When I was in high school, I constantly saw people copying each other’s homework in the morning the day it was due. These typically weren’t the slackers either, but the honors students. They were the ones often overloaded with school work and extracurricular activities. There was this unspoken agreement that if someone could copy a few math problems one day, the other person could get a quick peek whenever he was short a few answers.
No one ever approached me to copy my homework. And it wasn’t because my answers were incorrect. They knew that my answer was going to always be “no.” At times I felt bad telling a friend who was at practice till 6 pm and had three hours of homework that they couldn’t look at my work. It felt unfriendly. But not participating in these cheating rings was the right thing to do.
This brings me to what I witness every Sunday before Mass. I see so many people chatting with each other. And these are regular Mass attendees who should know better. But there’s this idea that Mass doesn’t begin until the organist hits that first key and everyone stands.
Pope Francis tells us we need to resist this temptation to visit before Mass. He said:
“When we go to Mass, maybe we arrive five minutes before, and we start to chitchat with those in front of us,” the Pope said Nov. 15. However, “it is not a moment for chitchat.” “It is a moment of silence for preparing ourselves for dialogue, a time for the heart to collect itself in order to prepare for the encounter with Jesus,” he said, adding that “silence is so important.”Pope Francis
I think many of us are afraid of coming across as unfriendly if we don’t chat before Mass. We think the person sitting next to us will think we’re snubbing them or are mad at them. But going back to my high school experience, do you know how many people gave me a hard time or put a lot of pressure on me for not letting them copy my schoolwork? No one. Deep down I think they knew I was doing the right thing and that copying someone’s work was wrong. They weren’t going to give me a hard time showing the behavior they wanted to show as well. The same goes for being silent before Mass starts. People understand that silence is correct pre-Mass behavior and won’t take offense if you don’t partake in the chitchat.
Want to provide a clear sign that you’re not going to participate in idle chitchat? Simply put down the kneeler and pray the Rosary. Trust me, no one is going to strike up a conversation with you when they see you on your knees praying the Rosary. And that is the type of preparation Pope Francis wants from us. We are taking the time to converse with Jesus and listen to God.
And what if you are the sort of person who likes to chat before Mass? In this season of Advent, I suggest trying to break that habit. Get on your knees and pray the Rosary too. Advent is a time of preparation and making room for God in our hearts. And that is exactly what we do when we pray the Rosary.
I love coming into a quiet church and praying. There is something so motivating walking into a crowded church and yet it is whisper quiet with pews filled with people praying. It makes me want to pray. And you know what? I usually find plenty of time for chitchat after Mass, outside the church. It’s a matter of priority. Your dialogue with God needs to come before the chitchat with your friends.