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
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
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
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!
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!