I see many keystrokes online are devoted to the latest from Pope Francis on liturgy:
Mass isn’t the time for chit chat. It’s a time for silence, to prepare for dialogue, a moment of gathering yourself and prepare for meeting with Jesus. Silence is so important. Remember what I told you last time: we are not going to a show.
As the Holy Father describes it, I would affirm the importance of preparing oneself for dialogue. However …
At one of my parish’s Masses various parishioners lead the rosary, sometimes right up to the minute the ministers gather in the doorway to begin Mass. Is audible devotional prayer less of a problem than chatting about sports, gossip, or media?
At another of my parish’s Masses, the choir is too large to fit into the rehearsal room, so music must be prepared in the Church. We are careful to finish up about ten minutes before liturgy. But the worship space is already peopled by then with a few folks. Is music a problem as much as chit chat?
A human aspiration is the social connection with others. Our first impulse is to associate with other human beings who hear and respond to us. Are some conversations important, the ones that begin, “How are you doing with the death of your loved one?” or “I’ve been sick the past few weeks; it’s good to see you.” or “I’m praying you find a job.” Maybe every church needs a sizable narthex or gathering space for this to take place appropriately.
Maybe the stand-and-greet employed in some parishes before Mass (like mine) is a better time for a brief pulse of socializing. A minority of voices complained on that, but I was instructed by my superiors and the liturgy commission to continue to provide the script for the songleader.
I get Pope Francis’ view on this, though I’m loathe to tell people to hush up. I lack the luxury of quiet before Mass. I have music people to warm up and get ready, clergy with whom to consult, my own music and outlines to check. My quiet time isn’t a few minutes before Mass, but a few hours prior.
And lest any readers, especially new ones, think I’m in favor of a conversational free-for-all, let me state for the record: my preference in liturgical style is monastic. Not suburban Catholic. Not praise and worship. Not a Latin choral concert either.
What do you think? Is there a balanced (I hesitate to say “happy”) medium? Is Pope Francis being a scrooge about it? Or is this some Jesuit thing?