Saturday 3 December 2016

Silence (and Manners in Church)

Silence seems to be all the rage at the minute, what with Pope Francis` silence in the face of a request from the four cardinals for clarification. Hitherto he hasn`t been noted for silence. The papal reflection on November 23rd strangely, in discussing the works of mercy, spoke of the importance of resolving doubts! Also there was a premier in the Vatican of the new film Silence based on the novel by Shūsaku Endo ( the `Japanese Graham Greene)` which I have long found thought-provoking in telling the story of Jesuit missionaries in Japan who abandoned their faith rather than accept a martyrdom which would also have meant death for many of their converts.

However,continuing on the theme of silence the liturgy Commission of England and Wales brought out a document on the place of silence in the Mass. They only discuss the Ordinary Form. The problem is that in the OF silence can only happen as a pause which is rather unsatisfactory as no-one knows how long the pause will be and so cannot be entered in to as there is no telling when the celebrant will move on. They talk about the silence of the congregation during the readings, offertory and Eucharistic prayer but there isn`t silence in church at these points as someone is reading aloud. It is one of the great strengths of the EF Mass that it affords time for silent prayer by the congregation especially at a Low Mass during the offertory and canon. Nevertheless I thought it was interesting that the topic was being explored and towards the end there is a useful section on the importance of silence before Mass which is becoming very hard to find. Strangely we`ve not received any notice of this document in the diocese unlike Cardinal Nichol`s opinion on Cardinal Sarah`s call to say Mass ad orientem which we received very quickly.

Just before devotees of the EF Mass start feeling smug about all this I came across this useful film. Embedding is disabled  but do look at this link.


  1. It is almost impossible to pray at an NOM, it is all activity. Whilst the very words of the Tridentine Missal induce absorbance of thought and prayer. Not to mention the beauty of the ancillary prayers to the 'Old Mass' - the very meaning of the words dig deep into one, exposing one's fragiity.

  2. The video link is so so funny and surely never true of a Catholic Church anywhere. I spend a lot of time in France and have noticed the encompassing silence that surrounds the Mass, not much genuflecting though. Paul @ Ryhope, although Ryhope was never never ever like this !

  3. Delighted to see the 'Quiet Please' notices in the church. I wonder what effect it will have after Baptisms? (or should I call that 'the Pauline experience on the road to education'?) Don't you wonder as many do how many of those baptised children will actually attend Mass? How many will realise the Real Presence as the attendees either don't seem to know or don't care?
    I have asked the bishop for his thoughts on 'ad orientem' OF Masses which 'might' restore some sense of the holiness of the Mass with priest & people facing God together. The priest is, after all, there to lead the people to God & to direct their prayers in the same direction.

    1. You open a huge topic there David. I go ahead with baptisms if parents are willing to say they promise to bring their children up as Catholics. I ask them what they undrstand by that and they normally say they will bring them to Mass. After baptisms families often want to take photos (as after weddings too). While I appreciate that as baptisms occur at 11.15 and the EF Mass is at 12 there may still be some photgraphs going on when the early birds arrive for Mass, usually baptism parties are away by 11.45 so there should still be time to prepare for Mass. I do think that a gentle word rather than a harsh one is better in the event of people preparing for Mass feeling disturbed by the baptism group many of whom will not have been in a church for a very long time if at all.

  4. I too am delighted to see the "Quiet Please" notices, but am not so delighted that some people continue to ignore them! I think the habit of having a little chat in church is so entrenched that it seems that many people don't realise they are doing it. They appear to be under the delusion that because they are talking at the back of the church, it doesn't count (or carry!). Perhaps notices saying "whisht yer gob" might have more effect?!!! Probably not.



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