First off, I have to say, I like my church. We have a beautiful church building, a nice parish, plentiful parking, convenient mass schedule, wonderful priests and a full house for just about every service. I have never attended a single church service or mass at our church and felt like the Priests were just "dialing it in". I find them to be present, timely, considerate with their homilies, and informed in their topics. Outside of mass, they are personable, warm, approachable, intelligent, humorous and generous with their time and counsel.
When I was growing up, I went to church mainly with my Grandparents, or with my Catechism group. We dressed appropriately and were expected to behave well, sit quietly, and read the hymnal or the weekly Church flyer if we were bored. Brothers and sisters fought or teased or taunted each other, but always at the risk of receiving "The Eye", or "The Pinch" or, worst of all ... to have to sit between the grownups.
Things have gotten very casual and contemporary in the... ahem... decade or two since then. When we attended Services in our SoFlo community, we usually did so for the Service titled the "Family Mass". It was a Saturday evening Service and families frequently came to Mass on their way home from a day at the beach, or on their way out for the evening. Outfits varied wildly, but for the most part everyone was on time and well behaved.
When we moved to New England, we expected a return to traditional Sunday values and behavior. Unfortunately, we find that our fellow communicants, can leave a lot to be desired.
And this is why I can NOT stand going to church! I've tried several different times for Mass, but at each Service, people will arrive for mass up to 15 minutes late and inappropriately attired. Everyone has a day where they can't get themselves together, but really. If you don't have time to brush your hair, please go to the following mass.
Short shorts and Yoga shorts are not appropriate church attire. Not for children, not for parents, not for teen aged girls. no. Neither are tight jeans, spiked field shoes or tops (I hesitate to refer to them as shirts) that bare more of your shoulders/ chest/ back/ midriff than should be exposed in a church, unless worn under a cardigan. Hats off in church, fellas. If your T-shirt correctly advises one and all that Rugby Players eat dead babies for breakfast, please wear a polo for mass and change at the field.
I know, I know...."let he who is without sin cast the first stone", and yes, I have attended Mass wearing jeans. I wore clean jeans, with clean clothes and my teeth and hair brushed. I wore jeans because after mass, there was a picnic on the church grounds. Jeans were the suggested attire. I have never attended church looking like I pulled last night's clothes off of the floor (unlike the family who sat in front of us today, who were actually asked to present the offertory gifts).
Other transgressions of church behavior that I have witnessed lately:
-Screaming babies whose parents don't remove them from the service because "it is a noise unto the Lord".
No. You are a lazy, inconsiderate person and I'd like to see you pull that stuff in your board room! We have 2 cry rooms. Use them.
-Diaper changes in the pew (or lack there of) - giving new meaning to the word "pew". See above.
-Loud, jabbering children - Am I the only person who was raised to be quiet and listen to the priest? To be respectful of the Celebrant and the Congregation? That mass is over when it's over? Feed them SOMETHING at home so they don't scream through Mass.
-Allowing the children to use goldfish crackers in a pretend Eucharistic manner is disrespectful and ignorant.
-iPads - Really? Why bother? If you or your family aren't going to pay attention. If you aren't going to be present, why bother to get out of bed? The Little Mermaid isn't in the bible. Neither are the Veggie Tales, but nice try.
-Recharging the cell phone. Yep. Mr. Man came into the Sanctuary, positioned himself next to a plug and proceeded to plug his phone in, the busy vibrate function serving as a noisy indication of Mr. Man's self importance. Thankfully, he just let it shake, rattle and roll, rather than answer it during the service.
-Lastly, on one baffling occasion - a remote control car. I kid you not.
I've rarely heard the priests complain, though once, (at the end of a service to which people were still arriving 20 minutes late, and leaving directly after communion) the Pastor did note that "the Sunday Masses begin on the hour and end with the completion of the recessional hymn". Considering the amount of chaos at that particular Mass, I thought his restraint was highly commendable.
When I attend church, I want to hear what the Priest has to say, not you reading Clifford the Big Red Dog. Do not try to force your nose picking, crumb licking, thumb sucking offspring to shake my hand during the expression of peace. And should I accidentally shake the Tot's moist and grimy hand, don't glare at me when I douse myself in Purell as a reaction.
If your child sticks his lollipop in my hair or wipes his hands on my cashmere sweater, I expect, at the very least, a sincere apology, if not an offer to pay to have my sweater cleaned. I'm not the one who brought the PBJ that your child proceeded to smear all over the seat with little regard for other parishioners comfort or allergies.
There are times where children will "act up". Sometimes our tiniest children pick the vastly quiet, echoing chamber of a church in which to discover their voices. An hour is a long time to ask a 3 year old to sit quietly and behave. But, what happened to the days where our parents shushed us, or reminded us of just Whose House we were in? What is funny or endearing about children slithering along the church floor, under the pews? Or bouncing the kneelers on your fellow attendants' feet or belongings - or standing on them?
It is very frustrating to spend the time with my family, only to have someone else's ill behaved and undisciplined children infringe on our time and space.
I have to admit that I've been thinking of writing this for some time but I was afraid of backlash - I know even in my unfamous state, I'm convinced that I'm going to say something so controversial I'm going to end up as a "Pinhead" on Bill O'Reilly's show. And with my luck, the other topics will be so hot that it will be an episode that will be repeated constantly. Then I started to notice something - a lot of online articles and blogs about the same topic... now it might be alright for me, because I will have other articles to site in my defense - should I ever have to defend myself!