Friday, April 25, 2008

Another disturbance


Maybe it is the moon but today we had another disturbance at Mass today, a man who came in at the Communion Rite. He made some noise during Mass and presented himself for Holy Communion a little late, but received reasonably reverently. He then went to receive from chalice which had been consumed by the previous communicant, he cried out "I want the wine".

I am getting to the stage where I am beginning wonder whether it is wise to celebrate Mass publicly during the week. As someone said commenting on the previous post there is need for someone to keep order in the congregation obviously not beating people up but calming them down. How do other inner city parishes cope?

37 comments:

michael petek said...

I have to say that I'd never seen this man before, and I think it's more likely than not that he won't be a regular.

I found myself having to keep an eye on him for his own safety as he took to lighting a rather large number of candles at the back of the Church and came perilously close to setting his sleeve on fire.

How you deal with people in church who seem not to be fully compos mentis presents something of a dilemma. Do you bear with it, or do you deal with it as robustly as you would with someone of sounder mind?

It is a criminal offence to cause a disturbance in a place of worship at a time when it must by law be open to the public. It might be a good idea in that case to seek police advice on this one, just in case, and in any event to designate some parishioners of good judgement to be stewards.

ffn said...

I wonder about the Wisdom of Holy Communion under both kinds,sometimes people who desperately need a drink will abuse the Sacrament;if it is one or two persistent offenders then make it clear to them they either behave and respect the Mass,and the other people present or they go elsewhere.I'm probably not as charitable as you.

Mac McLernon said...

Offer communion only under one kind

Volpius Leonius said...

"As someone said commenting on the previous post there is need for someone to keep order in the congregation obviously not beating people up but calming them down."

That was me and defending the Mass is a very good reason to beat someone up if other kinder methods don't work. Some people take kindness for weakness Father and their is only one way to put them right.

The Houses of parliament have the gentleman usher of the black rod, he doesn't just carry that rod for show.

Likewise the Vatican has the Swiss guard to keep order.

St. John Chrysostom and many other Holy men and women of God didn't have the scruples concerning violence as today's clergy seem to have.

The laity are not restrained from been "men of blood" like the clergy are Father. This is why the soldiering profession has never been condemned by either Christ Himself or his Church.

It is more important to defend God's House, God's Body and Blood, God's Priests and the Mass than it is our own life's.

"When a person blasphemes, his mouth should instantly be shut. Strike him in the mouth! Crush it, so that he cannot speak!" St. John Chrysostom, "Ad Popul. Ant." homily I, PGW p.409-410

A Priest does not need to use violence because he has a much more deadly power at his disposal, the power to curse a person, place or object. Why do Priests never do this any more?

Henry said...

The problem is that there are a lot of mentally disturbed people wandering around in Brighton, often homeless. It is called "Care in the Community". So incidents such as that you describe are liable to happen from time to time.

Order-keeping to prevent this kind of disturbance needs to be somebody's job otherwise everyone will sit quietly and try to pretend nothing is happening. It would help if they were recongisably dressed eg in a cassock or gown, and they should remain at near the doorway of the church. How they deal with the miscreants is another matter.

It would also help to arrange the liturgy so as to minimise the opportunities for disruption and abuse eg insist on distributing communion on the tongue, kneeling at the (reinstated) altar rails and not distributing the Precious Blood at all, except on special occasions. It isn't necessary and it does not help devotion or faith.

To anyone who objects, you can always make the rejoinder that the conditions locally require these measures.

It might also be useful to attempt to speak to the miscreant afterwards, they may well be in need of medical attention, etc.

michael petek said...

Volpius, please! There is a world of difference between using such force as is reasonable in the circumstances to usher out people disturbing Church services, and taking the law into your own hands.

"A Priest does not need to use violence because he has a much more deadly power at his disposal, the power to curse a person, place or object. Why do Priests never do this any more?"

I don't know that priests ever did this. Not even an excommunication has the effect of a curse.

george said...

Cursing as a religious act was part of the Old Testament and it ended with the New Testament.

Ttony said...

I was talking to a Churchwarden of the Anglican parish I live in and was surprised to find that he has legal powers (and responsibilities) in respect of ensuring proper worship in his church. You could try asking the vicar.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

I used to go to Mass every day at the Toronto ORatory that is in Parkdale, an area of Toronto that is a kind of government dumping ground for mental patients who get kicked out of the hospital down the road, drug addicts, recent immigrants who speak no English at all, criminals and, generally, the lost underclass. It was the usual daily fare to have some schizophrenic twitching and muttering at one's elbow. No one bothered about it very much, and often the regulars provided much of the parish entertainment in the form of stories and gossip. They were always handled very charitably, though often quite sternly, by the Fathers. Most of them learned very quickly that they could not pull the wool over the Fathers' eyes and their usual subterfuges would not work, but also that they were as welcome in the church as everyone else, so long as they did not disrupt. A certain low-level of disruption was always tolerated from them (a much higher level than from the regular parishioners who were all very well behaved and knew the rules) and if they acted out beyond that, they would be dealt with quite sternly. Very very few were ever banished permanently. None in the five years I was there. The trick, I believe, was that the Fathers treated them as just an ordinary part of the parish, so they became part of the community who had to learn the ropes.

It was certainly one of the best features of life at the Toronto Oratory. Very impressive.

I do recall on one occasion, one of the local loonies had stood up and spoken out of turn during the Mass. He was quickly ushered out, gently but firmly, by some of the regular daily Mass-goers and immediately following Mass, Fr. David, still dressed in his vestments went to the narthex and gave him a very sharp talking-to. Very fatherly. He was perfectly well-behaved after that.

The feeling of community and responsibility is very strong at the Toronto Oratory and people take it upon themselves to keep an eye on things. There was a very strict no-panhandling rule there too. It applied to the inside of the church, including the narthex, and the steps and sidewalk outside as well. Woe betide the loonie who flouted the rules.

It was a tightly disciplined place and everyone knew that the Fathers were, collectively, the boss.

It was probably the happiest five years of my Catholic life, spent there. Loonies and all.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

There is a very edifying story that perfectly illustrates the Fathers' attitude towards the local loonies. A schizophrenic woman who lived in the neighbourhood would come to daily Mass. She was able, mostly, to keep herself under control and when she couldn't, always received her rebukes very humbly. One day, Fr. David asked her if she had been confirmed and she said, 'what's that?'. It turned out she had not been baptised either and was not a Catholic. Fr. David explained to her that she could not continue to receive holy Communion, but that she should by all means continue to attend daily Mass and he volunteered to instruct her in the Faith. He faithfully went every week to her government-sponsored hovel teaching her the tenets of the holy Faith. He also gave her a crucifix which she hung on her wall.

Now, the woman was indeed barking mad, and had very little control over her behavior. So that when, on one visit, Father David saw that she had removed the corpus from the crucifix and asked her why, he was expecting not to receive a very good answer. She replied, "I just couldn't stand to see Him suffer".

He decided then that she was ready to be received. She was baptised and confirmed privately and continued to assist at daily Mass until she died a few years later.

Moretben said...

This person was probably mentally ill. Here's a thought. How about receiving such people - their "challenging behaviour" and all - with charity and humility?. I'm thinking about the Abbot who had to preside over the meal at which old Karamazov does his best to be as low and embarassing as even he is capable.

Dear Volpius - I don't recognise Our Lord in any of what you've written above. Please think again.

michael petek said...

It's occurred to me that cancelling daily Mass on account of the kind of disturbance we're discussing is just what the Devil wants.

Remember, there's no better way of making the Devil feel ill than to celebrate Mass!

Henry said...

Hilary - we have some have much-valued and much-loved members in our parish who have gone through a period of mental disturbance in their lives and have found partial healing through the church. And now they are just a little odd and irritating, but then who isn't?

william said...

I wouldn't worry. The good thing about an inner city parish is that most of the congregation know how to deal with 'inner city' conflict. If anything threatening happened l think you'd be surprised how many of the congregation would react before anything serious could happen. Having a 'bouncer' creates conflict. Realistically, nothing ever happens at St Mary Magdalen's. Try being the publican at the pub next door.

Volpius Leonius said...

"I don't know that priests ever did this. Not even an excommunication has the effect of a curse."

"Cursing as a religious act was part of the Old Testament and it ended with the New Testament."

Do either of you know what "anathema sit" means?

I'll answer for you, it means "let him be accursed", you will find it been said throughout history by numerous Popes.

The Saints have also been recorded cursing people, you can find a account of St. Louis Grignion de Monfort cursing people twice in the book "Louis Le Crom, Un Apôtre Marial – Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, Pont-Chateau: Librairie Mariale"


And St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologiae even tells us when it is and when it is not licit to curse people. (see St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II.II. q.76. respondeo and 3rd reply)

My father has told me also that at one time there was a problem with Catholics spending all their money on drink and not giving enough of it to their wives, the wives complained to the Priest, the priest then put a curse on the tavern, problem solved, the men never drank in that tavern again.

Volpius Leonius said...

"Dear Volpius - I don't recognise Our Lord in any of what you've written above. Please think again."

The perhaps you should get to know him better.

The Christ I know chased the Money lenders out of His Fathers House and cursed a fig tree because it produced bad fruit.

Never forget that God is Just as well as Merciful, sinners are punished in eternal fire.

Stopping a person from causing trouble at a Mass is a work of mercy to that person as they would have to pay for it in the next world if it was not stopped in this one.

Jack said...

Do you remenbert that man with dogs that you had to get the police to remove at the Sat Eve Mass, Fr?
And the time you stopped Mass to sit quietly with the drug addict for 10 mins?
We get them, don't we, but not noprmally two in a week.
Feel for you, Fr.

leutgeb said...

That must be a big strain on you Father, as you are responsible for the Liturgy and the Church, but the fact that troubled people do go into Churches is a good thing.

Also the fact that access to Catholic Churches is so unhindered and free is a great attraction. I hate the way you always have to interact with someone when you go into an Anglican place. If I was more wacky that I already am, I might have an outburst, which is not to make light of your predicament.

Volpius Leonius said...

"I hate the way you always have to interact with someone when you go into an Anglican place. "

We have greeters at the Catholic Churches were I live so its not just an Anglican thing though it probably started with them and we just copied like we seem to do so much these days.

And yes I hate it to.

gemoftheocean said...

My parish is in the middle of a tourist area in San Diego. We also have our fair share of homeless and transients.

For the weekday Mass, have you tried intinction? I would be wary of potential disturbances during a daily Mass where the communion cup was offered, particularly if you don't have a regular usher(s) at that Mass.

For ushers make sure on Sunday there's at least one huge son-of-a-gun who looks like the sort of person who could rip a person limb from limb and not care what it "read like in the newspaper" the next day. The sort that could just look at someone and make them stop doing whatever it was they were doing.

We had one really scary-looking homeless fellow that used to regularly attend our 5:15 Sunday Mass for years off and on. I always got along well with him. He always received on the tongue (his hands were pretty dirty, but you could see he did try and make an effort.) He used to be very gentle, and I eventually learned his name, he'd hardly speak at all. Sometimes at Christmas I could get him to accept a new pair of sneakers (the ones he had were in very tattered condition) and a little space blanket. Often times I couldn't give him anything. He would panhandle in the area or look for cans, but he never hit people up for change right around the church. I personally always thought he was just as much a member of the parish as anyone else was. As long as he didn't create a disturbance during Mass he was more than welcome in my book.

He'd leave the area for a while and then return. I'm sad to say that apparently from reports I've recently heard he's turned loud and sometimes uncontrollable. He's been on the streets years, though he's had many offers of help. I get the impression he's had a run in or two with church staff, but I don't know if that pushed him over the edge in his behavior, or if he finally snapped and went over the edge behavior wise.

We do have quite an excellent St. Vincent de Paul center - one really good thing a previous bishop did, many cities send officials etc. to check and see how it's run as a model for other such centers, but all the same you can't always help those who won't be helped.

Moretben said...

The Christ I know chased the Money lenders out of His Fathers House and cursed a fig tree because it produced bad fruit.

Aha. I take it he also chased out sick people, and cursed them for their bad fruit? Do you understand that while it's perfectly correct to wish to prevent disturbances at Mass, treating mentally ill people with contempt and violence isn't acceptable in any circumstances? - - or that asserting divine sanction for such disgusting talk wouldn't earn you a richly deserved smack in the mouth from St John Chrysostom for, precisely, blasphemy?

Fr Ray Blake said...

What works best is for a small elderly lady to say, "Well dear you seem to be in a bit of a state ..., come and sit next to me..."
Violence and anger are not the way of Christ.

Volpius Leonius said...

Aha. I take it he also chased out sick people, and cursed them for their bad fruit? Do you understand that while it's perfectly correct to wish to prevent disturbances at Mass, treating mentally ill people with contempt and violence isn't acceptable in any circumstances?

Firstly this discussion is not about just mentally ill people, you or I cannot judge someone mentally ill, just because they happen to act inappropriately, this does not mean they must be mentally ill.

Secondly I suggest you get a job working in a psychiatric clinic, you will find that it is necessary to use either force or drugs to restrain the mentally ill for their OWN GOOD at times. It is not done out of contempt it is done to PROTECT them and others from harm.

Three, if you look at the history of the Church in this country you will eventually come across the existence of leper holes in the walls of old Churches, these are in place because people with certain kinds of sickness were not permitted in Church, so excluding sick people from Church is permitted if it for either their or the rest of the communities own good.

The money lenders in the temple were performing actions that Christ did not approve of in His Fathers house. If someone comes into church mentally ill or not (something you and I cannot possibly know by the way) and starts causing a disturbance then action should be taken, certainly there should first be verbal warnings, but if they take no heed then they should be forcibly removed.

Your false idea of mercy would leave God's house to be desecrated at will.

"Violence and anger are not the way of Christ."

This is not the teaching of the Church.

"Only the person who becomes irate without reason, sins. Whoever becomes irate for a just reason is not guilty. Because, if ire were lacking, the science of God would not progress, judgements would not be sound, and crimes would not be repressed.

Further, the person who does not become irate when he has cause to be, sins. For an unreasonable patience is the hotbed of many vices: it fosters negligence, and stimulates not only the wicked, but above all the good, to do wrong." (St. John Chrysostom, Homily XI super Matheum, 1c, nt.7)

"The Divine Master says: “But I say to you not to resist evil: but if one strike thee on thy right cheek, turn to him also the other” (Matt 5:39).

This precept, as noted by both St. Augustine (Ep. 138 ad Marcel, Migne, PL 33, 530) and St. Thomas (Summa Theologiae II,II, q. 40, a.1, ad 2), deals only with the interior disposition of the person who is offended. We should not take revenge, but suffer the offenses and be disposed to not defend ourselves from any aggression if there is nothing on our part, the aggressor’s part or that of the common good that demands that we act differently.

Indeed, when Christ stood before the high priest Annas, he did not offer the other cheek when one of the servants standing by slapped His Face (John 18:22-23). He also did not return the aggression, but simply defended Himself, so that no one could judge that He had lacked due respect for the high priest.

Many times the position of the one being offended requires that he defend himself from the aggression or that he have recourse to the authority to obtain due satisfaction for the unjust wrong made against him. Other times, public security demands that injustices be punished. Finally, the good of the aggressor himself sometimes requires that he be punished, as St. Augustine teaches us when he says: “We should act with beneficial rigour against recalcitrant persons, because he who loses the liberty to practice evil is more easily conquered for the good. Nothing is more unfortunate than the happiness of sinners, which allows them to do wrong with impunity and confirms them in their bad will” (Ep. 138 ad Marcel, Migne, PL, 33, 531). (Fr. Victor Cathrein, SJ, Christian Humility, Petrópolis: Vozes, 1925, p. 140)

Also see St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II, II, q. 158, art. 8)

Moretben said...

Thank you, Volpius, for personifying Reason No. 52,365 (and counting) for thanking God I'm Orthodox.

My wife is a psychiatric nurse, BTW.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Ben,
Happy Easter.

Moretben said...

Thank you, dear Father - et cum spiritu tuo. I kiss the glorious image at the head of your blog.

Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death,

And upon those in the tombs bestowing life!


He can harrow even the hell of TradWorld.

Volpius Leonius said...

"for thanking God I'm Orthodox."

St. John Chrysostom is I believe the most prominent Doctor in the Greek Church so I fail to see what this has to do with anything.

"My wife is a psychiatric nurse, BTW."

Perhaps then your wife can advise you of the restraining techniques they use as part of their jobs.

David said...

Volpius,

Please reconsider what you are saying. Thankfully you do not speak for the Catholic Church.

Hilary said...

Then there was the time, still sung about in the Oratory sagas of the time one of the local loonies brought a cat to Vespers.

He was a keen amateur liturgists and enjoyed Vespers but, apparently, always thought it could use a little jazzing up. Palestrina and Tallis were all very well, but...

He volunteered, of course, and always very hopefully brought along his guitar, thinking one day he might be asked to contribute a song or two.

I suppose he must have become tired of waiting because one Sunday Vespers, he opened his guitar case and out jumped a rather confused cat.

General mayhem ensued as a seminarian or two were dispatched to corner the unfortunate beast and escort his owner to the door. I understand it was one of the few times any Oratorian ever broke form at Vespers.

HJMW said...

I would also say that this is an excellent, perhaps even Providential, opportunity to cease offering the calix at Mass and to instruct parishioners on exactly how and why this Protestant practice had been mistakenly imposed on the Catholic Church in England. And to give full instructions on why it had never been the privilege of the faithful to receive it and the serious theological confusion, not to mention spiritual damage, that has become widespread among Catholics regarding the sacred species because of this practice. Also a good opportunity to teach on the Eucharist in general and to emphasise the dangers of handling the sacred species too casually, including this noxious practice of offering the chalice (a casualness only too well revealed by the strange novusordoist habit of referring to it as a "cup"), that leaves us all too vulnerable to accidental, and purposeful, acts of desecration.

A teaching moment indeed.

A valuable teaching moment.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Ben,

first: no point in discussing anything with the likes of Mr. Leonius, a man who seems to be interested only in his own version of the Faith and very keen to give others instructions in it but not at all interested in receiving any. Seen far too many of his kind in Tradworld to bother with.

second: I didn't know you had gone East. When did this development develop?

I still intend to come down to the Soft South at some point and take you up on the offer of tea and biscuits.

Volpius Leonius said...

"Please reconsider what you are saying. Thankfully you do not speak for the Catholic Church."

I assure you David what I am saying has been carefully considered for years. I did not claim to speak for the Catholic Church however I have shown by numerous examples I feel, how the ideas I am putting forth here are not incompatible with Catholicism, given that it is based on the opinions of the Saints, two of the greatest doctors of the Church no less how could it be?

Volpius Leonius said...

"first: no point in discussing anything with the likes of Mr. Leonius"

That is unfair, you cannot expect me to change by simply telling me to think again or treating me with hostility and contempt, you must give me reasons to think again, my current thought has been years in the making it is not going to change unless you can give me a good reason to change it.

"Seen far too many of his kind in Tradworld to bother with. "

Thank you for been so caring and compassionate sister.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Whatever do you mean? I'm hardly suggesting that anyone beat you up or curse you, after all.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

And I wouldn't dream of attempting to impose any personal advice on you about your spiritual life or the state of your soul. As I said, I'm not remotely interested in correcting you or changing your mind. It's not my place to attempt to do so, given that we've never even been introduced.

Volpius Leonius said...

I disagree, if you think that I am in error you have not only a right but a duty to correct me.

Moretben said...

Dear Hilary

I didn't know you had gone East. When did this development develop?

Over the course of the past twenty-five years. My head went definitely during the period of The Undercroft, but it took till February of this year for my heart to catch up (actually, I posted a message to your Picnic, via the Lady of the Green Kirtle). After a quarter century in the Limbus Tradorum, being Harrowed is quite an experience. Metanoia, they call it.

I'll keep the kettle on the hob - Salopians and Marshwiggles always welcome here.