Recently I went to Sunday morning Mass. I thought I was in a pretty good mood, but as I walked up the aisle I noticed some people were sitting in my usual pew. Grrr, I know we don’t officially have assigned seating in church, but well, darn it, that’s my seat!
I found another pew, and as I kneeled to say a quick prayer, I heard two ladies nearby chatting way too loudly. Gabby and Crabby, I called them. One of them, Gabby, is hearing impaired, and spoke at full volume, although she thought she was whispering. The other one, Crabby, tried to whisper, but when Gabby practically shouted, “Whadja say?!” Crabby repeated her comment, which was a complaint about something in the parish, at the same decibel level as a fire alarm, only slightly more shrill. I found that my quick prayer turned into something like this: “Please, Lord, strike them both mute, just for the next hour.”
When Mass began, I stood and listened to the cantor sing the opening hymn. When she began a verse a bit late and then soon after missed a note, I shook my head and muttered, “Wow, she couldn’t even take a few minutes earlier in the week to practice that song?”
Then during the readings, as the lector proclaimed holy Scripture, I thought to myself, “Boy, he sure mumbles a lot. I’m only understanding about half the words he says. I bet Gabby ain’t hearing any of this.”
During the readings, I noticed a man and woman enter the church through the side door and quickly sit in the nearest open pew. “Hey,” I thought, “We start at nine-thirty, not quarter to ten. Did you forget to set your alarm clock — again?” Now that I was focused on Mr. and Mrs. Tardy, I heard and comprehended about as much of the readings as Gabby.
As Mass progressed, I continued to see and hear things that annoyed me. The altar server was late ringing the bells, and when he did ring them, it wasn’t loud enough. “Gabby should be ringing the bells,” I concluded. “That’d wake everybody up.”
During the most sacred part of the Mass, the consecration of the Blessed Sacrament, I tried to focus on the priest, but out of the corner of my eye I noticed a couple of boys, about four or five years old, fidgeting in their pew. I think Mike and Ike were playing with a couple of small toys. Their parents kneeled right next to them and did nothing to make them stop. “No discipline these days,” I thought. “What’s this world coming to?” I kept watching the boys as they squirmed, and missed the whole consecration.
When I got back to my pew after receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, I tried to offer a prayer of thanksgiving, but I was distracted by the line of parishioners still waiting for their turn. “Look at how people dress nowadays,” I thought. “Pajama pants and slippers? In church? Really? And look at the outfit on her. Whataya think this is, lady, a night club? Ever hear of modesty? Sheesh.”
While driving home, my wife asked, “How’d you like Father’s homily?”
“Um, it was OK,” I said, scrambling to remember what he had said. After a few moments I realized that I had been distracted and didn’t pay attention.
My wife continued, “He talked about the gospel reading, where the proud Pharisee thanked God that he wasn’t like all the lowly sinners. Father said there might be Pharisees right in our own pews, who think they’re holy and look down their noses at everyone else. They’re in for a big surprise at the Final Judgment.”
“Um, yeah,” I said. Just then I heard a voice in my head say, “Hey pal, are you enjoying being a judgmental Pharisee?”
I turned to my wife and said, “Do you want to go to the 11:30 Mass with me? I think I need a do-over.”