Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
As we begin Ordinary Time in the Church’s liturgical calendar, I thought it would be worthwhile to call your attention to a few commonsense items regarding our liturgical celebrations for the sake of your own comfort and reverence in the House of God:
– PLEASE COME ON TIME! – If you are consistently late to Mass, you are missing out on the very important Introductory Rites and the Liturgy of the Word. If you come late enough, you don’t even fulfill your Sunday Mass obligation! Barring unforeseen emergencies, coming to Mass late on a regular basis is simply an indication of poor planning. In this New Year, I invite everyone to consider making it a goal to come early so that you may have adequate time to recollect yourself and prepare prayerfully for the beginning of the Mass. By avoiding the distraction caused by needless movement and traffic in the assembly, especially the constant opening and closing of church doors, you will add to the prayerfulness of the Mass and help everyone to be more focused on their encounter with the Lord.
– PLEASE WEAR PROPER ATTIRE! – Meeting the Lord himself in His House is not like going to a grocery store or to the park. I invite you earnestly to dress up for Mass, giving God the respect that He deserves. It doesn’t mean having to wear expensive clothes. It simply means wearing our “Sunday best” whatever that may be for each person. And, of course, please always come in modest attire. This is especially important for those who serve as liturgical ministers, i.e. Lectors, Altar Servers, Sacristans, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, Musicians, Ushers, etc., since they are the first representatives of the Church and the parish that people would see.
– PLEASE DO NOT BRING FOOD OR DRINK! – The only eating and drinking that should take place in church are that of the reception of Holy Communion. Other than that, the church is simply not a place to eat and drink. The chewing of gums, of course, is always inappropriate in church. In our parish, many people have had the good habit of bringing canned food and/or used clothing and toys to share with the poor. This was good when we had an active Food Pantry at St. Margaret Mary Chapel. Now that the Chapel and its Food Pantry has been closed, please do not bring such items to church as we do not have enough personnel or volunteers to dispose of them. If you have good clothing to donate, please contact St. Mary’s Church Clothing Drive at (718) 529–6070 or visit their website at https://stmarysclothingdrive.com to schedule a free pickup at your home.
– PLEASE OBSERVE HOLY SILENCE! – Since the church is a place of prayer, silence should always be observed. The greeting of our friends and neighbors is appropriate for after Mass outside of the church or in the vestibule so as not to disturb the prayer of others. This is particularly true in the transition time between our Masses on Sunday.
– PLEASE SHOW THE GREATEST REVERENCE! – The church is the House of God, where His family gathers to praise, worship, and give thanks to Him. As such, we must always maintain a spirit of reverence and respect. As we enter the vestibule, we should bless ourselves with making the sign of the Cross. Then as we enter the church, we should make either a genuflection or a profound bow toward Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle prior to taking a seat. I encourage everyone to keep the church clean, by picking up any piece of trash when you see one and dropping it into the trash bin located in the Ushers’ Room at the far-right end of the church. This will ease the burden of our volunteers who give so much of their time and energy to keep our church sanitized and in optimal condition every week.
Overall, when someone asks me to address some of these important issues in some way, I always respond by saying that while I do see many such distractions in church every day, I think of them as steppingstones toward holiness. Whether it’s a couple of noisy children, the strong scent of a fellow parishioner, the long homily of the priest or deacon, the off-key singing of someone behind you, or the lack of courtesy on the part of someone who blocks your entrance to the pew, or the nuisance caused by a piece of trash left behind by someone, let it all pass. Patience, tolerance, politeness, and good manners always work. If you find yourself to be one of the sources of these distractions, don’t be too hard on yourself. Just try to improve these things next time.
Grateful for the good etiquettes that so many of you have already been showing in our church, and commending you to the protection of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, our Patroness, I assure you of my constant remembrance at the Altar.
Devotedly yours in Christ,
Msgr. Cuong M. Pham