Wednesday, February 02, 2011

One Bread, One Latte

Disturbing reports have reached us about church goers at local Catholic parishes bringing coffee with them to Mass. I could dismiss one such report as idle rumor or fanciful exaggeration, but when multiple sources are passing on the same information you know that something must be going on out there. While I have not personally witnessed such behavior myself--and I would hope that our parish padre would not tolerate it--I'm sadly not as surprised as I should be that it's going on.

There's been a long decline in the standards of decorum observed by those attending church over the years. Clothes are a big part of it. When once you actually put on your Sunday Best to show your respect for God, your church, and your fellow Christians, it's now common to for people to sport shorts, sweatpants, t-shirts, tennis shoes, flip flops and sports jerseys when visiting God's house. It's not as if most people can't afford to dress better. I would guess that most of them would never wear what they wear to church when going to work or out to a nice restaurant. They simply don't care enough to bother.

I'm not saying that you must don a three-piece-suit or dress every Sunday. But is it really that hard to throw on a nice sweater with decent jeans and non-athletic shoes? It certainly doesn't take much longer to attire yourself in that manner as compared to slipping on sweats and t-shirt. And having young children is not an excuse for slovenliness either. You know what time church starts. It's not that hard to leave enough to pick out something decent for yourself after getting the kids ready.

But while I most certainly don't approve of the Sunday sartorial slide, I realize that I'm fighting a losing battle and have reluctantly come to accept it. But coffee in church? During Mass? No way.

In the first place, it's a highly individualistic, selfish act in an environment that's supposed to be about communal worship of God. Church is the last place where one should bring an attitude like "gotta have my coffee you know." No, you don't gotta have your coffee. Is it possible that one measly hour of the week not be all about you and your need? You can have coffee before Mass and you can have coffee after Mass (often provided right there for you). It should not be too much of sacrifice for mature Christian adults to go without their precious bean for sixty minutes.

But far more importantly, for Catholics it's an open violation of church law. Who Can Receive Communion?:

Fourth, you must observe the Eucharistic fast. Canon law states, "One who is to receive the most Holy Eucharist is to abstain from any food or drink, with the exception only of water and medicine, for at least the period of one hour before Holy Communion" (CIC 919 §1). Elderly people, those who are ill, and their caretakers are excused from the Eucharistic fast (CIC 191 §3). Priests and deacons may not dispense one obligated by the Eucharistic fast unless the bishop has expressly granted such power to them (cf. CIC 89).

Now since I haven't observed people drinking coffee during Mass myself, I suppose it's possible that those doing so did not receive Holy Communion. But since it seems like just about everybody does partake of the body and blood of Christ these days, I would wager that the coffee klatch is too. Read the paragraph again. Not a lot of wiggle room there.

There's plenty of time in your life to get your caffeine fix. Is it too much to ask to leave the coffee at home and set aside an hour for a shot of God?

UPDATE: I'd love to hear from any one who favors coffee drinking during Mass. Because I'd like to know where you're willing to draw the line on this. If you can have a coffee at church, can I have a beer? How about a Bloody Mary? Maybe a steak sandwich? It may sound sacrilegious, but if you feel that you must satisfy your physical cravings during Mass, then why can't I sate mine as well?