Last week we looked at blessing ourselves with holy water as we entered the church. Now we contemplate what most people do next when they come to Mass – looking for a place to sit.
For many people, the answer is easy. They have “their seat” that they sit in every Sunday without fail. Although sometimes, someone comes along who’s not a regular at that Mass and sits there instead – and I’m sure as good Catholics our “regulars” are welcoming and hospitable and simply find a different place to sit without showing any animosity towards the “seat-stealer”!
Sometimes seats are reserved. This is usually more for logistics reasons than elevating some in our community to higher status. After all, imagine First Communion with children scattered all over the church; it gets difficult to manage. Sometimes, on occasions such as funerals, etiquette shapes where we sit. We leave the front rows available for the closest relatives to the deceased.
Our liturgical ministers should sit amongst the assembly whenever possible. After all, they’re one of us – no better or no worse for what they do during the liturgy – so they should try and sit with us.
Unfortunately, others don’t even walk into the church until communion. They’re the parish centre regulars, who’ll pull up a plastic chair and watch through the window no matter how many pews are empty. It’s sad to see this. Sunday Mass is supposed to bring our community together. When there are seats in the church but we choose to stay in the parish centre, we actually work to break up the one body of Christ that we become when we celebrate liturgy. Often people in the parish centre are only watching the liturgy. My own personal experience has shown that there’s little participation occurring in the actual prayers and music of the Mass. Again, as I mentioned last week, it is our right and duty as baptised Catholics to participate in the liturgy. Of course, the parish centre is a necessary and useful space when the church itself is full, and can also be helpful on occasion for parents.
The oldest joke about seats in the church is that all the “good Catholics” sit at the back. I wonder what that’s saying then about our priests?