One day up in heaven, people were praying and praising and singing and having a good ol’ time.
And John Smith, who had just died and arrived at the Pearly Gates, spotted his wife Mary, who’d been waiting for him all these years. “Honey!” he exclaimed. “How I’ve missed you! How great to see you again!”
At the same time Jeanette Evans, overwhelmed by the radiant beauty of the golden path and the delicious aroma of the heavenly flowers, exclaimed loudly to her friend Rosa, “Oh, look at the wonders our God has planned for us! What a great day this is!”
Little Anna, who at age seven had experienced a painful death by cancer, ran headlong into her devoted grandparents, who opened their arms to welcome her. “Grandma! Grandpa!” Anna shouted with glee.
But hearing all this ruckus among His people who should be focusing only on His immortal greatness, God the Father stood up and stepped away from His throne. In a loud voice, He commanded His elect:
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I don’t think Heaven is like that.
I think that when Jesus said He was going to prepare a place for us, He meant a place where we, in the Divine Presence, could rejoice in all that He had prepared. In heavenly glory, we would savor the friendships we’d built during our earthly lives, and rejoice at the new friends we made in heaven.
So my question is this: If it’s good to enjoy the companionship of the saints in heaven, even where God is before us in full glory, why is it bad to greet one another in church?
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This morning I ran across a post on the La Salette Journey blog which tries to make that point. Blogger Paul Anthony Melanson has penned An Open Letter to His Eminence Antonio Cardinal Canizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. The letter asserts that Bishop Robert J. McManus, Bishop of the Worcester Diocese, has refused to take action to correct a problem in Melanson’s home parish; namely, that
There is an extensive lack of respect and devotion toward Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
Melanson is upset that he experiences an
overall lack of silence in the presence of Our Lord reserved in the tabernacles of the churches in the diocese. It is a common and routine occurrence for people to chat, joke, and otherwise carry on as if in a social hall prior to and after the celebrations of Masses.
Further, Melanson is disturbed that efforts to address this directly with Bishop McManus have been met by silence. He hopes that Rome will intervene to discipline this negligent bishop and others like him, who react with pastoral sensitivity to the news that the faithful dare to speak to one another in the presence of the Lord.
The traditionalist blog Etheldreda’s Place makes the same point. “Why so many adults talk in Church, (and gossip, that is talk about other people’s business),” the blogger opines, “is that they have not grown up into the virtuous life.”
Never mind that it’s more than a little snarky to insert that bit about gossip, as though that’s the only reason for people to speak in church, and more than a little pompous to infer that the blogger is holier than the talkers. She is also more reverent, and more repentant, and more educated. To prove this, she adds:
“This lack of self-knowledge shows a lack of repentance and reflection. Also, the basics of the faith need to be learned by the adult community.”
Oh, where is that first stone for Etheldreda’s Place to cast?!
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I have a personal preference for a liturgy that is conducted with reverence and piety. I’m not sure, though, that there can’t also be a full measure of joy and love and conviviality.
In our home parish, there is a good amount of hugging and chatting and laughter at the back of the church following Mass. To say that these good Christian folks “need to learn the basics of the faith” is prideful and pretentious and simply preposterous.
I’ll tell you one thing: That old adage about “catching more flies with honey” would seem to apply here. The angry traditionalists who rant about their fellow believers’ perceived lack of reverence win no hearts and minds to Christ. The happy ladies, regrouping for après-liturgy lunch, display a joy which might very well inspire others to join them in their Catholic faith.
I am reminded of the admonition in the First Letter of Peter (1 Peter 3:15, RSVCE):
“…but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence;
Sometimes it is good to make a joyful noise.