Arriving Late and Leaving Early

Some time ago 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 the baptised who have gathered to worship the Almighty and to build up the body of Christ. It fosters a style of Christianity that caters to self-interest and laziness.”

Look, I know that we are all busy and that it is great that people manage to get to Mass at all, but I have to say that those who habitually arrive well after Mass has started or walk out as soon as they have received Communion often distract and frustrate their fellow worshippers.

The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy states quite clearly that it is all of us who celebrate liturgy: “In the liturgy the whole public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and his members.”(#7)

The liturgy documents also tell us that Christ is present amongst the people gathered for worship and that, when the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people. I cannot help but wonder if people would make a real effort to be on time if they were aware that Christ was in the assembly or that God was doing the first reading! But Christ is and God does!

Arriving after Mass has begun is not like being late for a concert. It is more like one of the musicians wandering in after the rest of the orchestra has started playing. Leaving Mass before it is finished is akin to Nathan Lyon heading home after he has finished bowling his overs. And surely worship is more important than a concert or a cricket match!

It would be an interesting exercise to consider what other bad habits at Mass we would add to the list, and why. Here are the other items on Robert Duggan’s list:

• 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.

Food for thought – and agenda for parish liturgy committee meetings - there!


Elizabeth Harrington