By Richard J. Anthony, Sr.
When I was in first grade at St. Gregory’s Parochial School, the good sisters marched us in to the church adjoining the school building to teach us the rules of church etiquette. First, no talking in God’s house. Or else! Second, a little dab of holy water on the fingertips to make the sign of the cross as you entered God’s house, making certain to touch all four points with deliberation. Third, face the front of the church and slowly genuflect before entering a pew to kneel in reverent prayer. Not a half genuflection. Right knee all the way to the floor, head bowed, then into the pew to sit or kneel ramrod straight. No slouching. The point was to acknowledge the presence of Jesus Christ in the form of the Eucharist in the tabernacle in the front of the church.
How times have changed. Children and adults are incessant talkers these days, in person or via their smart phones, or both, even in church. Holy water, if there is a holy water font in the church, is empty or avoided because of concerns about hygiene (you just don’t know whose fingers have been dabbling in the holy water). And genuflecting seems to be reserved for older people who were trained to genuflect, some of whom endure great pain when going down on one knee and even more when trying to get up again. Folks today – parents and children – enter the pew and just plop down. The worst is when both elbows or outstretched arms are draped over the back of the pew.
Sitting quietly in church waiting for Mass to begin used to be a welcome refuge from the cacophany of life, a serene connection with the Creator to offer prayers of petition and repentance. Those were the good old days.
The other morning my wife and I attended Mass. It was a holyday of obligation so the elementary school kids processed down the aisles at the direction of their teachers. Of course, nobody genuflected, not even the teachers. Right into the pews they filed like a swarm of buzzing bees. So much for serenity. The worst distraction was one of the teachers, a pleasant looking younger woman who stood stoically as her charges filled the pews, while she vigorously chewed her gum. Gum. In Church. The good sisters would have had her on her knees saying Hail Marys until she fell over from exhaustion.
Church hasn’t been the same since they changed the liturgy. Guitars and drums are no substitute for an organ and a Latin hymn. There’s a little Gothic church in London called Farm Street Church where they still have the Latin liturgy and the congregants don’t wear shorts and flip flops to Mass. And they genuflect. My wife and I go there whenever we’re in London because it brings back memories of visiting God’s house.
Richard J. Anthony, Sr. is a member of the advisory board of GRAND Magazine. He is also managing director of The Anthony Group, Inc. (www.theanthonygroupinc.com) and founder of The Entrepreneurs Network (www.theentrepreneursnetwork.net