More About Arriving Late and Leaving Early


A priest rang me to express his displeasure at my quoting another member of the clergy who said that some priests are themselves guilty of habitually arriving late for Mass. I assume that people are reasonable (perhaps a rather rash assumption to make!) and that they would understand that there are priests who cannot help arriving for Mass with little time to spare because of the difficult Mass schedule they are required to keep and/or the distance they have to travel from one church to another. Of course I, and my correspondent, were not criticising these priests!
The vast majority of Catholics understand that the decline in the number of priests has put added pressure on the priests who are active and that many of them have to push the limits of the Canon Law that states:
Apart from a few special days, a priest may not celebrate Eucharist more than once a day, though for good reason he may be allowed to celebrate twice in one day or even, if pastoral need requires it, three times on Sundays. (CCL 905)

This week I came across an article entitled ‘Correcting Bad Habits At Mass’ by Rev Robert Duggan. One of the seven bad habits he addresses is that of arriving late for Mass and/or leaving early. Here is part of what he had to say:
We consider it as normal that large numbers of Catholics routinely do this. Yet God has ordained that we gather as an assembly in order to worship. We do not simply worship alone or as a family, nor are we meant to be a collection of individuals attending the priest’s Mass in our own separate little compartments. Rather we are the people of God, the body of Christ gathered in the name of Christ and constituted as a faith community under the power of the Holy Spirit.
The casualness of chronic late-coming and early-leaving verges on being an insult to the community of he baptised who have gathered to worship the Almighty and to build up the body of Christ. Such a habit of disregard for the assembly itself is actually a threat to the faith of the church. It fosters a style of Christianity that caters to self-interest and laziness. (‘CHURCH’, Winter 2002, p43)
And you thought my words were strong!
It would be worthwhile taking a moment to ask ourselves why the writer would describe the custom of arriving late for Mass or leaving early as ‘a threat to the faith of the church’.
It might also be an interesting exercise to consider what other bad habits at Mass that would we add to the list, and why. As a matter of interest, the rest of Robert Duggan’s list reads:

Refusing to sing
Evaluating the liturgical experience on the basis of personal taste.
Serving communion, instead of Eucharist, to some worshippers at Mass.
Communicating under only one species.
Reciting prayers that ought to be sung.
Undervaluing the songs we do sing.
There’s food for thought – and for a few more ‘Liturgy Lines’ columns - in that list!


Elizabeth Harrington