Is the Church on Fire?

This morning was one of those frustrating days at Mass. In truth, the Mass was beautifully reverent, and the small Parish of Saint Joseph’s started off well. As people arrived for the daily Mass, they were welcomed with soft Gregorian chant in the background. This was part of the new Pastor’s doing, to increase the people’s awareness that they are in the presence of the Lord; that they are entering a sacred space. It has been a simple, and effective, measure.

But, old habits die hard.

No sooner had the priest concluded the Mass and made his way out of the sanctuary and into the sacristy, did the place of prayer turn into a clamorous parish hall at a pancake breakfast. Small groups formed here and there in the Church for some small chit-chat before starting their busy week.  This happens on a regular basis, with this morning being the worst I have ever witnessed. When it does happen, I try to find that quiet inner-space to offer reparation for the lack of reverence. Usually, the talkers don’t stay long, getting on with their rushed lives. But this morning, it was an never-ending bee-hive of noise. *sigh*.

It appears I am not alone in my frustration. Pat Archbold wrote on this very subject this morning. His article expresses what I would like to say, but won’t: “For the Love of God – Shut Up!”  (via He is making a case for a “real active participation … fostered by silence, glorious and heavenly silence” , recognizing we can find other places and ways to be that ‘community’ for one another. He shares a remedy the new pastor of his parish asks of the people: “If the Church is not on fire, you should not be talking.”

In reclaiming the sacred space, it is important that we understand why silence is so important in a church setting. I leave you with a few:

For oneself:

"Embraced by the Creator" a sketch by Jon McNaughton

A time of spiritual grace. St. Alphonsus Liguori* said, “There is no prayer more agreeable to God, or more profitable to the soul, than that which is made during the thanksgiving after Communion. It is the opinion of many grave writers (Suarez, Cajetan, Valentia, De Lugo, and others), that the Holy Communion, so long as the sacramental species lasts, constantly produces greater and greater graces in the soul, provided the soul is then constant in disposing itself by new acts of virtue.”

For ones neighbor:

Respect. What happened to recognizing that others might be praying and wanting to take advantage of this grace-time in silence before the Lord?

Help others grow in renewed awareness they are in the presence of the True Presence of Jesus. By simply saying, ‘Hey, let’s go outside…there’s people praying before our Lord’, lets others know of your love for God, and that will inspire them to nurture the same in their lives.

For God:

Thanksgiving. What better time is there, than when Christ is closest to us in the reception of Him in the Blessed Sacrament, to give thanks for the many ways He has blessed us?  St. Faustina Kowalska* said that she received a private revelation from Jesus who told her: “My great delight is to unite myself with souls…When I come to a human heart in communion, my hands are filled with graces which I want to give to souls. But souls do not pay attention to me: they leave me to myself and busy themselves with other things. They do not recognize love. They treat me as a dead object.”

St. Teresa of Ávila* said: “There is no other time than thanksgiving after Mass when we can so easily enrich our soul with virtues, or so rapidly advance to a high degree of perfection.”

Pope Benedict XVI*, too, reminds us, “The precious time of thanksgiving after communion should not be neglected.”

Let us ask the Lord to help us to desire to grow in union with Him, and that we may be reminded of His desire to be with us. And, maybe the next time we receive Him in Communion, we might spend a few moments in silence, nurturing this union with our God. And then, just maybe, we may truly see our Church ‘on fire’.


Related Posts:

What to Pray after Receiving the Holy Eucharist? by Taylor Marshall

For the Love of God – Shut Up! by Pat Archbold

Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict XVI

*Quotes above taken from this article: Thanksgiving after Communion

This article is cross-posted at Patheos – Catholic Portal, here


9 thoughts on “Is the Church on Fire?

  1. Great post, and I would add it would thrill me to no end if the Church promulgated some additional term in Purgatory for those who have their cell phones ringing in Church.

    • Thx, G. As it is, in any community, it can be difficult at times when there is distractions (phones, yes…those too!). We must hope, giving the benefit of the doubt, that the person is mortified when they realize they forgot to shut off their cell phone. We will make mistakes. We hope we learn from them.

  2. When I go to Adoration, I bring earplugs. I anticipate that group who comes in and prays aloud for the entire time I’m there. You can pray at home! Adoration, to me, is a time to be still and listen. I feel like they’re hogging God.

    And I, too, used to get upset at the chitchat before and after Masses. I see the tabernacle and the lit sanctuary lamp and I think to myself, “I’m so sorry, Lord. If only they realized you were really there, they would talk to you.”

    I now join the Brothers in their daily Masses. All you hear coming in and out of the chapel is the swoosh of the bottom hem of their habit as they walk past. My new favorite sound, next to, of course, silence.

  3. I was almost completely kidding in my earlier post… I share your frustration however. One would think the last bastion of civility in an increasingly impolite world would be in Church but at times that isn’t the case. One of our priests will actually stop the Mass when a phone rings, invariably during the Eucharistic Prayer it seems, and then pause for a moment once the phone is quiet. I like to think that pause adds to the mortification.

    Is it too much to give 1/168th of our week to God without connectivity? If the person is on an organ donor list, that’s fine ;), but I can’t think of anyone else calling who is more important than the one hour God asks of us at Mass.

    Perhaps God is calling me to be a hermit.

  4. Great article Sister Lisa! This is Very big problem!! I am really tying to teach the children and families to be quiet when they are in the church, but it falls on deaf ears. The worst is after Confirmation and First Holy Communion when the kids run around the church and talking so loud when they are taking pictures.

    • Hi Nicole! Yes, it can be rather difficult as a catechist, unless the Parish Pastor is taking a leadership role in changing the climate. Let us continue to pray that our fellow parishioners will eventually, “get it”. Good to hear from you!

  5. Nice thoughts Sr. Lisa.

    Peaceful thanksgivings after Mass is one of the things I miss the most about Franciscan University. Everyone would leave the church and talk outside to allow people to stay and pray if they wanted to. The priests would actually make a point to tell people to do that. You could stay as long as you wanted and no one would disturb you.

    I haven’t been able to really do that since leaving there. Now I have kids that demand attention and the church itself really isn’t conducive to it. I do miss it sometimes though.

    I have to say that at least the people in my parish are extremely good before Mass. They don’t talk at all and are very prayerful. That makes a difference too. I love to sit and prepare for Mass and be reflective.

    Thanks for the post!

  6. Sr. Lisa,
    I think you make many really good points in your post. We really do need to find ways to reclaim that silence as well as the sense that a Catholic Church is different because of Jesus being present in the tabernacle. The challenge is that many vestibule’s in churches are not large enough for people to visit in and once they get outside it is too cold to visit or the space directly outside is not conducive to gathering. I realize the great benefits of silence and prayer, but I think of two things that prevent me from being too critical: 1) Blessed Teresa of Calcutta would talk about the silence she had to find in her heart and mind because outside the chapel in Calcutta was heavy traffic and lots of activity. 2) Jesus does want us to come visit him and I’m not sure that He’s sad because people are sharing their lives together and not being quiet. Yes, it is very true that we have gone a little too far the other direction and we treat it like any other space. Fostering reverence and solitude and building community through fellowship in our parishes on Sunday’s can be challenging. Just some thoughts…

    • Thank you, Woleary. I agree with you completely, that it is not always possible, and we need to seek an internal quiet. And, we do need to grow in a renewed awareness of the True Presence, that will help bring around a climate of prayer. Thanks for your comments!

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