|Cardinal Burke leads the Prayers After Low Mass following his Prelatial Low Mass in|
SS Gregory & Augustine's, Oxford.
SIR – Chris Whitehouse (Letter, January 29) makes the same mistake as many others who, like him, seek to justify the bedlam in many Catholic churches immediately prior to and after Mass on the grounds that “God doesn’t mind”. Fortunately we do not have to rely on such intuitions about what would please God in his house, as God’s express position is an unequivocal: “My house is to be called a house of prayer.”
That being so, the question of whether God likes the sound of talking and laughter is not at issue. The question is whether talking and laughing in church are conducive to prayer, which clearly they are not. Were they, then according to the same mindset, God would be similarly thrilled if we all talked and laughed throughout Mass as well, or caught up on our emails to friends, on the grounds that these are healthy expressions of human community. Of course, a nuanced desire for community might also recognise that preventing others who wish to from praying to the Real Presence could be a contraindication.
So bad have things become that I am sometimes approached by kind people who, seeing me not joining in the “fun”, before or after Mass, have come to ask if I am “all right” because I am trying to pray in a Catholic church. St Philip Neri used to need to be distracted before Mass because he would go into ecstasy and be unable to focus on the externals of the Mass. No disrespect to your correspondent, but I suspect most of us have the opposite need and
When I first started going to the Traditional Mass, I was very struck by the behaviour of the congregation when the priest had left at the end of Mass. Instead of turning to each other to chat, or simply leave themselves, they got back onto their knees to pray.
This is something which really needs to be rediscovered. One useful practice encouraging it is the Prayers After Low Mass said in the Extraordinary Form: it creates an association, and even a habit, that at the end of Mass you say some prayers, and don't just immediately go back to normal life.
There's more about the Prayers After Low Mass (Leonine Prayers) here.
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