February 21, 2012
Good manners in the presence of the Most Blessed Sacrament
By Father Rocky Hoffman *

By Father Rocky Hoffman *

For a life time I have remained after Mass for a Thanksgiving prayer, usually also saying the St. Michael prayer and the prayers on the back of the Missal.  We have moved to a new parish where they have a new Church with a beautiful large gathering space but...the tabernacle is not in a chapel of its own – it is in just a little notched out area in the worship space.  As the music stops after Mass the hell-a-bellow starts immediately and reaches fever pitch as one group tries to out yell another. There is no movement toward the gathering space, they just visit in the worship space. No one genuflects... They say they are a very friendly parish.   I have asked several people why the lack of silence before and after Mass and they don’t see it as disrespect for the Eucharist and they say they just love to visit.  I have asked what about those that want to pray before or stay behind and pray after Mass and was told I would get over that...all new people do.   So...I started looking for rules and regulations. for how one is to act in Church and can find nothing about the need for silence before the Blessed sacrament.  Please help.

It sounds like the pastor of your parish needs to gently coach his parishioners about proper behavior in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.  He should remind them to “move on” to the gathering space if they wish to visit and talk after Mass, and that they should be mindful and respectful of those who would like to pray in peace. 

The situation you describe is very familiar.  On the one hand, many of us sense the need and desire to enter into a profound conversation with Jesus after we have received him in the Holy Eucharist and an atmosphere of reverent silence is most conducive to this praiseworthy pious practice.  On the other hand, many of us also welcome the opportunity to greet and converse with friends and families at Church on Sundays, because, after all, the Church is a community, and we’re part of it.
Sometimes, the Church architecture provides a solution with a separate, but visible, Eucharistic chapel;  other churches have a large and inviting gathering space that is clearly separate from the main body of the Church.  Those who want to talk move to the gathering space;  those who want to pray silently, remain the in Church.
It is the long-standing custom of the Church that we should retain reverential silence in the presence of the Holy Eucharist reserved in the Tabernacle, and especially when exposed in the monstrance during Exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament.  In fact, anyone who visits St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome will be struck by the smartly dressed Swiss Guards at their station next to the entrance of the Chapel of Adoration;  above the curtains is a sign for everyone to see, and you do not have to be a Latin scholar to understand it.  It simply states: “SILENTIUM.”  And everyone is silent. 

Rev. Francis J. Hoffman, JCD (Fr. Rocky) is Executive Director of Relevant Radio.  Ordained as a priest for Opus Dei in 1992 by Blessed John Paul II, he holds a doctorate in Canon Law from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, an MBA from the University of Notre Dame, and a BA in History from Northwestern University.  His Question and Answer column appears in several Catholic newspapers and magazines across the country.

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