Catholic Phoenix


Please Stop Distracting Me during Mass: A Struggling Worshipper’s Plea

While attending Mass this past Sunday (my first Mother’s Day), I experienced so many distractions that it inspired this post. As I reflected on what I saw and heard, I realized that at some point I have been guilty of partaking in every single one of the distractions I am about to discuss. It has only been through self-reflection, prayer, and reading the Prayer for Humility (1962 Missal) over and over that I am able to look at these with a mixture of humor and light-heartedness. At the same time, I’m only human; how can I be expected to concentrate on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass when all this nonsense is going on around me? 

1.     Short Shorts

 “Nice legs! Now put them away.”

 Whether you are male or female, exposed skin draws the eyes. When I was in high school, I played the drum set (see #5) in my parish teen band. I had a crush on the other drummer (that’s right, we had two drummers!) and would consequently wear cute (i.e. tiny) outfits to draw his attention. Years later, I overheard a couple of my Catholic coworkers talking about the “hot” girl drummer who played at their parish back in high school. I was mortified to learn they were talking about me. To think that I had drawn the eyes and minds of people away from the Eucharist and toward my skin was saddening.

I try to avert my eyes when I see other young women exposing skin in church, but it’s difficult – and I hear it can be harder for men! When I cast my eyes down during prayer, I don’t want to see the length of someone’s hamstrings and calves. Please help a fellow Catholic and find some pants or a nice, long skirt. 

2.     Provocative Shirts

“Are you out of your Vulcan mind? Hahaha, that’s funny. Wait – what did the priest just say?”

I find more men are guilty of this particular faux pas. So many shirts are like billboards for specific companies, and they regularly have a message on the front and back. I get caught reading clever slogans and quotations, or else ogling the pin-up girl straddling a surf board on the gentleman’s back in front of me. Please help an easily distracted Catholic and wear something plain.

3.     Loud and Boisterous Prayer

OK, I know I’m going to get flak for this one, but I really can’t abide the folks who respond to the priest with a 90+ decibel “Amen!” and “Thanks be to God”. It’s really grating on the nerves when they do this during the creed and pick a cadence that is slightly slower than the rest of the congregation, making it sound like an echo.  Is this supposed to bring more glory to God or to the speaker?

4.     Chit Chat

“Look at father’s gorgeous vestments! I love the Easter season.”

Yep, I’m becoming a crotchety old lady as I approach my late twenties, and this is one I can’t abide. It’s one thing for mothers and fathers to correct or explain things to their children occasionally during Mass, and another entirely for teens and grown-ups to be chattering away during the consecration. Here I am kneeling and praying, trying hard just to keep my own interior thoughts from distracting me, and along comes the chatter. I start praying for the grace to ignore the talking and focus my thoughts forward. I ask for the humility to refrain from judging my brothers and sisters, knowing that I myself am unworthy and sinful. Eye….starts….twitching. Please help a struggling Catholic and save the conversation until after Mass!

5.     Drummers

I know, drummers. You can’t help it.

Did I mention I have been guilty of all of the above offenses?  I played the drum set, congas, tambourine, rain stick – you name it – at various parishes throughout the valley for close to 10 years. A few years ago, I began to feel very strongly that my particular instrument did not add to the holiness of the Mass. My drummer-like need to add solos and fills every few measures made songs like, “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Tantum Ergo” (no joke – I rocked that song out!) turned the choir into a band and the Mass into a music concert. I have yet to hear a drummer who can truly make their instrument blend without detracting from the music. Last week, I heard a rendition of “Hail Holy Queen” played to a kind of R&B ballad beat. Heaven help us. Drummers, I implore you: Rock out the Christian pop and folk during concerts, charity events, and secular venues. Bag the sticks during Mass.

As I said before, I am only human and my ability to concentrate and elevate my thoughts is poor. Cut those of us who struggle a break!

Pax Christi.

89 comments | Add one of your own.

  1. JoAnna

    Agree 100%. I’ll also add the Judas Shuffle to the list. It is SO distracting when half the Church runs for the doors after the Eucharist. There are legitimate reasons to leave Mass after the Eucharist, but I doubt all those reasons apply to half the parish. Our priest just spoke about this a few days ago but sadly I think the offenders just tuned him out. I’m so tempted one of these Sundays to stand by the sanctuary doors with a sign that says, “Judas left early, too.”


    1. JH

      In my parish, Father does a beautiful job with the liturgy and homily, and for the most part the music is reverent and beautiful. However, after Communion, and after the final blessing, there is a recessional hymn, then Father returns to say the Angelus and the St. Michael prayer, followed by more music. Again, all very beautiful. But at the same time, after Communion, I would personally like to make my thanksgiving and have time for private conversation with Jesus. So I sometimes make the choice to leave the church, not to flee the Mass as soon as possible, but to pray! For others, the music and extra devotions ARE their thanksgiving. But for me, they are distracting and not actually part of the Mass. I don’t think it’s leaving “early” like Judas to actually seek a place where I can quietly be with my Lord instead of music and prayers to saints making that impossible.


      1. JoAnna

        Well, let’s just say that I doubt all the people who are chattering loudly about their after-Mass plans as they head for the doors are going elsewhere to pray.


  2. Mary Ann

    Re # 3 – Loud and boisterous prayer: Equally grating are the folks who are one or two words ahead of everyone. Christian charity (or fear of being thrown out, knocked out, or worse) prevents me from hissing, “We’re supposed to be praying toGETHer, ding-dong!”


  3. magnus

    I sit up in the front pew and pay attention that way. We can’t control everyone else but we can control ourselves and pray for them.


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  5. Hidden One

    We males do not need more example images of scantily clad females. Perhaps you could remove the one in your post?


  6. Jim

    I’m guilty of #3 in certain circumstances. That’s when I’m sitting next to some one who wants to change the common prayers into their own political agenda. Most of the time, this would be done by refusing to use the approved text and replacing the masculine pronoun with a repeat of “God”. So I’ve been known to emphasize, for example, “…for the praise and glory of HIS name, for our good and the good of all HIS church”. :-)


    1. Danica

      I understand your feelings on that one – what is being said instead of “His Church”? Trying to make the Mass politically correct is silly.


      1. Jeanne G.

        I’ve heard them say “for our good and the good of all God’s Church.” It bothers me. It also bothers me when people say it correctly but emphasize the masculine pronoun. To me it is like the loud, boisterous prayer folks.


  7. Leah @ Unequally Yoked

    I’ve been one of the shorts wearers and I’m sorry to have bothered you and others. This summer, I lived in DC and had a 45 min walk to church in DC weather, so I wore shorts. I felt really bad about disrespectful dress, but I didn’t want to sweat even more back and forth. I tried to compensate by sitting in back by myself so I would offend as few people as possible.


    1. Danica

      I understand – I used to drive 45+ minutes to my parish in a car with no A/C. Needless to say, the AZ summers did a number on my clothes, so I wore shorts on the way to church. I’d arrive a little early so I could change into clean, mass-appropriate clothing. Yee-haw for giant tote purses! :)


    2. Donna

      I’ve brought a nice loose peasant style skirt or a wrap around with me and tossed it on real quick before the service started so that others wouldn’t be forced to look at my ugly legs :)


      1. jerry

        Thanks for being considerate Donna, though I do think you aren’t being fair to your beautiful legs ;)


  8. philip

    I’m fine with most of this list, except for #1 and #5
    I’ll explain
    re:#1 I think that Mass dress code, while valid and with good intention, is counterproductive if enforced. I would say that ideally, short shorts and skirts should not be worn in church, but wouldn’t those who wear short shorts and skirts be the ones in greater need of the sacraments and mass in the first place? Hopefully proper dress will come once they’ve come to a greater realization of the importance of mass in the first place.

    re#5: As a musician, I would say that drums are necessary, because they keep the rhythm. Especially since many Catholic churches are designed with the “let’s see how echo-y we can make this sanctuary” style in mind, it makes instruments very difficult to play in unison without a steady beat in the background. I bet it would also aid congrgational singing as well.

    other than that, it’s a decent list.


    1. Danica

      Thanks for your response! I had a lot of fun writing this and hope everyone reads it in the spirit of fun in which it is written.

      #1 – I have heard the argument that we should just be happy that people are coming to church, regardless of their attire, but I have grown to disagree. If I were invited to a wedding, I would dress nicely for the occasion – I wouldn’t expect the bride and groom to say, “well, at least she came” if I turned up in jeans and a tank top.

      #5 – I have had the privilege to hear many fine choirs who sing without the aid of a percussionist – they seem to get along fine in the Latin rite. I notice that singers take their cues from the choir director or else sing at whatever tempo the spirit calls them to, regardless of the presence of a drummer. :)


      1. Denys Powlett-Jones

        Uhh…how did Catholic choirs and congregations manage to sing for, like, centuries without drums? Just askin’.


          1. Driven to Distraction

            What is this plainchant? Is it similar to the folk music I grew up with in the late seventies and eighties? Or is it closer to more current Broadway style renditions?


    2. Giuseppe Ambrose

      @ Phillip,

      I am a musician too, as is my wife, and her entire family. All 6 of us agree that drums are not necessary to keep instruments in sync, and that it is quite easy to do without the drums, it just takes a certain degree of excellence and familiarity with who your playing with/for.

      Then again, we’re all singers, organists, or pianists and have never played a guitar at Mass. Whenever I hear a drum, I usually get very distracted by it.


    3. Cissy Rampino

      I disagree with you Philip, on both counts. Modesty now-a-days has been something talked about on news programs or church meetings, yet not at the more ” unorthodox” parishes. As the mother of a son who will soon be ordained a priest, scantilly clad women and men are not only offensive to me, but that type of dress may lead others into sin.
      As for drummers……my husband has been a professional drummer for over 35 years…….he can’t even stand the distraction of the drummers at mass, because it does not add to the celebration, but takes away from it. I will end my comment with 2 things priests have told me about Mass and about us as Catholics….first, when we step into a Catholic church for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we should feel as if we are surrounded by Heaven! Secondly, we should conduct ourselves accordingly, because we may be the only Bible story anyone reads!


  9. Linda

    Of course, we could just get away from the “songs” and go back to hymns; then we wouldn’t need musicianS, just an organist and choir.


    1. hal

      That would work just fine for me too. Most of what passes for Church music that was written after,say the mid ’70s is horrible anyway. The lyrics and musical quality hurt the ears. Tha’s what I sometimes find distracting.
      We have a rich musical heritage. Stick to it and don’t change just for the sake of change.


    2. Matthew

      Are you suggesting organists and choirs aren’t musicians :)

      We do fine without the drums and guitars here…5 seconds of reverb and our hymns and chants keep their beat just fine.


  10. Laura

    Yep, it can be difficult sometimes… the thing that annoys me the most is the clapping… clapping along to horrible songs, acting the songs, swaying… grr


  11. Denys Powlett-Jones

    My recommendation, Danica, for significantly minimizing the distracting power of many of the stimuli you describe:

    Fill up your pew with a brood of little Danicalets (and Mattlings). You’ll find yourself longing for the days when a goofy T-shirt or some chatty teens could puncture the oh-so-delicate bubble of your attention.

    There’s nothing like parenthood to make you grateful for being able to give prayerful attention to, say, 15 or 20% of the Mass. On a good day.


  12. Rolando Rodriguez, SFO

    Keep in mind that our Eucharistic Liturgy is first and foremost a family meal at our Lord’s table. And while we may be diverse, rambunctuous, distracted and distracting, not to mention sometimes dysfunctional, we are nonetheless the family that gathers at our Lord’s table on high holy days and lowly ho-hum days.
    1. Like all condemned criminals of his day, Jesus was crucified showing not just a lot of skin, but as depicted by the images from a recent popular passion film, it was very gory. Very distracting, not too tempting. So, male skin bruised and torn, okay. Female skin, clear and clean, temptingly sinful.
    2. “End Abortion! Defend Marriage!” okay. “End War! Close Guantanamo!” questionable. Men too can be occasions of sin, but it’s the slogans not the skin.
    3. One of our faithful brothers who has made the corporal works of mercy the starting point of his lifelong activity has suffered a few strokes. His wife has lovingly, willingly and faithfully cared for and tended him. At our Sunday gatherings, we know when he arives; he is loud and boistrous, partly due to personality, partly resulting from strokes. When he’s not there, our congregation misses and worries about him and his wife. That silence is consistent with your comment: Is this supposed to bring more glory to God or to the speaker?
    4. Our congregation is mostly retired, rural and eager to share whenever we gather. During the liturgical seasons, we do notice father’s vestments, the way the altar and sanctuary and church have been decorated in keeping with what we are celebrating. We look for the regulars and note the new-comers. It’s a family meal, we’re old, things are happening – we chit-chat, not out of disrepect, but like children glad and excited to be together, celebrating and feasting, and catching up.
    5. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, the psalmist urges us. With timbrel, harp and yes, even drums. I serve as choir director for our community. We have an organist about eight months of the year. Schedules are so tight, due to the age of the congregants and the distance and road conditions faced, that there is no rehersal time. Still, over the past seven years, our repertoire has expanded, is appropriate to the season, even to the particular Sunday. And sometimes it sounds like noise, but it is always a joyful noise.
    Our congregation is only human. And since we’re senior humans, we struggle to concentrate and elevate our thoughts. When we gather, we’re like children glad to see each other, and amid all of the din and disorder, we remember that the reason we are together is to share a dinner our our Lord’s table. It’s always a success, even when there are a few distracting skin, message, and noise issues.
    When I long for idealized and perfect liturgy, I watch papal and national celebrations broadcast on EWTN. Most of the time, all God gives me is the family I have here in our mission church, with all our shortcomings and imperfections. I feel very confortable with them and they welcome me. “Cut those of us who struggle a break!”
    Pax y Bien, Rolando, SFL.


    1. Fr. Selvester

      First and foremost the Eucharist is a SACRIFICE not a meal. It is the bloody sacrifice of the cross celebrated in an unbloody way that takes the FORM of a meal. As a sacrifice it is celebrated on the altar of the Lord, not a mere table. These things are central to the Eucharist and failing to understand them easily allows someone to justify all sorts of other things. Mass is not a “sacred BBQ”, or a come as you are party (except in the spiritual sense). Papal liturgies aren’t the only ones that should be celebrated properly. They give us a paradigm so that we ALL have a goal towards which to aim. Falling back onto the idea that, “our little parish family has to do it this way” sounds a lot like justifying laziness in the celebration of the sacraments. God’s house is God’s house whether it is St. Peter’s basilica or the tiniest of mission churches and in all of them the sacrifice of the Mass is supposed to be about God, not about the congregation.


      1. Catechist Kevin

        Amen, Fr. Selvester!

        Catechist Kevin

        Some supporting Magisterial documentation for all of us:

        The Mass is at the same time, and inseparably, the sacrificial memorial in which the sacrifice of the cross is perpetuated and the sacred banquet of communion with the Lord’s body and blood.
        But the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice is wholly directed toward the intimate union of the faithful with Christ through communion. To receive communion is to receive Christ himself who has offered himself for us. (CCC 1382)

        The altar, around which the Church is gathered in the celebration of the Eucharist, represents the two aspects of the same mystery: the altar of the sacrifice and the table of the Lord. This is all the
        more so since the Christian altar is the symbol of Christ himself, present in the midst of the assembly of his faithful, both as the victim offered for our reconciliation and as food from heaven
        who is giving himself to us. (from CCC 1383)

        Unfortunately, alongside these lights, there are also shadows. In some places the practice of Eucharistic adoration has been almost completely abandoned. In various parts of the Church abuses have occurred, leading to confusion with regard to sound faith and atholic doctrine concerning this wonderful sacrament. At times one encounters an extremely reductive understanding of the Eucharistic mystery. Stripped of its sacrificial meaning, it is celebrated as if it were simply a fraternal banquet. Furthermore, the necessity of the ministerial priesthood, grounded in apostolic succession, is at times obscured and the sacramental nature of the Eucharist is reduced to its mere effectiveness as a form of proclamation. This has led here and there to ecumenical initiatives which, albeit well-intentioned, indulge in Eucharistic practices contrary to the discipline by which the Church expresses her faith. How can we not express profound grief at all this? The Eucharist is too great a gift to tolerate ambiguity and depreciation.

        It is my hope that the present Encyclical Letter will effectively help to banish the dark clouds of unacceptable doctrine and practice, so that the Eucharist will continue to shine forth in all its radiant mystery. (from Ecclesia de Eucharistia 10, Blessed Pope John Paul II)


      2. Rolando Rodriguez, SFO

        Reverend Father,
        Please forgive my poorly written comment. I always approach our Eucharistic Liturgy remembering Jesus’ words, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (Jn. 22:15)
        As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us: #1328. The inexhaustible richness of this sacrament is expressed in the different names we give it. Each name evokes certain aspects of it… Eucharist, because it is an action of thanksgiving to God… #1329. The Lord’s Supper, because of its connection with the supper which the Lord took with his disciples on the eve of his Passion… The Breaking of Bread, because Jesus used this rite, part of a Jewish meal, when as master of the table he blessed and distributed the bread… Eucharistic Assembly, because the Eucharist is celebrated amid the assembly of faithful… #1330. The memorial of the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection. The Holy Sacrifice, because it makes present the one sacrifice of Christ the Savior and includes the Church’s offering… The Holy and Divine Liturgy, because the Church’s whole liturgy finds its center and most intense expression in the celebration of this sacrament… #1331. Holy Communion, because by this sacrament we unite ourselves to Christ, who makes us sharers in his Body and Blood to form a single body.., #1332. Holy Mass, because the liturgy in which the mystery of salvation is accomplished concludes with the sending forth of the faithful, so that they may fulfill God’s will in their daily lives.
        I in no way intended to call the Altar of the Lord a “mere table,” nor or to suggest that the Mass is a “sacred BBQ,” as you inferred. “The altar, around which the Church is gathered in the celebration of the Eucharist, represents the two aspects of the same mystery: the altar of the sacrifice and the table of the Lord. This is all the more so since the Christian altar is the symbol of Christ as the victim offered for our reconciliation and as food from heaven who is giving himself, present in the midst of the assembly of his faithful both as the victim offered for our reconciliation and as good from heaven who is giving himself to us.” (CCC #1383) I was recalling the words of invitation we hear before Holy Communion: “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper.” And no matter how well-dressed, well-behaved or well-moderated I have come to the Source and Summit of Christian life, I can only say humbly and sincerely, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you.”
        I did not intend to give the “idea that our little parish family has to do it this way.” And believe me, we are not lazy, just aging. We look forward to gathering to celebrate God’s complete and total gift of love. We hold in highest regard and follow to the best of our ability the Order of Mass our Holy Mother Church directs us to observe. We actively participate and respond with prayer, chant and song. We are attentive during the Eucharistic Prayer and approach the sanctuary as humble and loving children of God who feeds us with the Bread come down from Heaven. We are sometimes distracted by priests who try to give us a good and brief sermon as they walk up and down the aisle, offering us a good story to “break the ice.” But we appreciate the effort and sacrifice they make to help us fulfill our Sunday obligation and to gain the strength and grace to continue our daily lives with hope and joy.
        We are a tiny rural community. Many of us come from large metropolitan areas where we celebrated in basilicas, cathedrals and “big churches.” We share with each other the beauty and solemnity of those liturgies. They were inspiring and memorable. But we realize that we cannot duplicate the sense of grandeur in our humble but holy church. We do understand that our celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass is one with all of our sisters and brothers throughout the world. And we welcome all who come into the house of God we built and maintain because from experience, we know that God’s family can be poorly dressed, loud and boisterous, chit-chatty, and musically challenged. But we’ll all get better and holier together when we gather in God’s house with God’s children to praise and thank our Father, to be taught by his Word, to be nourished by his Word made flesh, and to go our into the world to proclaim the Good News, grateful for the action and grace of the Holy Spirit. And we try to do it joyfully.
        Paz y Bien, Rolando, SFO.


      3. Driven to Distraction

        And the gloves are off, Ladies and Gentlemen! Round one goes to Father Selvester and Catechist Kevin! Just to be sure, in the disputations about Holy Mass, are we all talking about God, the LORD, the Almighty, Creator of Time and Space and all in it, the Lord of Hosts, the Rock of Ages, the Source of all being,the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, Holy of Holies, the One Whose Presence in the Ark of the Covenant was deadly to all mortal men? Are we all talking about that God? Because if so, I don’t want to underdress. I still have the suit I bought for my cousin’s wedding, I hope that’ll be OK.


    2. Winfield

      The Mass is, first and foremost, a sacrifice, not a “family meal.” It is precisely this type of theological confusion that has led to so many of the liturgical abuses of the past 40 years.


      1. Marty

        Couldn’t agree more with Fr. Selvester; all Masses should be an ‘idealized and perfect liturgy.’ How hard can that be?


  13. Joan in CA

    Thanks for this. My pet peeve is arriving early for Mass only to find the stragglers from the previous Mass boisterously chatting away with their friends throughout the church and RIGHT OUTSIDE the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Am I the only one who finds it ironic that we have relegated Jesus to a tiny little room in God’s house so we can preserve the auditorium atmosphere in the pews and aisles?


  14. Andrew Wolfe

    Sorry, Danica – just chill out and be honest.

    The worst source of distraction in Mass is almost always between one’s ears.


    1. Chardin

      Oh yes, Danica. Do chill out, there’s a girl. Have you ever considered your role in all of this? After all, coming to Mass expecting rapt attention to the representation of Christs sacrifice on Calvary, joining your voice with the Communion of Saints as eternity breaks into time? It isn’t as though you were at an Oliver Stone screening of a masterpiece of his, and someone had the AUDACITY to be loudly chewing gum. I suppose THAT would bother you at Mass as well. Tsk, Tsk.


      1. Charles Smith

        I suspect that Danica would be highly bothered to see and/or hear anyone loudly chewing gum at Mass of all places.

        I’ve seen people in line to receive Our Lord, only to pause, bow, reach in their mouth, pull out the wad of gum, stick it on their palm, and then extend said palm and with a smile on their face, mumble, “Amen”. Then blithely pick up the Host, stick it in their mouth (I resisted the temptation to insert “pie hole” for mouth, but gave in under the protection of the parenthetical editorial comment), and follow it back up with the gum. Talk about wanting to fly across pews and parishoners and sweep down like an avenging angel! (Though now my head is filled with images of the “Facepalm” print from the OMG post).

        Whew, sorry folks, don’t know what came over me there, but yeah.


  15. Tim Andries

    I AGREE 100%. People miss the point!! Yeah, Jesus wore a robe and sandles but His purpose was different than ours. The mass is NOT about US. It is not a communal meal…it’s Christ Jesus giving Himself to us an we people having the descency(sp?) to dress, act and sing like we give a darn!!! All Glory is YOURS Almighty Father. So in saying that no don’t chill out your right.


  16. Don

    What drives me nuts is when the priest makes a point of looking us in the eye when he is saying prayers that clearly ought to be directed to God. Shouldn’t the altar have a crucifix on it? Look at that. Or look up. Or look at the host you’re consecrating. Just stop praying to me.


    1. Wsquared

      Don, at one time, priest and congregation used to worship ad orientem– facing the East. But Cardinal Ratzinger in The Spirit of the Liturgy has written that if the Mass is celebrated facing the people, then a crucifix should be placed on the altar in order to effect a veritable East.


  17. April

    I thank you for the laugh-out-loud post!!! Probably because
    I (and others) was squirming as I read it, as each point hit right on the nail! I have a couple of decades of additional mass attendance and practice (well that may be questionable?), so I just want to say that the prayers of humility are what count the most. Over time, they work. From personal experience, I have found that the more we pray for humility, the more we find God giving us opportunities to be humbled. And that’s why all the annoyances in mass seem to keep piling up! This is a good sign that God is listening and answering! Now, how to respond to these opportunities… you probably already do this: just close your eyes during prayer, and especially as people walk back from Communion, and count your blessings that you don’t have too many kids yet!!!
    Great post!


  18. Steven

    For the scantily clad females in mass; this is an issue for me, I catch my eyes wandering.. It’s up to me though to not let it distract me, although those girls could dress a alittle more appropriately.


  19. Giuseppe Ambrose

    Great post!! I loved it, very true.

    I wish you had added guitars to drums! Frequently guitars are used to play and emphasize incredibly emotional music that plunges you into a sort of animal understanding of religious devotion. Meaning religious devotion becomes all about the feelings rather than a balance between emotions (which may or may not be there), and a contemplation about what’s actually happening. Inherently distracting from the source and summit of why we’re at Mass.

    I’m not saying guitars could never be used, just commenting on how they’re frequently used.



  21. Kevin Winterborne

    This article should be sent to every parish in the U.S. Please send it to my diocese of Allentown. My parish is very loud – it is virtually impossible to pray before Mass. I went to Chrism Mass at the Diocese a few weeks ago and was amazed at how it resembled a romper room before mass. My sons even commented on how loud it was.


    1. Bruce

      Thank you Kevin! I came from a parish in central Kansas where I could actually sit in the santuary before Mass and pray/talk to God or read from our Church Fathers. I moved to Southwest Florida and it is a if the sactuary is used a the gathering space before and after Mass. (This is in more than one parish). It’s all I can do not to yell …For the love of God, BE QUIET! Speak with your freinds and catch up outside of the Sanctuary. Some of us enjoy the time before Mass to come to God and reflect with Him and it is impossible with all the noise. Also can we get the congregation to stop the Orans position and hand holing during the Pator Noster?


  22. anonymous

    The blessedness of silence during the Mass seems to have left the building. Maybe filed under chit chat, but gone is that sense of reverence and awe for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Long gone are the days when children, young children, infants were seen and not heard (or heard so much during Mass). Of course the children are the direct cause, but the real cause are the parents who lack the formation themselves to teach their small children to use their “quiet voice” or at the very least, take them out of the sanctuary when they get fussy. There is much to be gained from the Mass including the homily and the need for prayer to God, but is all but impossible to many because of the selfishness of others.


  23. Debbi

    I would suggest some good ADHD medicine for you. ;) That and a prayer before mass that goes something like, “Father please remove all thoughts/distractions from my mind that are not of you, as I celebrate this Mass with this awesome community of Catholic Christians. Let them feel your unconditional love for them in an ever present way this week. Amen” As a mother of six and grandmother of six, I have learned over the years, that as distracting as external stimuli can be, like stated above, it’s what’s between the ears that causes the most distraction!


    1. Driven to Distraction

      Can I have the name of that medicine? Will it help my problem which isn’t actually between my ears but just outside my right ear where the lady sitting next to me is talking quite loudly about the most inane things while I attempt to pray in the last few minutes before Mass begins? Is this medicine covered under insurance or would it be cheaper for me to drink a bottle of Bourbon instead? :)


  24. Kay Napier

    As a mom of 6 sons, those young things without much clothing make me very nervous! And how is it that they always wind up sitting in front of us?
    We left our former parish when I could no longer stand rocking to “O Come All Ye Faithful.” Now, I am a former Protestant, and I sing every song, but even my old church-goers didn’t shout. And my former church, along with the other protestants *don’t* have the Eucharist present at their services. I do think some respect ought to be shown for Our Lord! So glad you put down your sticks!
    And the talking! We had some “CrEasters” behind us on Easter morning. Mom, dad, and 11ish yo daughter. They talked, laughed, made comments on the death of someone, which the daughter helped us to experience by making ” ack”ing and gasping noises. Really, right in church, yes, during consecration. Dad thought that was uber funny, and cracked up, right in the middle of his texting!
    I, of course, felt horrible, knowing these CrEasters need to feel welcomed so they can ditch their moniker and become regular attendees, but they just made me so mad! I sat and prayed and prayed for them. I feel like I need to run to the confessional every time it happens. Ugh! Thank you for voicing my very thoughts!


  25. kelso

    Rolando, the Mass is not a “family meal.” It is first and foremost a re-enactment of the sacrifice of Calvary in an unbloody manner. It is a sacrifice. God the Son offering Himself to the Father. There was, of course, a meal in the Old Testament. The eating of the lamb, the Pasch. When that part of the Last Supper was over, Jesus began what was the first Mass. The Pasch has been fulfilled in the sacrifice of the Lamb of God.


  26. William

    Yes, as a middle-aged male, I have no trouble keeping guard over what I look at (even in today’s over-sexed world), until you force me to sit behind a young woman and her new spring dress that barely covers her for an hour of Mass. I’ve had to forgo communion having gone to confession 15 minutes earlier because of women persistently advertising themselves at Church. I’m glad you’re writing about it, because men suggesting that women are dressing inappropriately brings either a rolling of the eyes or a blank stare that implies that any thoughts I’m having in response to the intended stimuli are my own problem. My less charitable side wishes there was something I could wear that would return the favor.


    1. intheknow

      William, as a well, almost middle age woman, with a husband who struggles with a pornography addiction, I cringe when I see women at Mass with next to nothing clothing on. I know how he fights against his addition and I know how society ignores his (and the countless other men’s) struggle to remain pure, by saying it is his fault for looking and the like.

      The best are the mothers who try to justify their daughters clothing. Where the heck are the fathers? Why are they not saying “over my dead body!?”

      Pertaining to the rest of the article, most of the reasons listed are reasons why my family and I will drive 1/2 hour to a different parish, instead of attending mass at the parish 10 minutes from our house. I go to the closer parish for confession from time to time and just standing in line waiting, I experience all of the things listed above, it makes it very hard to make a good examination of conscience or a good penance afterward. I have actually sat in my car to do my penance, which was much quieter than the church.


  27. Donna

    I’m not Catholic, I’m Baptist and I’ve witness the same things (even the drummers lol) in church services. The only difference is in the prayers. We don’t do “repetitive” prayer but we just pray to God as we were having a conversation with Him…Thanks for the new job, Thanks for the food, Please Bless Joe, he’s having surgery next week, heal Sue from her cold, help me with my bills…but we do have people who will pray out loud at church and I swear they only do it to hear themselves speak “ooooooh Lord I praise the for thy bountiful goodness in this past week. I am eternally grateful for your allowing Rover to win the dog show and for allowing Suzie to receive an A+ on her first grade spelling test. Oh Father in Heaven we ask your blessings on our pastor as he delivers our message. I also ask your blessings as we are trying to sell our 1200 square foot 2 bedroom house with 1 1/2 baths on Main street….” I have sat and eye rolled through prayers like that before LOL

    I have worn shorts to church (I do puppets for VBS, ever try to crawl behind a puppet stage in a long skirt?) but I also bring a loose skirt to wear over it when I can be seen by other parishioners.

    Any denomination though, it is important to remember that you are in God’s house and it should be treated the same way as you were going to visit somebody else. You wouldn’t go to dinner at your boss’s house wearing short shorts and a provocative t-shirt…so don’t do that when you go to God’s house.


  28. Mark

    Our pastor makes the Catholic school children bring handouts to Mass where they are to fill out things like what book the first reading is from and what color the vestments are.

    Ideally they’re supposed to be completed BEFORE Mass, but that never happens. It drives me crazy to see the kids shuffling books and papers and getting their parents to correct their answers instead of actually–oh, I don’t know–pay attention to the Liturgy of the Word.

    It is distracting and drives me crazy.


  29. Debra

    Concerning #3; Many of our parishioners are elderly and hard of hearing. Some are louder and slightly out of cadence in the responses. I just give thanks that they are able to attend Mass and overlook this. We also have many Protestant converts from the “AMEN, brother” school of theology, again, I just give thanks and praise that they have come home.

    The social chit-chat is what gets me, I just want to give them an uncharitable thump on the head.


  30. jenn

    I’ll never forget when we had a priest friend over for dinner. He didn’t just lament the skin in the congregation that was burning his eyes; he was hurt and angry. He said something to the effect of, “Until God makes me a Saint, I’m still human!” He was so upset, and clearly viewed such displays as a spiritual attack.

    We have a responsibility not just for our own souls, but in how we treat every soul we meet as well, that we may not lead another into an occasion of sin. We are our brother’s keeper; can we not help each other in holiness with simple consideration?


  31. Tapestry

    You must be a product of the 70s and 80s, Sunday best meant something you would wear on a job interview, or a family gathering, or even a funeral. No shorts or tshirts with snappy sayings were ever allowed there and if their mom didn’t teach them right they aren’t going to learn now.
    Thank God we never had drums in any of our parishes.. I would surely change parishes if they started; its bad enough with marichi bands at the bilingual Masses which are just as a distraction with huge guitars and 30 people all squeezed into the tiny area for the choir(who didn’t need any instruments but the organist).
    I don’t do the Our Father with raised palms up either(which is against Church law and only done in non Mass evangelical prayer groups).
    To avoid distractions I would advise sitting in the first 3 rows. None of the ‘cool’ types sit in the front, learn to close your eyes and listen to the words. Nobody says you have to follow the missal nor stare at the priest. If you want interior pray you need to close your eyes. You pray to God not to the priest nor the people across the aisle from you. It gives you plenty of meditation and peace and you avoid aggravation.


  32. Donna Ruth

    — Ai-eee, it’s the four-part choir in the key of Z! The congregation is mightily exhorted to sing, but many of us are not capable of the melody written in the soprano voice (and especially during the Responsorial Psalm). I wanna sing; please someone put us out of our misery and choose keys we can sing. I know about a half dozen years ago there was a recommendation that choirs “lead” the singing and use their SATB four-part voices only for the post-Communion or Communion Hymns.

    — And, now, let’s us all give a big round of applause for the choir/altar servers/First Communion children/everyone who helped put on this liturgy (“put on”???)/the flower committee/the speaker from the diocesan Cemetery committee/the financial committee rep … No-ooo; I have just received Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament; I want to reach into my soul and touch Him; please, oh please, let me worship in peace.


  33. sam

    Yes distractions can be, “distracting”. But as to your story, I would suggest that: 1) Now you know how others feel about your own distractions during the Liturgy and perhaps this is a repentance experience for you. 2) Humility is an excellent way to recall that humans, very much like yourself, attend Liturgies but unlike the Angels who also attend, humans are must learn patience w/others such as the Angels and God Himself is patience w/us. 2) Something which helped me not to be so readily annoyed at all the disturbances during the Liturgy – “It probably wasn’t very quiet on Calvary either.”


  34. Donna Ruth

    Addendum to earlier submission: I neglected to mention what (usually) works for me in blocking out visual distractions. Since they do not hand out deep wimples at the church door, we must create our own: From the moment I reach my pew, a) I bury my head in my missalette; b) block out my eyes in various fashions when I am kneeling; and, c) the rest of the time my eyes are closed — making me look like a cat in the sunshine napping through Mass. At the end of Mass, when scandalized folk come up to us and note sotto voce, “Goodness, did you see this or that …?” I can smile and say I didn’t, but, admittedly, there are the days of lapse when my eyes are freewheeling ’round the parish checking out the scandalacious tidbits. Ah, but isn’t it always three steps forward, one step back :-)


  35. hal

    A sixth distraction are the people who bring their brood of kids to mass and then sit in the geographic senter of the pew where they can distract the maximum number of worshipers. Then, no matter how much wailing there is from this peanut gallery, they won’t leave. Our parish has a nursery for the small kids during mass but mostly it’s not used. I have seen some worshipers say something to the parents and the parents get downright offended that someone should question their judgement in bringing these tykes to church when they have failed to train their kids in any selfcontrol.


    1. The Tisroc


      I disagree. When a man and a woman are married they make sacred vows to welcome children in their lives. God asks this through his Church. The Church asked for those children to be in existence and should ALWAYS welcome them in Mass.

      Yes, parents should teach their children to behave, but the apple does not fall far from the tree. If the parents are chatting and if the children see everyone else chatting, how can we reasonably believe that the children can suddenly switch to ‘reverent’ mode. They did the same thing in Life Teen – RAUCOUS “Ice breakers” followed a “serious” talk – if the atmosphere is does not lend itself to prayer, how can we blame the children when we impose our cognitive dissonance on them.

      Churches SHOULD NOT HAVE CRY ROOMS, OR NURSERIES. Children need to be with their parents. Mass is not a time for parents to ‘get away’ from their responsibilities. I understand if the child if the mother want to take her child out if he is having a Def Con 1 level tantrum, but a cry room is a subtle suggestion that kids who act like kids are not welcome. I cannot abide Danica’s five distractions either, but I think the worst is the head-turn-stink-eye-YOU-and-YOUR-SPAWN-ARE-IRRITATING-ME-LOOK.

      If small kids are really a distraction for you, I recommend the Latin Mass at Mater Misericordiae. While there is no shortage of kids, most have learned that this place is for quiet because EVERYONE is quiet. And if they do fuss, it doesn’t matter much because the mass is in Latin, so there is nothing to hear any way – just follow in the Missal and wait for the Bells!


      1. Laura

        I agree, kids belong in mass, no the nursery, and people telling parents they shouldn’t bring their children to mass is rude. Jesus told the apostles to let the children go to him and what “hal” is implying is exactly the opposite


      2. hal

        The Tisroc,
        I have nothing against children at mass, per se. It’s the brats that disturb everyone around them while the parents skneel there with there eyes closed supposedly deep in prayer. How about the others who are trying to pray and can’t because of a screaming little monster?


      3. Susan

        More than once I’ve TRIED to make the “walk of shame” and whirl my noisy little one out of the pew only to find that the person who INSISTED that they sit on the end wouldn’t let me out! Please, when you see a family with small children, let them sit on the end!


  36. Charles Woodbury

    ” It probably wasn’t very quiet on Calvary either. ” – Thanks Sam. I’ll try now to see/hear irreverence in His house as a reflection on my own lack of prayer and irreverence in His house of prayer. They are mirrors of what my attempts at prayer looks like to God.
    God put me in a parish that is silent and reverent, but in my travels I seldom find the same. They loudly prepare for a happy meal, not a sacrifice. Perhaps if Jesus was in a monstrance instead of a tabernacle there’d be more silence and prayer.
    This is a direct result of innovations that removed our alter rails, and moved Jesus in the tabernacle out of the center, and communion in the hand, a prescription for indifference, if not irreverence.


  37. jay

    How about something that I’ve seen a lot more of the last ten years. The Scott-Stapp-Arms-Wide-Open routine, especially at the Our Father? We’ll never be as cool as the Protestants, so we should stop trying :)


  38. Don White

    Leave home 10 minutes earlier so as to arrive before Mass begins. Stay until the final blessing and wait for Father to process out of the sanctuary. In our church, now rife with mid-westerners and New Yorkers coming to the south to show us how it is, we have more people coming late and leaving early in a larger number than when our Priests ask for more consideration.

    Also, it is always the same families that come late that seem, one at a time, from mom and pop through all of the kids, to take a pee break, particularly during the sermon or consecration. What’s up with these folks?


  39. Ellen

    I enjoyed your post not because of the sins involved but because of the tone and the fact that it is so true. Obviously, from the responses, it has touched a nerve. I have attended daily Mass for over 20 years now. When I am unable to go, it is very upsetting to me. I miss and need Him so much.

    I try to ignore others while I am at Mass. If someone is being annoying, I may close my eyes but I am more likely to train my eyes on the Blessed Sacrament if It’s in view. If not, then I raise my eyes to the Cross. Of course, I have had to “shop around” to find the churches that have the most reverent priests and congregations. (Not every church in our diocese has a daily Mass so I have to go where Mass is.) It helps when the other people there are calm and quiet and prayerful, even the children.

    Prayer is the very best way to deal with distractions. Remember that God sees what is happening to you and He takes that into consideration. He even smiles with great love on your efforts to push away the distractions. Ask St Therese for help. She understands and she will help you focus on Him.

    Actually, as for the idea that it was loud and distracting on Calvary, I cannot imagine that. If there had been a lot of noise, no one could have heard Jesus’ last words. He could hardly have had the force and energy to shout anything since he was probably gasping for breath. Yes, there were people taunting Him. Yes, the Romans probably shouted orders. Yet, I can imagine that an astonished hush fell over the assembled crowd especially after Jesus forgave His murderers. I doubt there were any other loud sounds until the storm hit after He gave up His Spirit.

    The Mass seems like the same thing every time to most people. It’s just a “boring” obligation the Church imposes. In reality, it’s like being married or at least having a treasured friendship. If you have even an ounce of love for the One Who gave His All for us and would even die for us again if it was required and Who, in every Mass, reveals that moment in time when He gave Himself on the Cross to the last drop of His Precious Blood, you will work hard to give Him your all: your attention, your ears, your voice, your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and, most importantly, your love. It isn’t easy. It requires work, but at the end of your life, if you persevere, you won’t remember the distractions; you’ll only remember the beauty and depth of His Sacrifice, the fact that He satisfied your hunger with Himself. Could God give us more?


  40. Calixtus

    There is almost no time in masses now for silent reflection and prayer. Other than when the priest sits silently himself, there is constant, constant singing. I like singing but I want more to be able to pray in peace. Be quiet for a bit! Mass is not entertainment it is communion with God. Give our ears a break now and then.


  41. Ann

    Drums are NEVER appropriate to liturgical music. They are percussion instruments and are forbidden by Rome. Pianos also have no place in the Mass-but the American bishops have decided otherwise. Arrrggg! As for a dress code, this was never a problem before Vatican II liturgical nazis dumbed down everything about the Mass. We have no problem with any of the above at the Extraordinary Rite. The beauty, sacredness and dignity of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass precludes sloppy dress, sappy songs, and chattering. And you will not see anyone leaving after Communion until the priest and altar servers have left the vestibule after the recessional. Many stay for private thanksgiving after Mass. For those who think everyone who attended the Latin Mass prior to Vatican II went to Mass not knowing what was going on or what was being said or sung: Baloney! We all had missals in Latin and English, or Latin and French, etc. No one was ever scandalized by sloppy or scanty dress=it did not exist. I pray fervently that the new translation of the Ordinary Form will trigger a return to appropriate dress, rapt attention, and choirs that can be heard but not seen. When did the musicians become the focus of the Mass? 1960′s-another liturgical innovation that brought about the casual atmosphere in many churches today. If we remembered that while we are at Mass, we are on Calvary, most of the abuses would disappear.


  42. Mike

    Thanks for sharing your perspective! I had a similar experience at Mass on May 1st and thought I was going to lose my mind. Being the anniversary of my own father’s death, I was not only looking to attend Mass and receive Eucharist, but was also looking for a little emotional salve for my sadness that day. What I experienced was a three ring circus, full of rude, irreverent people.

    The visiting priest brought his dog — a very friendly chocolate lab that wandered up and down the aisles looking for his head to be scratched (the dog, not the priest!). There were more out-of-control screeching children with (obviously) deaf parents that day than I care to recount. There was a couple celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary and there to reaffirm their vows with their large multi-generational family in tow. Not only had I never seen the celebrating couple or any of the family previously, they were obviously not interested in the Mass and sat firm in the pews chit-chatting throughout the service.

    I decided to make the best of things and wait until after Mass when the church cleared out to spend a quiet moment in reflection. Not gonna happen! A “stray” little boy (don’t know where his parents were) decided that the sanctuary was his own personal air strip, which he happily ran around several times screaming “DADDY!!!” as he wound his way over and through the pews, under the altar, and down the aisles.

    I finally found my PEACE on the drive home.

    Mother’s Day weekend, I tried the Saturday afternoon Mass. Thank God — MUCH better. :-)


  43. Connie

    I have been fighting this frustration for a long time now. I sit in church before Mass and try to say hello to Our Lord and get ready for the His Celebration. People coming in dressed in ways they would not dress if going to a nice resturant or a wedding. Reverence is not important anymore. Talking and conversing as if they are at a social event, not caring they are in God’s house and not concerned about what is about to happen.
    Even common curtsy for those who are silently praying to Jesus or Our Blessed Lady and who need a little quiet to meditate is non-existant. People don’t make noise in libraries where there are just rows and rows of books, or movie theatres where one might disturb a movie patron, but they will treat the house of the Almighty as a playground.
    I understand people have to speak at times, but consider where you are and keep the atmostphere condusive to prayer and thanksgiving. KEEP IT AT A WISPER.
    Show some respect for the Lord and yourself.


  44. Terrig

    I’m a women but seeing women dress immodest at Mass really bothers me. Some young women dress like they’re going to a club. I always ask the question – where are the mothers and fathers? Also, if it’s hot, there are all kinds of long cotton skirts and loose cotton pants to wear. I don’t buy the excuse for shorts at Mass. Men in shorts and flip flops is also tacky. My brothers says either you have class or you don’t. To me, it’s because many Catholics have not been properly cathecized. They have no idea on the meaning of the Mass, that we enter into Calvary, that we are in the presence of God. Those that dress immodestly also don’t have a clue to what “the occasion of sin” means. I always ask people that say I’m too critical about how people dress at Mass – if you were going to meet the Pope or the President or the President of your company, wouldn’t you wear the best outfit you had? Why can’t you do that for your Creator and Lord? It’s because they have no clue or belief in the True Presence in the Eucharist. I do have to pray every time I attend Mass for Jesus to help me not to get distracted. It does help because I’m not having the distractions I was having a few months ago. I agree that closing your eyes and looking down helps unless you look down and you’re looking at the legs of someone in shorts. I also get annoyed with all the talking. I can understand the younger people since many don’t know any better but the old people. Some of the loudest talkers are very elderly women. They grew up during the old days when reverance was shown just being in the church. Danica, thanks for your post. It made me laugh.


  45. Susan

    A friend of mine just told me she was asked to stop wearing her veil to mass because it was distracting people. Seriously?!


  46. Jael

    As a Mom of a naturally loud and hyperactive child from birth up to now at 5 years, mass is extremely difficult for my entire family. (One time my son tried to pull off the old lady’s wig who sat in front of us and would rip out hymn pages. Some kid would have found some Power Ranger toys in the back of the minivan and would have smuggled them into mass where they would fight each other and make explosion sounds. Oh yeah, and blow really loud raspberry noises right in the middle of the Consecration while laughing hysterically. Not to mention whining loudly “Can we go home now? and “Is it finally over?)

    There is no nursery and the hallways are often packed with people who couldn’t fit in the sanctuary. There is no place to go except the car and drive home. I am one persistent parent, so weekend mass was a battle that I was determined to win. We had some combination of parents/children attending Sat. night, Sunday at 7, 9 and 1100. Often, there was the drive to the next parish over at 5:00 so someone could take communion, since they had missed it due to taking the child out of mass. Mass was a huge commitment of several hours and many car trips. It took a great deal of persistence and I often felt like quitting and just staying home. Sometimes I would go to the church at 6:30 and not come home until 1:00–only to have to get back in the car and go there again from 3 to 6 for FD classes. There were many tearful discussions and it was a great trial on the marriage and family about whether to stay in our church. You can probably imagine some of the dirty looks I got from people, not to mention “helpful” comments. (Like–your children will behave if they sit on the front row! hahaha) These strangers had NO IDEA what lengths I would go to to prepare and try to attend mass.
    Here is the thing, though, I knew another Mom who was going through the same thing with her kid. She couldn’t take “bothering” people and the looks she would get. She stopped going to mass every Sunday. Then she would only show up every once in a while. Then she stopped coming altogether. I often see her husband and the other kids. But I have not seen her. It has been years.
    PLEASE! Think before you discourage someone from coming to mass. They may NEVER come back.
    I’m not saying anything goes during Mass, but what about their kids? Perhaps it’s better to sacrifice some serenity to some empathy–these children are the future and we should invest in their Christian upbringing. (And I’m not talking about extreme examples of someone letting their kid scream and scream without taking them out. )

    By the way, people who haven’t learned the prayers yet often say them a little after others because they are trying to LEARN them by repeating.


  47. Elliot

    Add one more thing… People who are too rude to remember when their children were young. A couple weeks ago, we experienced the last straw. Our parish does not have a cry room and on the feast of the Assumption we were at the “last chance” mass late into the evening. A couple behind us, mind you – who had an infant asleep in the husband’s arms, began to “shush” our 12 month old who was bouncing off the walls. Our parish pastor included in his homily very recently (say 4-5 months ago) who admirable it was the parents endure the endless energy of their children to give them the example that they should be in mass every Sunday. My wife was irate and stormed out of the church with our 12 month old. I”m quite certain the couple behind us understood the evil eyes burning holes in them as she glanced back before her triumphant exit. We’ve not been back since. We began attending a neighboring Catholic Church that has a cry room which is unfortunate since we really like our parish church. Moral of the story – we are all there to listen and participate in the Paschal Mystery of the Eucharist. Don’t spoil it for parents of children. You were once there yourself.