The Basilica of Saint John the Evangelist

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"For some time now, too many Catholics treat the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as just one more dreary chore to be dispensed with before the real Sunday fun can begin. "

It’s the House of God, not the beach

by Lisa Fabrizio Ingram

Summertime and the livin’ is easy. Time for kicking back in shorts and sandals, enjoying breezy chats with friends, cuddling with your honey and just plain chillin’. Yes, summer; replete with the happy sounds of children at play, running to and fro with nary a word of chastisement to hinder their frolicsome ways.

Unfortunately, these bucolic scenes are taking place, not at the park, the beach or the backyard barbeque pit, but right in the pews of our own parish churches.

For some time now, too many Catholics treat the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as just one more dreary chore to be dispensed with before the real Sunday fun can begin. It seems that the appalling drudgery of dressing and acting reverently for one whole hour is just too much to ask.

But why is this important?

God took on human flesh, dignifying the body by using it as the means of our redemption. The Church in its wisdom makes use of all our five senses to bring us closer to the God who shares them with us. From the sound of the bells that call us to worship to the sweet smell of incense which carries our prayers up to Heaven, our bodies are, as St. Paul says, temples of the Holy Spirit. We should dress and use them accordingly. Because far worse than the mere appearance of improper clothing at Mass is the impression such disregard for the Real Presence conveys to others.

If we truly believe Jesus Christ is waiting to give himself to us at the altar, what should our response be?

What it comes down to is a matter of respect. The way we dress and act at Mass affects not only ourselves, but others.

I had a dear friend who once told me that for him, a near occasion of sin and temptation was going to Sunday Mass because so many of the women wore immodest and revealing clothing. Another measure of consideration for our fellow worshipers is keeping silent before and after Mass so others can pray.

We can show respect for our priests, who in following Christ by laying down their lives for us, deserve this respect much more than our bosses, politicians or others to whom we show esteem and deference. We can start by being on time for Mass, which means arriving a few minutes early to prepare in prayer. How it must gall our priests, at the end of the Sanctus, to hear the rumbling of dozens of kneelers hitting the ground like echoing thunder. Remember, our priests are doing all they can to get us into Heaven and we can show our appreciation by giving them our full attention, especially during the homily.

And finally and most importantly, we should show respect for God, truly present in the Holy Eucharist. When we approach the priest to receive Communion, we should assume a reverent posture, preferably with palms together as we were taught as children, and either make a deep bow or genuflect before the Real Presence of our Lord.

To watch some people slouching absent-mindedly with hands at their sides, or worse, in their pockets, and chit-chatting away, you’d think they were in a hotdog line at the ballpark rather than drawing near to the God of all creation.

The Church has an old and wise saying, "lex orandi, lex credendi," which can be loosely translated, "as we worship, so we believe."

Let us worship and believe with solemn veneration and so spread the Gospel of Christ with our minds, our souls and our bodies, too.

Lisa Fabrizio Ingram is a member of the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist parish.

3 thoughts on “It’s the House of God, not the beach 06/30/17

  1. Excellent article! Here’s another suggestion to promote solemn veneration. Parents: please do NOT bring your young children to Mass unless they are able to sit in the pew quietly. Mass, moreover, is no place for crying babies. I’m constantly amazed how parents tolerate disruption by their unruly kids in church, but would never dream of allowing such behavior in a restaurant or a movie theater. Parents need to take turns going to Mass, as in the “olden” days. One stays home with the younger kids while the other goes to Mass, then vice-versa. Today, with the webcam, it’s even easier. PLEASE think of your fellow worshippers and don’t use the so-called “crying room” as a crutch!

  2. St. John Vianney is quoted as having said something akin to that if we fully comprehended that Jesus was present in the Eucharist, we would die. Scripture tells us that no one has seen the face of God and lived. Yet, in Jesus, we see His Face and in the Eucharist, we take Him into ourselves: Body, Blood, Soul & Divinity. The word “awesome” does not describe this Truth. Our Lord, in His profound Wisdom and Humility, first came as a baby, then gave Himself to us in a bread and wine, so that we could receive Him, hold Him, take Him in. In our fallen human nature, we forget the profundity of what occurs at Mass and more importantly – Who is there. Even if we are dressed appropriately and actively engaged in the Mass, we can miss what is going on….we can get distracted by just about anything, in particular our own thoughts! Yet, our Lord knows this about us and has seen this from Eternity. Yet, more problematic is this: do we truly believe the He is Present at the Mass? Do we actually accept and believe The Real Presence? If we did, we just might dress a bit more appropriately and receive Eucharist with reverence and gratitude. Sadly, I think a lot of us don’t believe and that is the problem and when we do not believe in the Real Presence, the rest of the deposit of faith is significantly watered-down – it becomes an ideal as opposed to Reality. As Flannery O’Connor said, “If it (the Eucharist) is a symbol, then to hell with it.” The Real Presence is the bedrock of our Catholic Faith. We must pray to see with the eyes of faith.

  3. Great article!

    I recall that when I was growing up in the ’60s and ’70s (ages ago), starting around Memorial Day and at least through Labor Day, the local Church’s bulletin included a reminder to all that in respect and reverence to Our Lord (in addition to others attending Mass), all must wear appropriate attire when attending Mass — no halter tops/dresses, no tube tops/dresses, no spaghetti-strap tops/dresses (or at least also don a sweater), no shorts, no just-back-from-the-pool flip-flops, no jeans w/ “designer” or custom holes, and no shirts or jackets with offensive or otherwise inappropriate sayings/language/logos.

    In addition (and for those who maybe didn’t read prior week’s bulletin), a brief reminder of same was mentioned at the beginning of Mass. Rather sad to think that one had to be reminded of something so basic and that would seem to be plain ole’ common sense, but there you have it.

    Since then, and despite clearly evident inappropriate attire worn at Mass, I have attended Mass in a few churches where boldly inappropriate attire sadly didn’t seem to faze even the priest — probably because such attire had been allowed to become “business as usual” (so to speak) in that Church.

    In one particular church that comes to mind and in which such attire is the norm during summer months (despite the Church being 2 hours from the shore), it seems that maybe, just maybe, it has been allowed to perpetuate because the priest didn’t want to offend churchgoers who have gotten into the habit of thinking that for Mass one could “just come as you are”, even if it means a midriff tops (all the better to show-off that new diamond belly button earring) and cut-off shorts.

    And by the way, such attire is not limited to any particular age group — I’ve seen teenagers accompanied by parents who themselves (IMHO) ain’t settin’ a good example when it comes to Church attire. (Audio accompaniment: sound of forehead hitting table.)

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