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Noise at Mass

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Arrow Question / Issue:

"I do not wish to appear an old fuddy duddy, but I recently attended Mass at another parish. I was shocked at the noise level in the church. There was a light burning beside the tabernacle, so the Holy Eucharist was present. The volume of chatter could be compared to a busy restaurant at the lunch or dinner hour or a crowded movie theater. Recounting the experience to a few other Catholics was not helpful, since they looked at me, wondering what my problem was. Evidently they have the same conduct at their churches. This is not something I experience at my home parish, but wonder if I am missing something here. There is time to chatter outside the church. How can one quiet one's mind and heart to receive the Lord's presence and His words when busy with socializing? Am I wrong? Is this a trend that has come and is passing me by?"

 

Arrow Answer / Resources:

[click link(s) below, as applicable]

It was a pleasure to read your question. I will try to answer it in parts below...

First, you are most definitely not wrong. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is NOT a "jovial party" but a solemn sacrifice. We can be sure that St. John & the Blessed Virgin Mary were not "chatting" as they stood beneath the cross and watched Christ shed every drop of blood for our sins.

Secondly, Scripture and the saints are quite clear...

"But the LORD is in his holy temple; silence before him, all the earth!" (Hab. 2:20)

"Silence in the presence of the Lord GOD!" (Zeph. 1:7)

"As in all the churches of the holy ones, women should keep silent in the churches, for they are not allowed to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. But if they want to learn anything, they should ask their husbands at home. For it is improper for a woman to speak in the church." (St. Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in 1 Cor. 14:33-35)

"Nothing so becomes a church as silence and good order. Noise belongs to theatres, and baths, and public processions, and market-places: but where doctrines, and such doctrines, are the subject of teaching, there should be stillness, and quiet, and calm reflection, and a haven of much repose." (St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church)

"Let all mortal flesh be silent, standing there...in fear and trembling; for the King of kings, the Lord of lords, Christ our God is about to be sacrificed and to be given as food to the faithful." (St. James)

"When you are before the altar where Christ reposes, you ought no longer to think that you are amongst men; but believe that there are troops of angels and archangels standing by you, and trembling with respect before the sovereign Master of Heaven and earth. Therefore, when you are in church, be there in silence, fear, and veneration." (St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church)

"They shall also banish from churches all those kinds of music, in which, whether by the organ, or in the singing, there is mixed up any thing lascivious or impure; as also all secular actions; vain and therefore profane conversations, all walking about, noise, and clamour, that so the house of God may be seen to be, and may be called, truly a house of prayer." (Council of Trent, Twenty-second Session)

Third, this noise, unfortunately, has been a "trend" for a while now in many parishes. It is far from uncommon with Novus Ordo Masses. It is, fortunately, a "very rare" occurrence at 'Tridentine' Masses (Traditional Latin Masses). One could argue that it is because of confused theology of some Novus Ordo adherents (or simply ignorance, or "following the crowd"). Unlike the clearly sacrificial nature of the 'Tridentine' Mass, the Novus Ordo Mass often gives a "festive party" atmosphere so many people do not see the problem with socializing. [Note: If you are interested in some of the many significant differences between the 1960's Novus Ordo Mass & the Traditional Latin ('Tridentine') Mass, please visit here. To locate a Traditional Latin Mass in your area, try here.]

I wish I could say this trend was "passing by", but I am afraid that would not seem to be the case. In fact, it is (wonderfully) surprising that this was a new experience for you. It is a rather common experience out this way (California). And, in fact, many priests actually encourage this type of socialization. This is very unfortunate. Again, though, please remember this situation is peculiar to the Novus Ordo Mass (the 1960's Mass which is said at most parishes today). It would be a "rare" occurrence at a Traditional Latin ('Tridentine') Mass. [Note: It is your right to attend Mass – and all other sacraments – in the traditional rite, as confirmed by Pope Benedict XVI. If you'd like more information, please visit the Latin Mass / Catholic Tradition Section here.]

Lastly, I'll include links to some resources that might be of interest, especially if you have to attend Mass at the "noisy" parish again or if you plan to speak with other Catholics about this matter. I hope you might find them helpful... (click links to view)

* Silence in Church Reflections (quotations from popes, saints, etc.)

* Flier Re: Silence in Church (6 per page, handy for purse/wallet) [direct link to .pdf file]

* Flier Re: Applause in Church (also handy for purse/wallet) [direct link to .pdf file]

* Other Fliers (including women's silence, proper behavior in church, etc.)

* Discussion of Proper Behavior in Church

Again, thank you for your question. It really was a pleasure to read.

God bless you.


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