Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Why didn't I say that? (2)

This time it's something that Fr Tim Finigan said last week. He was referring in general to people who talk in church - and it was a message that I needed to hear, as I'm quite big on the hostile glare when I hear people talking.

Imagine if that was someone visiting the church for the first time, wondering if Catholicism was for them. And imagine that the "idle chatter" was actually a Catholic friend explaining to them what was happening. And imagine that my hostile glare put the visitor off and meant that they didn't pursue their interest in the Catholic Church any further. Shouldn't that possibility, however remote, be enough to make me keep my hostility to myself in future?

I've often been told not to help beggars, because they're probably con artists/drug addicts/alcoholics/not in as much need as they make out. I know for a fact that I've been conned on several occasions. But what did I lose? A couple of pounds that I could have spent on a cup of coffee or a magazine. What would they have lost if their story was genuine? A lot more than a cup of coffee or a magazine. I'd rather play the odds - for every 99 times that I'm conned, there may be one time when I am genuinely able to help someone who didn't know where else to turn.

Similarly in church - 99 times out of 100, people might just be chatting disrespectfully. But should I take the chance that I might be criticising the one person who has another reason for being noisy? Again, who am I to judge? Why not just give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and offer up a prayer for them? I'll look after my own spiritual welfare, and they (and God) can look after theirs.

I was once at a Mass where the priest gave the congregation a severe talking-to at the beginning of his sermon. He said that the previous week, a woman had come to Mass and sat at the back of the church with her four children. The children had been quite noisy, and several people had turned round to glare at them, shaking their heads and tutting.

The priest told us that this woman was a lapsed Catholic who had been thinking of coming home to the Church. Her husband had recently left her, she was unemployed and two of her four small children were autistic. After the reception she had been given in church that Sunday, she had told the priest that she wouldn't be coming back again - it was too hard, and she couldn't face the shame of being stared at so disapprovingly.

He told us to examine our consciences, and to think about the courage it had taken for that woman to walk into the church that day after a long absence, the unhappiness she had felt and the consequences for her and her children of her feeling rejected by the parish community.

If I can't concentrate on my prayer because someone else is too noisy, maybe it's my levels of concentration that are at fault. I have certainly found recently that it helps my focus immeasurably if I close my eyes to pray when there are too many distractions around.

We don't see what's in everyone's hearts. We are not God, and the church is God's house - NOT OURS. Let Him be the judge of whether someone is behaving reverently and worshipping Him sincerely.


frival said...

How very true. I find it very difficult to concentrate as well sometimes, and while I'm able to restrain a nasty look, I must admit that I don't exercise the greatest of charity as I should. Thanks for an excellent reminder.

Simon-Peter Vickers-Buckley said...

LOL! Again I find myself agreeing with you MOSTLY!

We can do both..."please shush...and..."

I guess I would say " I judge you to be silly, but I condemn you NEVER!!!!!!!! and I urge you to stop because it will be to your I would ask you to STOP waving your arm about whilst the doctor is trying to administer life-saving drugs."