With spring comes wedding and First Holy Communion season. Here in my parish we have five large sessions of First Communions and we have at least three weddings every saturday for the foreseeable future. These celebrations are among the best of the year. It’s always so beautiful to see children receiving Our Lord in the Eucharist for the first time. Getting to know a couple and witness their vows renews in me hope for my generation. I enjoy very much getting to know young couples and becoming a part of their lives.
These celebrations bring the best and unfortunately the worst out in us too. It seems many people come to these celebrations haven’t been to Church in a (seemingly) very long time. I would never want to be cold or discourage anyone from coming to Church. But I do hope that anyone who comes to a church ceremony would be respectful. Unfortunately, some people don’t know how to compose themselves in Church any more. I’ve found those experiences to be incredibly discouraging. As someone who loves the Church and her sacraments it’s hard to fathom how people can act in church as though they are at a ball game. Every priest or deacon could tell you some horror stories! I think we are all to blame in a way for this. Too easily do we stop to chat in the Church either before or after Mass. We have to recapture the church as a place of quiet and prayer.
I’m still new at this and I don’t have all the answers to fix this problem. I’ve however picked up a few tricks here and there. Let me share them with you:
- Before each of the First Communions here at my parish the pastor leads the congregation in the Rosary. It helps to calm every one down and reminds them they are in a sacred space.
- Immediately prior to the beginning of Mass at First Communions and Confirmations we remind everyone to put their cameras and phones away.
- I try and remind the congregation before any big celebration that they are in church and should maintain a prayerful atmosphere to the space we are in. Unfortunately this doesn’t always work. I’m still not sure how to keep the ceremony prayerful when members of the congregation talk through out the Mass or especially during the distribution of Holy Communion.
- Immediately before the distribution of Holy Communion, after I have received the eucharist I have made it my practice at Funerals and weddings to invite those present to Holy Communion by stating: “I now invite those practicing Catholics who are prepared to do so to please come forward to receive holy Communion. I invite everyone else to please be seated at this time.” That has seemed to help keep the distribution of Holy Communion dignified and respectful. I always try to maintain a spirit of charity and a tone of welcome in my voice.
- Before each wedding I celebrate I speak to the entire bridal party – reminding them to walk slowly, to remove any chewing gum and to not talk during the ceremony. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. I’m not comfortable singling anyone out from the altar to keep quiet. Ultimately, I think we just have to keep ourselves composed and lead through our prayerful and composed example.
So far these are just my experiences. It can be very discouraging when it seems as though no one else in the church gets what is going on. But then there are those celebrations that truly remind us what we are doing there. The couples that truly get it. The kids that attend Mass regularly. In the end, every Mass is perfect. Jesus Christ is present, the couple is married, the person is buried, the child is confirmed. Would that we could all attend Mass in a respectful and dignified manner. Would that we all realize just what is going on. It all starts with me. It all starts with you.
Brother priests, if you have any tips please leave them in the combox or drop me an email.