February 23, 2007 11:39 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Sanctus and Cathy:

I deliberately did not identify my parish in an earlier comment when I mentioned that twice I had left the church to go to another for Mass.

But it was the Basilica, and once it was because of two women talking to each other while I was trying to pray before Mass. Not being very "Christian" at the moment, I smart mouthed some comment to them and they came back at me likewise. They must have gotten great satisfaction when I left for another church (probably Nativity in St Paul).

Most times at the Basilica, the musicians make it difficult to pray before Mass. I've mentioned it to parish staff, but they just shrug.

If someone sat straight back on me while I was praying a Rosary, I would be sure to resist their move with my hands. But that's me.

My resolve (in the car) when I was driving away, would have been to continue saying my Rosary or other prayers loud enough to interrupt their conversation until they ceased.

I don't know if I would have the courage to do that, though.

But I would add that considering the size of the Basilica parish (they mail 6,000 bulletins twice a month) and have many non-registered attendees, deliberate interference with prayer would certainly be a rare event.

Most of talking is just thoughtless ness.

February 24, 2007 6:33 AM  

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