Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Light Another Candle Part II: October 2014: Silence before Mass?

October 29th, 2014, Promulgated by Diane Harris
Torchlight Procession in Lourdes

Torchlight Procession in Lourdes

The post on “Why the Synod Puppeteers owe an Apology” has been gently hijacked by the burning question and serious opinions on the role (or not) of silence before Mass.

Here are those comments, to get the discussion going, transferred here from the comments to the Synod post.

Additional comments will be shown as, uuhh, “Comments”, following this post.

That’s how I’ll weigh in too, rather than hijack  the hijackers’ presentation 🙂

 Richard Thomas

I was attending mass in a parish in the southern tier. The topic was caring for the poor and I had a tough time with it.

But I was biased before Mass even started. Please tell me if I am wrong and standoffish. I arrived early, about 25 minutes before mass started and all was well. But about 15 minutes later, things started to get out of hand as more and more people came into church and most began chit chatting with their friends. Now, mass is begun with a procession, starting in the back of church. To get there the deacon and priest came down from the altar and walked toward the back of the church……… making social calls with everyone they saw. I was going to go to mass the following Monday and wanted to view the readings since I still had time. But as I was reading the deacon passed by me and, in order to be “friendly”, made a joke about my being on my I phone. I didn’t return the comment. And then, to make matters worse, the deacon, upon starting mass, tells the congregation to turn around and greet their neighbor.

I think this is disrespectful to God.  No one is thinking of Him as they speak with their neighbor. I was so angry that I just passed the deacon after mass and didn’t speak with him.



@Richard Thomas
You must’ve missed the reference to the 2nd Commandment in yesterday’s Gospel. :)

Richard Thomas


Are you saying it’s OK to conduct oneself like that before mass…. and I might also say some of the culprits do this during mass, even immediately after receiving Our Lord in the Eucharist.

If so, then does the second commandment state you must love your neighbor at the expense of mocking and disrespecting God?

Big E

@Richard Thomas
Conduct themselves like what? Trying to be friendly, social, and communal?

Do people go too far with that sometimes? Certainly.
But getting your feathers ruffled over a deacon who was trying to be friendly seems to be going a bit too far the other way IMHO.

Richard Thomas

I was reading scripture and trying to pray. I did not approach him.

You can be friendly after mass, outside church, possibly at those parish after mass get togethers. And if you really want to be social, you can actually call your friend and communicate on the phone or make arrangements to get together.

Do you really think people actually reverence and respect the Blessed Sacrament when they are making social rounds in church,

E, exaggeration does not change the fact that there is little respect for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus desparately wants a relationship with us. How seldom we make Him happy be cooperating with His grace.

Richard Thomas 


One morer item. Doesn’t charity mean having respect for those in church who WANT to pray? Doesn’t the constant talking and loud voices interfere with someone’s ability. Isn’t charity looking out and loving your neighbor? It sounds like the chatterers in church are not showing charity to those who desire quiet time to pray. It seems they are more interested in satisfying their own needs and ignoring the needs of their neighbor. Sounds like a lack of charity to me.

Richard Thomas

Someone’s ability to pray. It’s tough praying over the distraction of constant talking.


@Richard Thomas

From a blog from Monsignor Charles Pope (Diocese of Washington):

“And while strict silence in churches may have its appeal, there are legitimate concerns raised by enforcing it today as we shall see, since it may be in tension with legitimate concerns for the communal nature of Sunday Mass”

“As a general rule, especially on Sunday and other designated Mass times, the parish church is not a private chapel, but rather, is first and foremost a place of public prayer.”

“To be avoided is an attitude which might say something like, “I go to church on Sunday to pray to God, not to be bothered by other people.” No, Sunday morning is a day of communal prayer to God. Even in relatively quiet parishes, there are going to be crying babies, the sound of shuffling feet, coughs and sneezes, and any number of things.”

“Keeping the church with an atmosphere conducive to private prayer, while a good value, is not the first and most essential focus of Sunday morning in the Catholic Parish. Rather, it is to provide an atmosphere conducive to the gathering of God’s people…”

“And though we ought to avoid behaving in the Church of God in ways that take no notice of the Lord’s presence in the tabernacle, it does not follow that Jesus is offended that the members of his body enjoy the company of one another.”

“And the conversation isn’t all frivolous. There are concerns expressed, and significant news shared. There are prayer requests and invitations made to important gatherings and meetings in the parish etc. And yes, there is also banter of a less edifying sort.”


Please forgive me if I’m off base here, but haven’t the comments, while well thought-out and expressed, gotten away from the point of this post; the mis-information that was publicized during the synod and the fallout from that ill-conceived communique?
Might the comments on Sunday Mass belong in a separate post?


I don’t disagree.
I was just responding to Richard’s comments.
I don’t have the ability to start a new thread……


I wasn’t singling you out, my comment was meant as more of a general observation.
But I also believe that this is a pervasive enough situation for someone who can start a new thread to do so.

Richard Thomas

I am sorry for hijacking this thread. I express my ignorance. I don’t know how to start another thread, nor do I think I would have any authority since I am a guest on this site.Forgive me if I respond.E,“Tension for the legitimate concerns for the communal nature of mass”. Here we have it. The vertical nature of the purpose of mass is now replaced by a horizontal nature where man is dominant.I guess Johnny’s birthday, Jim’s new car, the upcoming party, the Bills football team, Jane’s new dress etc. are the new justifiable concerns of the communal nature. And to that, I say BS!Yes, Public prayer. All of us need to pray when we go to Church. All should express reverence and charity toward those who also want to pray.What a misuse of words. Not be bothered by people…as if that is the justification for talking about the Bills, a new car etc. His statement is just another attempt to get around honor, praise and the worship of God by disguising substituting mere socialization for prayer. And praying in church is now equated to hating and ignoring our neighbor, like the priest did in the parable of the Good Samaritan.And more nonsense to state that Jesus being offended by socialization. Of course not. Common sense. But by the volume of talking before mass Father has disproved his last statement and very underestimated his statement….“And the conversation isn’t all frivolous. There are concerns expressed, and significant news shared. There are prayer requests and invitations made to important gatherings and meetings in the parish etc. And yes, there is also banter of a less edifying sort.”Sorry, from what I and I am sure everyone else has heard before mass the conversation is frivolous with almost all banter with NO prayer requests.  I am sorry If Father is so concerned about gatherings and meetings, then why , after Communion does the priest make announcements concerning the content of the Sunday bulletin that announces parish gatherings and meetings etc? Sounds like our gabby parishioners now have one less thing to talk about before mass.What example does this give to children? Children are influenced by adults. Seeing such irreverence surely tells them that church is no special event and that it is equivalent to secular events.


33 Responses to “Light Another Candle Part II: October 2014: Silence before Mass?”

  1. Diane Harris says:

    The “post” consists of the comments which were on the Synod Puppeteers post and are now deleted from there, in order to separate the two subjects.

    I too find it very difficult to “recollect” before Mass when there is all kind of distraction and secular conversation going on around me. I’d rather wait in the car until the last minute, and I hate doing that too. Some of us are much more easily distracted than others. One of my pet peeves is being tapped on the shoulder for conversation in Church, since I’m not doing ‘anything’ — only praying!

    Another thought I’ve had is that silence does not inflict itself on those who want to talk; but the conversation certainly inflicts itself on those who want to pray quietly. Some churches use music before and even after Mass in order to suppress the conversation. However, some people then just yell.

    I wonder what some of those people would do if Derek Jeter, Peyton Manning, Prince William and Kate, Capt. Sullenberger, or Ben Carsen were sitting in the Sanctuary (not to mention their own favorite sports figure or celebrity?) Talk loudly about what they are having for lunch? The Lord is just taken for granted, or rejected and ignored. There is no conversation I need to have(other than something like a medical emergency to help someone really in need)which is as important as giving homage to God. The rest I can do anytime.

    Msgr. Pope’s essay was interesting. He has caught my attention recently because he posted a strong criticism against Cardinal Dolan’s approval of the same-sex advocacy contingent in the St. Patrick’s Day parade, on the Archdiocese of Washington’s website. It was taken down the same day but not before it was copied and circulated.

    Also I recently read his essay on the loss that has come, in his opinion, due to substantially dropping the exorcism rites in Baptism, and his respectfully calling for reconsideration of adding them back. Therefore, I take what he writes seriously regarding the communal benefits of conversation.

    But, after taking it seriously, I disagree. Provide opportunities for coffee and conversation after Mass, in another location, when there is time for even more meaningful conversation, but don’t interfere with preparation of souls for Mass, or their thanksgiving afterward. Just one more opinion.

  2. catholicmom says:

    “As a general rule, especially on Sunday and other designated Mass times, the parish church is not a private chapel, but rather, is first and foremost a place of public prayer.”
    If it’s a place of public prayer, perhaps some time to recollect is necessary and/or desirable. I think it is just considerate to keep conversation to a minimum while in a house of prayer.

  3. gaudium says:

    Honestly, I have NEVER heard anyone engaging in a “spiritual” conversation while chatting in church before Mass. I have not infrequently heard foul language and God’s name used in vain during pre-Mass conversations.

  4. Bernie says:

    Traditionally, and until fairly recently, the Catholic church building had always been understood as sacred space, a temple, the house of God, the new Jerusalem, the city of the King. The focus was on God. Yes, the Mass (and liturgy in general) is a communal celebration but it has always (until recently) been experienced as a communal celebration within the sacred rites. That was always a distinctive feature of Catholic churches. You were in the temple of the Lord. You just should not do things that are not related to the sacred purpose of building. When you entered a church you were suppose to place yourself into that frame of mind which would predispose you to pray communally toward the Lord.

    Of course, that all changed when the focus shifted from God to the community itself. The space of the church building wasn’t sacred anymore. The linear progression from the entrance of the building to the altar and tabernacle, the most sacred parts of the church, was replaced by a circular arrangement in which hierarchical arrangement was abolished. It was important that everyone be able to look at each other; that the congregation be aware of itself. That’s not just my interpretation. That was the started purpose of the new liturgists and the architecture they foisted on Catholics.

    Catholics have always worshiped as they believe. Today we believe that God is “out” and we’re “in”. It’s not His house. It’s our house.

  5. gaudium says:

    Our pastor just moved the Tabernacle from an entrance way to the center of the Sanctuary. One woman asked me, “Is that so he doesn’t have so far to walk?” Last Sunday a new sacristan took the Ciborium out of the Tabernacle and mixed unconsecrated altar breads in with the consecrated Hosts. She said that her written instructions stated to mix them together. When I asked her where that was written, she pointed to the instructions which said nothing of the kind and said, “Oh, I thought that’s what it said. Well, it’s just a few. Just take off the top layer.” She’s a recent convert having gone through a woefully inadequate RCIA and is also living openly with a man she is not married to. Is it surprising that so many people in the pew do not take the sacredness of the Mass seriously? We (all of us) have a lot of work to do.

  6. annonymouse says:

    Not too long ago, I experienced a beautiful, very reverent Mass in another diocese, in a church that was also by design and custom there, very reverent. I have to tell you, it had an effect on me. Unlike any liturgy I’ve experienced in our diocese, or really any “worship space” we have here in Rochester, it imparted to me a real and much deeper sense of the presence of the Lord there. It actually made me feel unworthy of being in His presence, and spurred me to get to confession as soon as I returned home. The holiness of that Mass and the sacredness of that space made me desire to be more holy personally.

    So it seems to me that a much greater emphasis on the sacredness of the Mass, as Gaudium put it, will bear real fruit in the holiness of the Body of Christ, which we become in the Sacred Liturgy. The type of “community” that Big E is here defending is fine, at coffee hour after Mass. That’s where it belongs, not in the sacred worship space.

  7. Richard Thomas says:


    I went to mass yesterday. Usually there is a crowd who is socializing before mass and I am distracted. Yesterday, for some reason they were quiet. I was able to spend some quiet time with God. It was nice to be able to pray without distractions.

  8. militia says:

    What should we do when the loud conversation we overhear is clearly against Church teaching? In this particular election-charged climate, e.g. someone touting a political candidate who is a pro-abort? or giving advice that it’s OK for a non-Catholic present to go to Communion? Or speaking a pro-same-sex union message? or taking the Lord’s Name in Vain? If the pastor is going to allow such loud conversation before Mass, shouldn’t he also exhort us to speak out against such error promptly, and help others to avoid the mis-information?

  9. y2kscotty says:

    Tangentially to militia’s comment regarding politicians. Should candidates for public office exercise public ministries at Mass while their political campaigns are active (such as for State Senate or Assembly or Judge or Mayor or County Legislature, etc.) – such as lector or EMC? And, assuming they get elected, may they continue in those ministries if they are publicly opposed to the teachings of the bishops? I know of one situation right now – and when I see that lector, I can’t help but think that he’s using his ministry to garner a few votes.

  10. Scott W. says:

    I am reminded of an account in which a Catholic convinced a Protestant to attend Mass in the olden days and the Protestant has horrified at what he thought was idolatry of the Eucharist. Years later he was reluctantly convinced to go again. He wasnt horrified this time because “It was obvious that no one believed it.” I’d put the presence of idle chatter before Mass in the category of things that make it obvious that few have any sense of sacred space.

  11. Richard Thomas says:

    Perhaps we have heard the tale of a muslim telling a Catholic he did not believe in the real presence but if he did he would never get off his knees in adoration

  12. Scott W. says:

    “Perhaps we have heard the tale of a muslim telling a Catholic he did not believe in the real presence but if he did he would never get off his knees in adoration”

    I have but never cared for it because Muslims think it is some clever gotcha, but really it is little different than the Mormon “burning in the bosum” nonsense.

  13. BigE says:

    @Richard Thomas
    I often go to open religious chat forums to discuss/debate theological ideas.
    In a debate on the Real Presence of the Eucharist – a Muslim actually presented that argument to me. It was an interesting discussion. (so for me, it’s more than just a “tale”…)

  14. Richard Thomas says:

    I wonder if Catholics take the Eucharist for granted

  15. y2kscotty says:

    Yes, I think we do take the Eucharist for granted. I have two opinions about talking in church: (1) we can chat with Jesus and our neighbor at the gathering at Mass and that homeiness can be edifying; and (2) it can be similar to reading your text messages on your smartphone while you are visiting at a friend’s house – quite impolite and disrespectcful.

    one thing that could be helpful would be for the deacon or priest to address the congregation several minutes before the beginning of Mass and ask for prayerful silence in preparation for Mass. Although there might be chatter before this prayerful preparation, maybe some people will begin their prayerful silence as soon as they enter the church…and therefore, that might gradually diminish the chatter.

    Another thing might be for the Bishop to delegate a priest to act as a special “missionary” to parishes on Sunday to preach exclusively about the Eucharist/Real Presence/Its Wonderful Privilege/Behavior. he should be chosen for his ability to talk about the subject in a way that will inspire the people.

  16. Richard Thomas says:

    I wrote a letter to the deacon and the pastor of the offending church. I will keep you posted.

  17. Ben Anderson says:

    Catholics have always worshiped as they believe. Today we believe that God is “out” and we’re “in”. It’s not His house. It’s our house.

    well said, Bernie.

    Personally, I’d prefer to go with the opinion of Saints (Tradition) on this topic than Monsignor Pope.

    In a homily this week, the priest referring to the need for parents to discipline their children said, “a river without banks is a swamp.” I think that applies equally well to this topic. I think as laypeople we do need to recognize how difficult it is for clergy to say “no”, but say it they must. I think this is the problem across the board with giving Sacraments to those living in grave sin, failing to call homosexuality evil, and being quiet in church. Everyone knows at some point it must stop. You will never satisfy them. A friend said to me recently that homosexual activists won’t stop at welcoming language. They want the sacraments. They want the Church to perform fake sacraments (same-sex “marriage”). It won’t even stop there. They’ll want more and more until they are demanding to have homosexual sex on the altar. As absurd as that sounds, think about the absurd ideas we’re entertaining now and how objectively appalling they really are.

    The reasoning of Monsignor Pope here basically says to the world, “here, you can have our Church. we don’t really need it anymore.” I couldn’t disagree more with that thinking. We need our Church to be the Catholic Church (as does the world). This is not to say that it is a Church only for the perfect, as some have charged. Every time I hear that, I cringe because it is such a fallacious argument.

  18. BigE says:

    I don’t think that’s what Monsignor Pope is saying at all. He is just simply recognizing the tension between private prayer and the communal nature of Mass. I wonder how silent the very first house churches were?

  19. Richard Thomas says:

    But E. Talking about temporal topics is not communal prayer. My notion of communal prayer is the public recitation of the rosary, or divine mercy chaplet before mass, like I have encountered in some churches. Or perhaps father, announcing before mass of a special need and then all the people in the pews pray for the intention.

  20. gaudium says:

    I’m sure that many of the first house churches were silent as they met in secret lest they be captured and killed.

  21. Richard Thomas says:

    Hi Diane,

    Perhaps you can put this post in its proper place.

    Souls in Purgatory

    We can obtain a plenary indulgence for the souls in Purgatory on All Saints Day by fuilling the usual criteriaattending Mass and receiving Holy Communion, and also reciting an Our Father, Hail MAry and Glory be 6 times.

    For 8 days beginning with All Saints Day, one can get a plenary indulgence each day by visiting a cemetary and praying for the dead.

  22. BigE says:

    @Richard Thomas
    I didn’t say the tension was between private prayer and communal prayer. The tension is between private prayer and the communal “nature” of Mass.

  23. BigE says:

    So it’s your contention that in the early church, when people actually gathered to eat a meal before the Eucharist: that they sat there and ate the meal in silence? I find that hard to believe….

  24. Ben Anderson says:

    I don’t think that’s what Monsignor Pope is saying at all.

    It’s not what he said, but I think that’s where this line of reasoning leads.

    He is just simply recognizing the tension between private prayer and the communal nature of Mass.

    No, I don’t think this frames the debate correctly. As has been said already, when people are noisy before/after/during mass, 99% of the time it’s not because they are doing communal prayer together it’s because they’re talking about some secular topic.

  25. Ben Anderson says:

    I wonder what the Apostles were “chatting” about after Jesus calmed the sea, at the Transfiguration, in the Garden of Gethsemane, at seeing our Risen Lord, at Pentecost, at their martyrdoms? That’s the level our hearts/minds/souls should be lifted to when we enter into Churches. If the early Christians were as chatty in their house churches as we are in our designated sacred spaces, I have a hard time thinking that they were talking about whether they think Gladiator Joe will be defeating Gladiator Bob at the Coliseum Sunday night.

  26. gaudium says:

    The custom of having a meal with the Eucharist died out very early because of abuses. This is addressed in I Corinthians by Paul in one of his earliest letters. In Verse 34, Paul seems to order an end to the practice when he says, “If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that your meetings may not result in judgment.” If we want to use the early Church as a normative example then women should keep their heads covers and be silent in Church.

  27. militia says:

    You inadvertently raise an interesting question, Gaudium. Has anyone noticed whether one gender or the other (assuming 2 genders :-)) does more of the talking before or after Mass?

  28. raymondfrice says:

    You inadvertently raise an interesting question, Gaudium. Has anyone noticed whether one gender or the other (assuming 2 genders :-)) does more of the talking before or after Mass?

    Women do!!! That is why Paul told them to keep their heads covered and not speak at the gathering!!

  29. Richard Thomas says:


    What do you mean when mentioning the communal nature if the mass?


  30. BigE says:

    @Richard Thomas
    That part of the reason for gathering for Mass is to also establish a sense of community and fellowship.

  31. emmagrays says:

    As to which gender does the most talking…
    Not long ago I was treated to a 9-hole recitation of the previous day’s golf game prior to an early AM Mass. These 2 men were speaking quietly, but when they’re right behind you, it’s hard to tune out. Their sense of ‘fellowship’ was established when the second man commiserated over bogies on the same holes a few days earlier.
    Man #1 shot a 2 over, BTW.

  32. BigE says:

    1) fellowship comes in many forms.
    2) 2 over? For most golfers…that might mean they were talking about a “miracle”! 🙂

  33. christian says:

    Loud talking before and after mass in the church body which should be taking place in a fellowship area or narthex instead, is a problem. I have seen it in multiple churches. I would even say it has become a normal situation in churches nowadays.

    I think back to when I was young and was told by my mother and father, and my maternal grandmother and grandfather, that talking was not allowed in church; we had to be silent in reverence because this was God’s House. If there was an occasion that I absolutely had to ask a question or relay something, I had to whisper.

    It was customary back in those days to pull down a kneeler and kneel in prayer before mass began. It was also customary to kneel again on the kneeler in prayer after mass ended.

    Nowadays, there does not seem to be even an attempt at keeping voices down when people talk before and after mass, and private prayer before and/or after mass seems to be unheard of.

    Many times when I am at a church, any church, if I am absorbed in private prayer, before or after mas, I am interrupted by someone on the pastoral staff or another parishioner to ask if everything is alright or to be engaged in conversation. Because private prayer seems to be out of place with so many people, including priests, deacons, and pastoral associates, often, (especially when visiting another church), someone engaged in private prayer before or after mass is thought to have something bothering them or not feeling included in that parish community because they are a stranger to their church. Pastoral staff or a parishioner, out of good intentions, interrupt that someone to make sure they are welcomed and/or to find out if they are alright. I do not want to be rude. When it happens to me, I thank them for their welcome and answer their inquiry that I’m alright in a very low voice, and then state that I am in private prayer. I personally do not interrupt someone when I see them in private prayer. I have already had occasion when praying silently after mass or reflecting on the readings, where I have been been interrupted and told I had to leave, because they were going to lock up the church, within 10 minutes after the mass had officially ended.

    I am a very sociable person, but I think there is a time and place to be social and communal, and a time and place to be quiet and private with God.

    The mass is intended to be a communal celebration and prayer of participation. I still remember some elderly people (and some people not so old) who would be doing their own thing consisting of saying a rosary from their pew and getting up and walking around the church while mass was going on, to light a candle or kneel in front of a shrine.
    *My hope is that talking out loud before and after mass in the church body would look as out of place as these elderly, and not so old, people walking around to do their own thing during mass, instead of participating in the mass.

    I have observed personally that new precepts issued by our new bishop have not been received very well by many parishioners and parish staff. Most see him as ultra-conservative and setting our church on a backwards path. Personally, I think instead of trying to curtail the sign of peace, the first thing on his agenda should have been curtailing conversations in the church body before and after mass, and having those conversations take place in the narthex.

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