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Thursday, 5 April 2007

More on silence after Mass

The post on Talking in Church elicited a good number of comments with some helpful suggestions. Thank you very much indeed. In this post I want to take up some of those suggestions (I have tried some of them already) and would like to share my thoughts with you in the hope of getting even more useful suggestions. So please comment on this post now unless you want to answer a particular point in one of the comments on the other post.

Francis pointed out that when the priest sits down after Communion, everyone else does so and then there is a general "end of lesson" feeling. I realised this years ago and I never sit down after Communion. I purify the vessels at the altar. When the Blessed Sacrament is returned to the tabernacle, all the servers kneel down until the priest or deacon genuflects and closes the tabernacle. After the purification, I stand at the altar for a quiet prayer (in fact, I find that it is a convenient time to say the "Placeat tibi", a prayer that used to be said quietly in the old rite. So the time immediately after Communion is without ambiguity a time of prayer and people are quiet and prayerful.

I am not keen on the long pausa after Communion. That seems to me to introduce an element to the Mass that is not really liturgical but the introduction of a period of private prayer in the middle of the Liturgy. Silence in the Mass was traditionally when the priest was saying some set silent prayers - that takes out the uncertainty. A short silence is provided for but I think this is best regulated by the priest saying a prayer so that the time is not variable at his whim and people do not wonder when he is he going to start again.

Another thing that I think has wrecked the end of Mass is the Notices. These are often likely to be informal so it has become the time for the "post-communion joke." I don't do the notices then (except when a visiting priest is saying Mass.) Usually, I read the notices before the sermon.

Notices in the bulletin, sermons, reminders, : yes, done all that but must do it more systematically. A good poster and some leaflets might help, too.

Prayers after Mass: check. We have the Leonine prayers after weekday Mass. Then people start talking. When they have finished, a small group says the Rosary! It might also be an idea to re-introduce the prayer for the Queen and the Marian anthem after the principal Sunday Mass. This always used to be done in England. As it is not part of the Mass itself, I can see no reason prohibiting it.

Finally, the most challenging but probably the most pertinent suggestion: the priest should stay and say some prayers himself, kneeling down on the sanctuary, after Mass. I usually do this before Mass and it certainly does help encourage silence at that time. After Mass, though, most parish priests are aware that this is the one chance they get to greet their parishioners and are therefore reluctant to miss this pastoral opportunity. However, the spiritual gain of encouraging people to make a thanksgiving after Mass probably outweighs this. Many good priests always did so, Fr Thwaites and Opus Dei recommend it strongly, and I am increasingly convinced that it is the way forward. Something to meditate upon during the Triduum.

Fr Stephanos kindly put me on to a post of his "To Receive Worthily the Eucharist" which has an extract from a document by the US Bishops' Conference and a link to the full text.
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