Working the Silence

One value that, in my perspective, has always been promoted by progressives is silence. I recall this was urged at the Newman Community where I went to college: silence after each reading, the homily, and after Communion. Our annual student retreats were conducted at a Trappist monastery. You really learn the value of silence in between the psalms and readings at the Liturgy of the Hours in such a place.

One priest I knew would always follow the invitation, “Let us pray,” with a portion of silence. His interpretation was that he was inviting people to pray, and that his spoken prayer from the Sacramentary was intended to sum up the intentions, sacrifices, and distractions of the pewfolk.

In my current parish, I inherited a system in which we take about twenty seconds in between each reading, psalm, and acclamation in the Liturgy of the Word. Our clergy also punctuate homily’s end with a healthy silence, as they do at the end of the Communion procession.

I think we could stand to lengthen these silences, but in doing so, we also have to keep in mind the transient nature of our community. We have students arriving from all over the world, and from the whole spectrum of experiences: deeply spiritual liturgies, and perfunctory American jobs. One parent sent us a card last year suggesting an early morning “silent” Mass for her student who wouldn’t be used to a lot of singing. We don’t do “silence” as a quality of a whole Mass. But we’re pleased to offer respite from the music, words, and actions of a properly celebrated liturgy.

What about your parishes?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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One Response to Working the Silence

  1. My parish? Sometimes. Depends on which presider, which lector, which cantor. Some innately know to do this (for at least 20 seconds) some don’t. Definitely needs looking at.

    What I find most egregious is the tendency of most presiders I have experienced anywhere to rush the end of Mass, to not allow sufficient silence after Communion for meaningful prayer.

    Recently, as facilitator of University of Dayton’s online course “Introduction to Liturgy,” I experienced discussion on this with students who complained that Mass was too rushed with no spaces or silences. These were ordinary “pew people” who felt their only time to pray was right after communion during the song, instead of singing. When I explained that they are to continue to sing and that the rubrics imply a sufficient silence after communion for prayer, almost all found that surprising – their presiders do not allow enough silence to make that possible.

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