It’s spring. Must mean First Communions and Weddings.












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.

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  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    Fr. Dwight wrote about how he handles weddings here — I think he’s got some great insight.

  • Deacon Sean Smith

    Not a brother priest, but hopefully I have something to offer.

    I often talk to the First Communicants and their parents when they are lining up waiting to process in to Church. I try to stress to them that “First” is why the boys are wearing ties and the girls pretty dresses, but what’s really special is “Communion” because that is Jesus. I encourage everyone to focus more on “Communion” and less on “First”, and remind them that Jesus invites them every week to be part of this celebration.

  • Gen X Revert

    Many of us grew up when Mass was seen as a social event focused on each other as community, more so than a holy sacrifice, so people tend to act accordingly. Also the design of many Churches built or renovated from 1980-recently made them feel more like auditoriums than sacred spaces so people act accordingly. Of course, neither of these things excuse poor behavior but this is the situation that young priests like yourself have inherited. Of course, First Holy Communions and Weddings are joyous occasions so people can be excused for being a bit giddy -I would suggest keep gently, kindly but firmly reminding people of behavior appropriate for the occasion. The Rosary before the First Communions is a great one. The worst thing would be for people who don’t go to Church often to meet Fr. Crabbypants and Sister Scowlface, who show up at Church far too often . :)

  • Jerry Catalanotto

    Fr. Mike, all I can say is, I share your pain. You said Priests and Deacons could tell you horror stories, well, this lay person could tell a few tales that would curl your cassock! You hit the nail on the head, by the way, most people entering our churches to witness sacraments DO behave as if they are going to a ballgame. I don’t know what the answer is, but I do like the idea of having the Rosary being prayed as the congregation is assembling. I think I would also be in favor of cell phone jammers being installed inside every house of worship. That would cut down on some of the distractions. (Want to know how many times I see people sitting and texting through the entire Mass?) Peace.

  • Stefanie

    Father, I continue to pray for the Holy Spirit to make effective your good work — and the good work of all our priests.
    Love the suggestion to pray the rosary as a congregation BEFORE First Communion Mass! But then I remember the days when the good sisters would address a noisy school assembly with a loud “IN the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…” which would completely quiet us.

    It is a lovely thing to commit our children to the Blessed Mother as we pray the rosary. One can never pray the rosary ‘enough’!

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  • JACK

    Good points. Things have gotten so bad in my parish that I have approached the Pastor and told him that I will never attend another First Communion/Confirmation/etc. again.
    I’ve tried very hard to participate, but the behaviors are so bad that it borders on the Sacreligious. In good conscience I cannot continue to support this.

  • Joanne

    As a faithful Catholic, I find it hurtful sometimes to see how irreverently people behave in church. Alot of this seems quite frankly though like the fault of the Church’s decision makers for the past 45 or so years. The “wreckovation” of the churches was a terrible and destructive idea. I’d love to see the churches somehow restored to configurations that remind us what our faith is all about, ie, the Eucharist. Tabernacles should be in the center and there should be altar rails so that people can kneel to receive the Eucharist. The most reverent priest I know omits the Vatican 2 additions to the Mass, the sign of peace and the presentation of the gifts. We might restore some reverence for the Eucharist also if we stopped allowing everyone to have their hands all over it, ie, eliminate whenever possible EMHCs. And homilies should be short and more directed at catechesis than at affirmation. Sorry if I sound like a crank, but while the people in the pews should be doing what we can to restore reverence (like not talking in the sanctuary), alot of this has to come from our priests and pastors. I realize though it must be difficult for priests to strike the right balance between being kind and welcoming and setting limits and standards. Will be praying for you.

  • Pete

    I gave up praying the rosary before mass. It’s just such a noisy place. I remember the first time I entered a Catholic church. I just felt it was a holy place. Now it is as inspiring as a bowling alley. Vatican II was one big blunder.

  • Elizabeth McDonald

    I’ve been coordinating our parish First Communion preparation for quite a few years. At the parents’ meetings, I remind them that this is a Mass, not a recital, or graduation (I’ve not yet thrown in there “ball game,” but maybe I should!). At rehearsal, I ask them to remind family and friends that this is not just a “First Communion,” it’s a Mass. The rehearsal handout and the First Communion programs have polite reminders that everyone is expected to maintain reverent and quiet behavior during Mass “in respect for the Holy Eucharist and the rest of the congregation.” The pre-Mass announcements remind everyone that our joy is in the Eucharist.
    Our pastor also does not allow any photos or videos during the Mass itself (the children process in just before Mass, and photos can be taken then — but not once the actually Procession has started).
    This is not to say that this has eliminated ALL of the problems, it certainly hasn’t. There are still those family members who come in late walking up and down searching for their family — even walking right in front of the altar to cross over. There are times that people ignore the “no photo” rule, or chat throughout Mass, or make excessive noise before Mass…. And I know our ushers aren’t happy with the people who don’t know how to pass the basket! But we’re doing our best

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