Good Liturgical Manners


It surprises me that everyday standards of common courtesy and good manners seem to be forgotten or ignored when it comes to the way some people behave during liturgical celebrations. Examples of this that I have encountered recently include:
· A bride who processed down the aisle 40 minutes after the ceremony was scheduled to begin. The reason for the delay was that the flower girl’s fairy wings had been left at home and someone had to go back to get them before the wedding could begin! In the meantime, a hundred or so guests were left sitting on hard pews in a hot church, the organist had to play music for 40 minutes longer than planned to fill in time, and the priest sat stewing (literally and figuratively!) in the sacristy for nearly an hour after he had arrived at the church. One has to wonder about the couple’s sense of priority!
· A family arrived at a church that they usually drive past in order to attend Mass elsewhere. The father approached the priest to ask if his son, who was an altar server at the other church, could serve Mass. The priest agreed to the request. As a result, the man who faithfully serves at the altar Sunday after Sunday was pushed aside from his ministry with no explanation or apology. He was replaced by someone whom the community had never laid eyes on and who knew nothing about parish customs and practices. Common courtesy surely dictates that this situation should have been handled with much more sensitivity!
· Why is it that a significant number of people who attend Mass insist on sitting in the back row of the church and yet want to be amongst the first to receive communion? The result is an undignified rush up the side aisles when the communion procession begins and a degree of pushing and shoving to get into the queue. It’s the sort of behaviour that these very same people would find irritating at the supermarket or bank, but for some reason seem to think is acceptable in church. I wonder if it ever occurs to them that their behaviour is bad mannered and distracting to others?
· It is insulting when a supply priest ignores the preparation that has been carried out diligently by the parish liturgy committee. I know of a case where one insisted on digging out the parish’s old and tatty Advent wreath and putting it in front of the parish’s new and spectacular Advent banner that had replaced it. Another visiting priest is known to frequently demand at the last minute that the hymns selected for Mass be changed! Such behaviour would be forgivable if the priest could not in all conscience be involved with words or gestures or symbols which are liturgically incorrect, but the preparation has usually been done by people with great expertise in liturgy and with a sound knowledge of the parish.
Since grace builds on nature, it is important that we treat one another with courtesy and consideration both inside as well as outside the church.

Elizabeth Harrington