GIRM 45: Silence

One of the more important single sections in this document:

45. Sacred silence also, as part of the celebration, is to be observed at the designated times.[Sacrosanctum Concilium 30; Musicam Sacram 17] Its nature, however, depends on the moment when it occurs in the different parts of the celebration. For in the Penitential Act and again after the invitation to pray, individuals recollect themselves; whereas after a reading or after the Homily, all meditate briefly on what they have heard; then after Communion, they praise God in their hearts and pray to him.

Even before the celebration itself, it is a praiseworthy practice for silence to be observed in the church, in the sacristy, in the vesting room, and in adjacent areas, so that all may dispose themselves to carry out the sacred celebration in a devout and fitting manner.

The gentle tussle over silence before Mass continues in many places. The purpose of preparation time before Mass is to celebrate the liturgy consciously, well, and beautifully. Silence is one means to that end, but not the only one. I’d say it’s far more important to be early to prepare for Mass. As for people with performance anxiety or a family to oversee, silence before Mass is a challenge, and even counterproductive.

That said, the prescriptions for silence are well-given during the liturgy. Silence is a difficult discipline for western culture. Churches that provide for silence could consider if they are long enough. A mature community should always examine if these periods need to be lengthened. And obviously, young believers need to be prepared for silence. It’s more than just hushing up for the adults. Silence must be seen and practiced as a positive, communal virtue of liturgy.

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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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