"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.