The ring of a cell phone, cry of an infant parishioner, or medical emergency are unintended distractions that can often drive away the focus from the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “to set about hunting down distractions would be to fall into their trap, when all that is necessary is to turn back to our heart, for a distraction reveals to us what we are attached to. Therein lies the battle, the choice of which master to serve” (2729).
During his very first Easter celebration as a priest, Father Jeremy Rodrigues, director of the diocese of Providence office of worship, witnessed a parishioner suddenly collapse to the floor. Out of concern, the congregation’s focus quickly turned from the Mass to the ailing parishioner.
“I was just at the end of my homily and someone just passed out,” he recalled. “I thought, ‘maybe it was it something I said.’”
As many attended to the needs of the parishioner, Father Rodrigues felt that it was appropriate to regain their spiritual attention and continue with the celebration of the liturgy.
“We can continue as long as it’s addressed,” he said. “It doesn’t do the congregation any good to sit there and it becomes mass hysteria. The best thing we can do is pray for them and the Mass is the best prayer we can offer.”
Providence director of vocations Father Michael Najim said that in cases like this, the priest trusts that the people in the congregation can best respond to such situations, adding that there are often several nurses and even doctors who are present at Mass….
Even the most natural distractions like a crying baby might demand greater focus and patience from other parishioners. Father Thomas O’Neill, pastor emeritus of St. Mary Church, West Warwick, RI, said that 90 percent of the time when a child cries loudly during Mass, they either need to be fed or have their diaper changed. Father O’Neil suggests that parents of young children sit in cry rooms. A cry room is intended to serve as a temporary option for parents to retreat to when they feel that their little ones might start to disrupt the Mass.
“It’s an opportunity for charity,” said Father O’Neill, noting that worshipers need to be tolerant and charitable when a young child becomes agitated during Mass. He added that he has never asked parents to remove or not to bring a child to Mass.
“The community can find ways to work with it,” he said.
Posted with permission from The Rhode Island Catholic, official newspaper for the Diocese of Providence.
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