DMC 37: Silence

It’s really an urban legend that Vatican II and its emphasis on participation neglects the interior. Also in the status of “legend” or “myth” is the notion that progressive liturgists demur on the issue of silence.

37. Even in Masses with children “silence should be observed at the designated times as part of the celebration” [GIRM 23.] lest too great a place be given to external action. In their own way children are genuinely capable of reflection. They need some guidance, however, so that they will learn how, in keeping with the different moments of the Mass (for example, after the homily or after communion [See Sacred Congregation of Rites, Instr. Eucharisticum Mysterium 38.]), to recollect themselves, meditate briefly, or praise God and pray to Him in their hearts. [See GIRM 23.]

Besides this, with even greater care than in Masses with adults, the liturgical texts should be proclaimed intelligibly and unhurriedly, with the necessary pauses.

What the post-conciliar liturgy has struggled with more than liberals are the pragmatists, the people who reduce worship, especially worship with children, down to some functional level. Pragmatists still look at liturgy as primarily an obligatory exercise in rubrics: get the right things done, and get them done on time.

The DMC is absolutely correct that children are capable of significant interior lives.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Directory for Masses With Children, Liturgy, post-conciliar liturgy documents. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to DMC 37: Silence

  1. Todd:

    With respect, I think you’re engaging in a bit of straw-man argumentation.

    Those who actually claim the problem is what Vatican II said about silence or interiority are few, and I will bet, in turn, few of them have anything knowledgeable to say about Vatican II–because they haven’t read the documents.

    More to the point is, once again, the implementation of Vatican II–the messages given about “what it means for us.”

    Instead of a straw man, I would point this out: there is no question (in my mind at least) that an awful lot of people somehow got the idea that “active participation” means folks are up and doing something–as opposed to being fundamentally an interior disposition, that may or may not be manifest in exterior activity.

    Maybe your experiences are otherwise, maybe the problem is just my diocese (except people in other dioceses report similar problems, but there are a lot of the faithful who have this idea.

    Well, how did this happen? Not many people learned about Vatican II by either experiencing it directly or reading the documents–someone explained it to them, and conveyed some mistaken notions. And the matter needs to be rectified.

    Yes, some want to blame “progressive liturgists”; I am not particularly interested in blaming, but I would say your response may serve to give credence to those who take that approach.

    Finally, it sort of reminds me of when I was in college, and the Cold War was in full swing, and we’d discuss communism (yes kids, back then there really were people who would show up and advocate for it!), and as soon as someone would point out this or that abuse or failing, the apologists for communism or socialism would always respond, “oh that wasn’t true communism/socialism” and so it went.

    Sometimes, your responses on these issues feel a bit like that.

  2. Todd says:


    But having been a frequent guest at monasteries for almost thirty years has cultivated in me an appreciation for silence. Most often the objection to silence in liturgy comes from people who feel “somebody must be doing something,” and my sense is that pragmatism gets in the way. Lots of Catholics are vaguely uncomfortable with monasteries–I get curious looks when I describe retreats of silence for a whole week.

    Many of my colleagues, while not having been “schooled” in monastic spirituality, do bring a respect for silence–and if you go to back issues of the usual “suspects,” the professional and semi-pro journals of the liturgy establishment, you’ll see progressives advocating silence long before “neo-con” entered the vocabulary.

    Now, if conservatives would like to withdraw from the usual (and wrong) critiques on the silence front, I’d be happy to share a common focus on pragmatism. Until then, I plan to continue to skewer the mythology till they get it right.

    There’s a reason why the liturgy documents emphasized the external, and there’s also a responsibility for pastors to nurture the interior. You’re just not going to get effective “legislation” on the interior life. You can read the mystics, but it also needs to be modeled. And during liturgy, it is usually true you guys set the tone. I’ve seen fidgety priests looking at watches, glaring at ministers, sigh deeply. Maybe they need to adjust the Mass schedule or not book themselves so tightly. If silence is abused at liturgy, it’s usually the presider who’s ofeending.

  3. Todd:

    That’s fair. No question priests have to answer for a lot of distortions, and that is rooted in pragmatism.

    But there have been folks who have fostered misunderstandings in the liturgy (not so much on the silence front, but the active-participation-means-doing-something front), who–if they were asked–would put themselves with what you call the progressive camp. Maybe they just weren’t paying enough attention. (In fairness, I suspect they weren’t liturgists, but catechists…)

  4. Jimmy Mac says:

    I would like to recommend this book to the readers:

    VATICAN II: DID ANYTHING HAPPEN? Ed. David G. Schultenover, with contributions by John W. O’Malley, SJ, Joseph Komonchak, Stephen Schloesser & Neil J. Ormerod.

    One quibble on my part: it has to subject-matter index.

  5. Jimmy Mac says:

    “no”, not to.

  6. Todd says:

    Fr Fox, also fair on your part, esp, the catechist bit. I do know that many lay people staunchly defend their hard-won sanctuary “turf” (as the more militant among them see it). Usually I’ve heard that’s more a question of their “giftedness.”

    I suppose my monastic approach would ask them how thoroughly that gift has been discerned in community–and that suggestion can ruffle a few turf feathers.

    Misplaced ownership in what one does–that’s a problem across the board. That’s an easy admission in the Church.

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