Silence in Prayer
The quotations below, attributed to their authors, provoked in me the need to relate a little anecdote.
And if one comes into a parish church in which the loud vociferations of the street have NOT become an undistinguishable roar, but have come in with the parishioners who blithely natter & chatter, viva voce, well, it makes it all the more difficult. (dylan_tm618)
I believe that when Mass is celebrated properly, and we all quietly pray and take part in the Eucharist, community just happens. I repeat, it just happens. We don't need to "build" it. We don't need to shake our neighbor's hand or start off Mass by introducing ourselves to our neighbor. When we focus on the Lord, community is a natural byproduct. (Tom Abbot)
I am reminded of the first time I attended a service at a Byzantine Rite church (a special celebration at St. John Chrysostom, Columbus, Ohio for "The Third Finding of the Head of John the Baptist"). The church was a magnificent and beautiful building. On the exterior just to the right and left of the entry doors and on the center of the other three walls (you had to walk around the church from the parking lot to get it) there was a prominently displayed placard that read something like "Silence is to be observed inside the church at all times."
I remember thinking that this had to be the most unfriendly church I had even been to, and there was absolutely no way on earth I would go back. Once inside I was stunned by the beauty of the Church and the liturgy. The people all joined in the singing (which was difficult because they were doing an unusual Slavonic liturgy--the only part of which I remember was multiple repetitions of something that sounded like Hospodie Polimuj--I'm sure I have it wrong.) The service, though in a foreign language and utterly alien in its presentation (to this Latin Rite Guy) was magnificent beyond words. Here I was, in the midst of the people of God, worshipping and praising, and it felt quite different than it did at my very social parish church. No one questioned my right to be there, I was by virtue of my presence part of the community. I thought, after the service, that I would visit often. And while often would be an exaggeration, I did go back from time to time.
On the formation of community. Unfortunately Catholics have become protestantized here as well. Enter any Baptist church and if the Baptistry is not open the only thing to remind you that you are in a church is usually a bare wooden cross. (In my grandfather's church there is also an American Flag and the Flag of Israel flanking the "altar" area and a big table that had inscribed on it, "This do in remembrance of me.") There is a great deal of conversation and inquiring after family members, etc. And to some extent this is good--but in the proper place. Baptist services are not so much about recollection and private prayer as they are about public sharing of faith and scripture. Many Baptists (at the time I was going) brought notebooks and tape-recorders with them. They would replay the sermons several times during the week. This is obviously a different approach to spirituality, one that may better accommodate casual conversation and chatting. I know that it never interfered with my experience of God in the Church.
However, for whatever reason, it does tend to detract from my experience at mass. I am always glad to see friends and people I know, but I don't need to do more than nod my head or smile, if I am so inclined. Many churches have some sort of after-Mass doughnut thingee, or perhaps other ways that people can bond in a social way. This is undoubtedly an important aspect of community formation. However, to my mind it belongs outside of the Mass, as much as possible. It should not interfere with all of us coming together to worship God and to send our prayers "aloft" to Him. God will hear our prayers even if we talk before the service, but we will not have done Him the best service we can.