Meditating at Mass

PRAYER AND MEDITATION: I left home 8/8/1950 at 18 to study them full time. After two years of it (novitiate), I got my SJ degree, which I relinquished many years later. Even so, much of it has stuck. At Mass, for instance, I often enter the zone of prayer and meditation, which makes me a poor participant in liturgy. Doesn’t mean I think of nothing else (distractions, you know) or that I am superior to the fellow or gal next to me who belts out the songs and other responses. In fact, you could argue I’m not as good because I seem to reject the communal aspect that characterizes today’s liturgy.

So allow me to hang my head in shame at that, asking only for tolerance. Bear with me.

However, I ask . . .

Do we exceed the limits of liturgical propriety sometimes when, for instance, we extend the handclasp of peace to other pew-sitters far and wide, even getting out of our pews to hug and chat? Just asking, don’t get mad.

Communion time also. What about our meeting and greeting on way to the communion station? Ushers do it. They are the souls of geniality as if they were the host greeting you at the door of a party. And they and others seem sometimes to take it amiss if you don’t participate, like the old gent at Ascension-Oak Park a few years back who stood where communion-goers passed, glad-handing one and all. I didn’t go along, and the fellow was surprised and wounded.

Some get carried away with our communality. Something is missing when that happens. A sense of the sacred, reverence?

Communion time at a Mass of burial, an arguably solemn time on an arguably solemn occasion: Worshiper who has participated lustily throughout Mass thinks of something to call another’s attention to, does so. But the other is in a zone and working on staying there and can only nod and turn back. Later, returning from communion, same worshiper has to pass others to get to his place in the pew, puts head down and looks straight ahead. Others for whom this is a social occasion seem not sure about this, wondering what gives with this fellow.

Is something missing? The Mass of old, which encouraged or at least made time for the prayer-and-meditation aspect, is long gone. Pious chatter is the norm, including from the altar, where like a radio talker, anxious about dead air, Father almost never stops. Once there was silence. Is it time for some sort of pendulum shift? I ask you.

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