Though his cheering for free market capitalism and somewhat hawkish US foreign policy becomes tiresome, George Weigel's column is always worth reading. (It is a syndicated column and easily found through a search engine.) This week he returns to a subject he has raised before; the sloppy attitude to the liturgy that many Catholics have slipped into. (Mark Dooley has recently written an entire book-- albeit a slim one-- one pretty much the same subject, with the rather misleading title Why Be a Catholic?)
He suggest that the introduction of the New Missal is a great opportunity to break bad habits, and I think it's a very good point.
Weigel complains about Masses that begin with a greeting, that do not allow for moments of reflective silence, and especially the abuse of the sign of peace:
Fully aware that I shall be accused by some of crankiness bordering on misanthropy, let me repeat a point made in this space before: the exchange of peace is not meant to be the occasion for a chat with the neighbors, but for the greetings of those closest to us in church with a simple, evangelical salutation: “the peace of the Lord be with you;” “peace be with you;” “the peace of Christ.”
It is easy to pass into pedantry and crankishness on this subject. The Mass is no less Heaven on Earth just because it includes a hymn that we consider too folkish or banal. But sometimes I am rather taken aback by the behaviour of worshippers at my own church, and funnily enough it is the elderly who are often the most blasé. There is one group of older men who regularly discuss the week's betting in the pews behind me. I am sure they are much better men than I am, and I have to admit that I can't help smiling at the incongruity. But I do wonder how much holy terror the Church can really have beaten into their generation (as we are constantly told was the case) if they behave so profanely in the house of God.
Younger people, insofar as they are there at all, tend to be more fervent, and the Africans who attend my own church are the most reverential of all. They sing the hymns with gusto, radiate joyfulness, and kneel for long periods both before and after the Mass. Perhaps not all African Catholics are like that, but is certainly a feature of the ones I have encountered.
One thing that always bothers me is the taking of the second collection immediately after Communion. Surely no time should be more important and exalted, or should be more prayerful, than the minutes after we have received the Eucharist; to go scrabbling in your pockets immediately after seems incongruous and unseemly. But perhaps I am being pharasaical. Still, I wish it could take place at some other time.