A dull moment? Or is it just lonely here?

Well, there seems to be a bit of a lull in ecclesiastical controversy for the moment, so I thought I would hijack a topic Pastor Mark raised over at his old manse to get your opinion (since I have more Catholic readers than he does).

Mark muses:

Now, I tread tentatively here, because lack of a sense of community can be a feature of congregational life in any denomination, but it does make me wonder if this [he lack of community life in Catholic parishes in the UK] is a feature of Roman Catholic culture, at least in Anglophone countries. The reason I say this is that when I began regular worship about 18 years ago it was largely in order to accompany my wife, who was then RC, to Mass. This I did for a couple of years in several parishes and experienced the same lack of community in each one that is highlighted in the story. I don’t mean to be unkind here, but I did get the impression that the goal of worshippers was to tick the “Mass attendance” box, thus avoiding the mortal sin of not attending Sunday worship, in the way which demanded the least effort whatsoever; so it was off to the typically half-hour Mass with the 4minute homily and out the door as quickly as possible.

Compared to this, the Anglican and Lutheran congregational life which we experienced after I started seeking a more permanent spiritual home seemed a veritable feast of worship and community experiences. I’m afraid the only thing I learned from this exposure to Catholic congregational life was how not to do church!

For what it is worth, here is my comment:

What you are possibly observing is the fact that after mass, just about everyone disappears, whereas in Protestant circles, people tend to hang around for the “third sacrament”, ie. coffee.

There might in fact be some cultural miscommunication here, since for the protestant this after service “fellowship” communicates “community”.

Catholic (and Orthodox) parishes do not (generally) have this after service time – although, it is slowly catching on here and there (in my own parish for example). And yet, for those who know what they are looking for and are sensitive to the different cultures, both Catholic and Orthodox have very strong communal networks.

Some history might help. Many of the Anglophone Catholics are Irish by origin. They come from a persecuted tradition where mass was something you said quickly and went home; showy processions and songs were not on, nor was lingering. Also, later, with the large numbers, many parishes had three or four masses every Sunday morning – so it was a matter of getting them in and out as quickly as possible.

So Catholic communal life tended to be through other channels than on Sunday morning over coffee after mass. There were all kinds of sodalities and societies to which members of the parish would belong, and through which they would form their social life. These still exist, although not in the same number or strength. St Vincent de Paul Society and Young Vinnies are an examples, as are the Knights of the Southern Cross, and the Australian Catholic Women’s League.

And of course, you can’t overlook the fact that most parishes are attached to schools, which are contexts of intense intra-parish fellowship during the week.

So don’t judge a book by its cover. Recognise that you are dealing with a culturally different fish when you come to a Catholic parish, with a different history and experience that has led them to where they are.

Sure, we can learn a bit from the Protestant “after service coffee”. It can be helpful.

But you know there is also a glorious liberty in being able to just go home after Mass, not having to spend an additional hour at church in chit chat, knowing that you will be making the use of many opportunities during the week for more vital engagement with the parish and the community it serves.

Mark reckons in return that he wasn’t just talking about the “third sacrament”. I will admit too that the general community life at my wife’s Lutheran parish (St Paul’s Box Hill) is way above anything I have experienced in the Catholic Church – but I admit also that it is way above anything I have experienced in any other Protestant Church either (all my previous Lutheran parishes included). And I do find a very rich community life in the Archdiocese in general, beyond the merely parochial. Anyway, I’m interested in your comments.

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37 responses to “A dull moment? Or is it just lonely here?

  1. Paul

    This was something that used to worry me many years ago in my youth. One reason I used to look forward Mass on Sunday was the somewhat practical aim of meeting girls. In the average parish, I had to react quickly or end up in an unseemly rush for the exit. No wonder there are so many mixed marriages: the Catholics are too fast out the door.

    One parish where I did find a sense of community was in an English speaking parish in Brussels. This was for two reasons, the fellow feeling of expatriates, and also cathectics for the children. Parents used to arrive for Mass while their children went to the Scripture class, then the adults socialised while their children were at Mass. This of course required people to run the classes and the children’s liturgy, but I thought it worked well and even Catholics could get used to the idea that Church on Sunday took 120 minutes instead of 55.

  2. Peregrinus

    Obviously, much depends on how we expect community to be manifested.

    Over on Acroamaticus, where David originally posted the comments he give above about Catholics not being so big on coffee afterwards, Mark in reponse said a little bit than just that he wasn’t thinking so much of coffee. He said:

    I was thinking about . . . a certain richness and depth to worship and congregational life that just wasn’t evident in the Catholic parishes I was familiar with.

    Now, this gave me pause for thought. My own parish has what i would consider a a richness to its worship. We have an excellent choir, an excellent (and professional) director of music, a pastor who takes good liturgy seriously and does it well, and a fairly long tradition of all these things.

    Yet I think of my parish as one that is a bit challenged when we consider community. And I didn’t immediately see the connection between rich worship, and community, in the sense raised by Mark.

    Then I recalled a story my pastor told me of someone from a Pentecostalist background who came to midnight Mass at our church. On an occasion like Christmas, you get a pretty impressive liturgy at my church, as you might expect. Yet this bloke, with his background, found it cold and distant. Where was the exuberant joy that should be mark the Nativity? He was looking for joy to be expressed in a Pentecostalist fashion, which is of course much nearer to current cultural norms for celebrating joy than is formal Catholic liturgy.

    Pentecostalist worship can be intensely emotional, and shared emotional experiences do of course build a particular sense of togetherness and community. Someone who expects that particular mode of building and experiencing community isn’t going to find it in a church which celebrates according to the Roman missal. We may as well be frank in facing up to that.

    This gives us all the more reason to find other ways to build community, which we are not always good at. I think David has a point when he mentions the Irishness of English-speaking Catholicism. Political conditions and material poverty aside, there’s another reason why the (Irish ) Catholic parish may not be terribly good at doing this in a structured way. When I was growing up in Ireland in the 1960s and 1970s, in most of Ireland the parish community and the community were more or less the same thing. About 90% of the people in the community were Catholics so formal “church things” like prayer and worship aside, most of what the Catholic community did as a community was not identifiably a “Catholic thing”.

    In the US they have a concept of “church ladies”; stalwarts of the community who volunteer in op shops, who visit their sick neighbours, who turn up on the doorstep with a prepared mean when there’s been a death in the family, etc, etc. It’s Eucharistic community at the coalface, so to speak. In Ireland we had people (all right, mostly women) who served others in exactly the same way and, yes, they went to church, but so did everybody, and we didn’t think of this form of service as a ministry of the Christian or Catholic community; it was just what people did for one another in the neighbourhood.

    In the Catholic idea of community, everyone’s a Catholic. Although that premise isn’t actually true in the real world, it was – at least formally – pretty close to true in Ireland, and in Irish-influenced countries to some extent we still conduct ourselves as though it were true. The result is that much community life is not explicitly associated with the parish. That doesn’t mean there’s no community life, though.

  3. Thanks for picking this up and transporting it here, David. I’ll read the comments with interest and maybe throw the occasional one in myself. RCs please understand, this is not intended to be a bit of ‘Catholic-bashing’; rather, the original article and my early experiences with the RC church prompted the response, ‘Yes, now why is it so?’

  4. Matthias

    I did feel sorry for that anglican turned Catholic back to Anglican priest. I wonder what the outcoe might have been if he had been in one of the Eastern Rite Catholic churches .

    • Peregrinus

      Possibly worse, since they have an ethnic/community/cultural dimension within which he would certainly have been something of an outsider.

      My initial reaction was that he needed to find a better parish (which is in fact what I did when I found myself in a parish where nobody spoke to me).

      I confess that it also occurred to me that his simultaneous transition from cleric to just a bloke in the pews would in any event have moved him some distance from the central involvement in the life of the parish that he would previously have had. This may have exacerbated his experience.

  5. It depends on the parish. I have very happy memories of two parishes (one OF, one EF) where after the glories of the Mass, the people came together and had a good gathering together afterward. But other parishes, where I felt quite alienated from the liturgy (which to me is the central concern), tho’ there was a gathering of parishioners afterward, I felt so excluded by the altar shenanigans that I fled instead.

  6. Matthias

    Although peregrinus you might be right in your comments in one area, regarding the ethnocultural aspects of EASTERN RITE churches as a whole ,yet it may be that one of these churches might prove the exception rather than the rule.
    I experienced a sense of community when i attended a RCC church in a country town and was made to feel very much a part of the community ,and yet i have visited a Lutheran Church and only two people greeted me after the service -the pastor and a former colleague

  7. Christine

    Actually, I agree with David’s assessment that it can be refreshing to just be able to leave after liturgy and not have to hang around for social events. That was never my prime reason when I was Catholic.

    My problem in the RC became what was happening WITHIN the Mass.

    I still attend Mass from time to time when something is going on with the Catholic half of the family (I don’t, of course, receive Communion). It seems so different now. Last time I was there the poor organist/cantor sat down to begin the liturgy and as he usually does, said “Good afternoon” to the people. As usual, he was totally ignored.

    The lack of participation in singing also makes me feel very sorry for the cantor, who for the most part is engaging in a solo endeavor.

    It seems to me that the “Irish” factor doesn’t hold up in the typical suburban American parish. The nationalities range from A to Z. I also find it very sad to see how people begin to pack up and leave before the first stanza of the final hymn even begins. But then, most Catholic music directors understand that two stanzas is pretty much all that many Catholics will tolerate. And there’s still the contingent that is out the door right after receiving Communion.

    I didn’t feel like I was worshipping with the people around me but as an isolated individual. It’s unnerving to watch people stand and gaze around the pews until it’s time to receive Communion and then, that’s it.

    I’m very well aware that in Catholic theology the Eucharist is at the center of Catholic worship and it’s basis for unity. Still, for a Christian body that places so much emphasis on community, unity and the “fullness of the faith”, in too many parishes it doesn’t show.

    Most of the people I knew who attended Eastern Rite parishes did so in order to avoid the altar girls that are so prominent in Catholic parishes and to try to recover a sense of the numinous which also seems to be missing in the Roman Rite.

    Christine

  8. Regarding Peregrinus’ first post. I understand the same thing is typical in Russia and Greece…no coffee hour, no getting together after the service, being Orthodox in the neighborhood rather than in the parish. Although I understand some are considering adopting the accretion of the EIGHTH sacrament (for those counting them ALL) of coffee hour! 😉

    I don’t know that anyone can say Catholics are worse than Presbyterians at this…it depends on the parish. My dad’s RCC parish is so loving toward him…and he is very old and deaf and could not even participate in any conversation at the coffee pot…if they even had it.

    In Orthodoxy we are taught to strive for kenosis or that state of self emptying. If one strives for that I suspect they wouldn’t even notice they were lonely. It would seem this parish could have been a good place for the Anglican priest to have been working out his salvation with fear and trembling.

  9. matthias

    Interestingly Calvin-theTULIPman- would shut the doors of his church in Geneva after the service had ended,as he wanted his people to be out in the world to carry on living the Gospel.

    • Gareth

      I didn’t know the unholy tyrant of Geneva even dictated when his flock could enter or leave the church.

      :’)

  10. The reason I’m a member of the Disiples of Jesus community is because parish life doesn’t “cut it.”

    Our parish here is pretty good, but I’ve not always lived here.

    Also, if you’re pretty serious about the Faith and want some support in living it out, it’s not helpful to be apparently surrounded by people who seem to be just going through the motions and who wonder why you take “religion” so seriously.

    That’s happening less now, b/c the people who still bother coming to Mass regularly almost by definition take it seriously – most of the others have left.

  11. More food for thought: in those two or three years I attended RC churches with my wife, no-one asked me to join RCIA or followed up on who I was, why I didn’t go to communion, etc.

    Contrast that with our first visit to a Lutheran parish, where, because we signed the visitors book, the pastor sent us a note in the post that week thanking us for joining them for worship and indicating that if we didn’t have a ‘church home’ we would be most welcome there. After our second visit he came around to our home and discussed our situation vis a vis church membership, communion, etc – no pressure, just helpful.

    Anglicans also were very hospitable to us when we visited them – but I soon realised the doctrinal malaise of the Angican Church would be a problem; perhaps I would have joined an orthodox parish and turned a blind eye to larger goings-on, but after we discovered the Lutheran Church that was no longer an option we needed to consider.

    Regarding the richness of worship – first impressions of Lutheran Divine Service – chanted liturgy (not essential, but impressive), and the congregation sings the responses, traditional and contemporary hymns/songs, different musical settings of the liturgy, a sermon that goes for more than 5 minutes and that takes the Bible seriously and explains and applies it rather than discussing politics, giving a film review, exhorting to good works without saying why, etc.; impression of a body worshipping as one.

  12. Chris S

    I wonder if one factor contributing to the apparent increased community spirit found in Protestant traditions is that Catholicism requires Sunday attendance at Mass under pain of serious sin whereas (as I understand it) most Protestant traditions do not (though it is strongly encouraged).

    Thus, many ‘luke-warm’ Catholics will still attend Mass but with a ‘get it out of the way’ mentality – those Catholics that are more interested in making the church the centre of their lives may only form a small minority in the congregation – that is not conducive to building up a community spirit within the congregation.

    By contrast, ‘luke-warm’ Protestants may not attend church regularly at all with the result that those Protestants wishing to make the church the centre of their lives forms a clear majority of the congregation – thus aiding the process of building up a strong community spirit.

  13. An Liaig

    I think there is a fundamental difference here in our understanding of church community and unity. In the Catholic understanding the gathering of the community is achieved through the liturgy and the unity of the body is achieved through participation in the sacrifice being offered: it is God’s work and expressions of human community are only incidental to this. That is not to say that they are unimportant, and many parishes could certainly do beteer in this area, but they are not central. It is the worship of God that is central. It seems to me, as a cradle catholic, that the protestabt church services I have attended often lack this idea of the centrality of worship. The emphasis seems to be more lateral than vertical. The service seems to be seen as something that we do for God not something that God has done, is doing and will do for us. I don’t think it is just culture at play here. I think this maybe a case of theology informing culture.

  14. An Liaig,

    You may not know it, but you are almost giving perfect expression to the basic Lutheran theology of worship – it’s all about what God is doing!
    I don’t think anyone is questioning that, and I’m certainly not advocating a purely anthropocentric evaluation of worship – that would be as foreign to Lutherans as I presume it would be to Catholics. Rather, I was wondering what might be done better on the part of the receivers of the work of God to actuate the grace they receive in worship in their community/congregational life. It seems to me that people who live solely from the grace of God would be ‘graceful’ people in all dimensions of their life together – and if not, why not? That’s the question I’m trying to expolore, especially as I experienced it in my encounters with Catholic parish life (and granting that the lack of grace can be a feature of a congregation of any denomination).

  15. An Liaig

    I think that Catholics would see the grace of community as a fruit rather than a condition of worship and, as such, it is best expressed in the wider world. The Catholic community life is rich and broad but it is expressed in many different ways outside of worship. As the wanderer noted, this is based on the idea of a community where nearly everyone is Catholic and there is no sharp boundary between the sacred and the secular in community life. This is a core idea of parish life and it may well be that in a scattered, pluralistic society it no longer works. Certainly many have suggested this. I’m not so sure. I think it may be the structures of the scattered, pluralistic society that are broken, not those of the Church.

    • That is probably true, however, because of this reality, it’s pretty hard for the average pew-warmer to find the practical support he needs to resist worldliness.

      No man is an island.

    • An Liaig,

      I totally agree, the grace of community is a fruit rather than a condition of worship – again this resonates strongly with my Lutheran theology.

      In regard to community structures being broken and this reflecting back on the poverty of Catholic congregational life, is not the church called to model Christian community to the world? I’m sure if I had time to delve around some of the documents of Vatican II, or the writings of some post-conciliar theologians, I could find such thoughts expressed and often linked back to the Trinitarian life and the self-giving of God.

      Now, as a pastor, I know the means of grace – the Word and sacraments – are efficacious; so if I serve a congregation that is not ‘graceful’, I am going to ask, Are they resisting the Spirit, that his fruts are not mroe evident in congregational life?

      • An Liaig

        Grace is not always evident and what is evident as grace often isn’t.

        • That can be true…which is why I phrased it as a question, not an indicative statement…but then we must also remember our Lord’s frequent exhortations to bear fruit (“a tree is known by its fruit”), Paul’s exhortation in Galatians to live by the Spirit, put to death the works of the flesh and produce fruit in keeping with repentance, and what was said of the early Christians, “See how they love one another.”

  16. Kyle

    In the parishes I visit, there is always cake and tea after the morning Mass. But I think it sends the wrong message. As a result, people come to Mass to catch up with friends and gossip. They get a tea and stand around gassing, walking around the church and interrupting people who seriously want to pray. It ends up a distraction for people who are there to commune with God. There are other, better ways to promote a sense of community: youth groups, committees, fete groups, local charities and prayer groups.

    • Peregrinus

      Sunday is probably not a good day to go to church for private prayer, since Sunday morning has, from very early on, been the day when the Christian community has gathered for communal worship. And since, we all would agree, a church that gathers only for worship is only half a church, we should expect than when the community gathers they will engage in more than just worship. Eucharist should permeate every aspect of our lives as a community; that certainly extends to buildng human relationships.

      • Kyle

        ‘Sunday is probably not a good day to go to church for private prayer, since Sunday morning has, from very early on, been the day when the Christian community has gathered for communal worship. And since, we all would agree, a church that gathers only for worship is only half a church, we should expect than when the community gathers they will engage in more than just worship.’

        Are you seriously saying that people should not pray after Mass? For many people, this might very well be the only time they have an opportunity they have for private prayer and given that it is a church after all and given that they have just received the Eucharist, surely it is the most suitable time and place for private prayer? Remember, Mass is not just a communal gathering; it is the supreme form of worship we have. It is where we see the same sacrifice of Christ’s death on the cross and we receive God.

        Anyway, I am not denying the importance of community. In churches which have a large narthex, then there is no problem in having morning tea. But when people walk up and down the pews, walk around the tabernacle and hold loud conversations where people are praying, it is really selfish. (And I hardly think that morning tea makes up the other half of a church.)

        • Peregrinus

          I’m certainly not saying people shouldn’t pray after mass. I’m saying that if people are looking for peace, quiet and solitude to pray in, a parish church on a Sunday morning is not a good place to look.

          I don’t see why you suggest that after receiving the Eucharist is an especially good time for private prayer, given that is is an essentially communal act. That’s why we normatively receive it in a very communal liturgy.

          I can of course understand that people would also desire to engage in private prayer but, if they want silence and solitude for that, why not follow the gospel injuction to withdraw to their rooms, rather than look for it in a building whose primary purpose – as the word ecclesia betrays – is the assembly of the people?

          • Just to clarify, Lutherans would not hold the ‘coffee and cake hour; in the church – but outside or in the hall – and I’m also talking about much more than kaffee und kuchen when I talk about community!

            Also, I think it was Joshua who said Orthodox don’t have a coffee hour – my understanding, and occasional experience, is that the trapeza or communal meal is quite an important custom in the Russian church – granted, not every Sunday, but quite frequently, on feast days and when the bishop visits.

            • Peregrinus

              Catholics wouldn’t typically serve coffee in the nave either; it would be outdoors, or in a separate space – a narthex, a church hall, something like that.

              But, ironically, I think the phenomenon that bothers Kyle arises at least in part because Catholic parishes mostly don’t do the coffee thing at all. If there was an established social “ritual” after the liturgical ritual, then people would proceed to the appropriate ritual space. It’s because there is no ritual that the socialising happens where it happens, which is where people are when the liturgical ritual ends, which is in the nave.

              At the dismissal, there’s a definite sense of completion and release. As people move towards the doors, they meet friends or acquaintances also moving towards the doors, and greet them. They will pause to chat. Children who have been (more or less) quiet during the liturgy, usually at a cost of some efforts towards self-control, sense the release, and they socialise in the somewhat more exuberant ways that children have. In most urban parishes, the crowd going out from one mass meets the crowd coming in for the next, leading to more social interactions. These take place in the aisles of the church, in the porches and lobbies and, weather permitting, in the open spaces surrounding the church. And so it goes.

              Another irony is that this happens less in moribund parishes. Higher up in this thread I mentioned that at one time I gave up on a parish where nobody spoke to me, and found another. In that parish, Kyle would have found all the quiet and stillness after mass that he could want. But it was the silence of the grave.

  17. Kyle

    ‘I don’t see why you suggest that after receiving the Eucharist is an especially good time for private prayer, given that is is an essentially communal act. That’s why we normatively receive it in a very communal liturgy.’

    Granted. Receiving the Eucharist is a communal act. There is no denying that. St. Paul goes into great depth to explain that. But I don’t see why communal necessarily means that quiet and solitude are out of the picture. One of my friends is a member of a religious society whose canons require that she spend fifteen minutes in silent reflection after Mass. I can’t think of any better sign of their unity than sitting in prayer with a shared faith and having received the same Eucharist.

    When I have received Jesus, in flesh and blood, spirit and divinity, I hardly think that the next hour is best spent in gassing about the week. This is the time I closest to God and I need to reflect on this fact. And I feel when people sit and pray together after Mass and reflect on the fact that they have received the Eucharist together, this is much a better witness of community.

    • Peregrinus

      People who celebrate the Eucharist together have just spent an hour in shared prayer. There’s certainly nothing wrong with wanting to spend still more time together in what we might call shared private prayer, but equally there’s nothing mandatory about it, or nothing which gives it priority over other modes of Eucharistic living. I don’t think that quiet and solitude are “out of the picture”, but I don’t see that they pre-empt everything else. Even in purely practical terms, if you look for quiet and solitude in a space which several hundred people are leaving and several hundred other people are entering, I think you have to be realistic in your expectations.

      Quiet and solitude for Eucharistic contemplation and adoration are pretty much what Eucharistic chapels were invented for. Perhaps more parish churches should have them.

      • Gareth

        I once read that the ten minutes after receiving Holy Communion (in a state of grace) is the time when we should be closest to God because that is when He literally dwells within our souls.

        All the good saints have taught that.

        Someone once said that in the ten minutes after communion is the time when we should have our closest conversation with God and compared it to talking to God face to face as opposed to to talking to him over the phone.

        Like Kyle said, we are given so much time in life to do worldy things, surely these precious two or five minutes can be given over to something sacred

        • Good points, all, but not necessarily practical for people with little children!

          At any rate, in our parish, the tea and coffee is served out in the foyer and since the doors into the Church are shut, there should be no problem for others to sit in relative quiet.

          Best of both worlds as far as I can tell.

          • Gareth

            Last time I was at your parish Louise, it took me some time to figure out where the tabernacle/Blessed Sacrament was and if my memory serves me correct there are no kneelers in the pews – gives new meaning to the term ‘penance’ when one is expected to kneel on the bare floor.

            Me thinks it is in some need of some traditional action

            • Nothing a bomb wouldn’t fix! (after the removal of the Blessed Sacrament, of course).

              I was certainly not trying to imply that the church design is anything to aspire to.

              The floor is *carpeted* though, Gareth!

              The biggest problem with not having kneelers is that shrimps like me can barely see over the seats.

              Anyway, I have great plans for the church – more stained glass window, more marble, more sandstone, etc.

              But you have to start small, so we bought beautiful rose vestments, since there were none before. St Bede’s Studio made them and I can hardly wait to see Father in them!

        • Peregrinus

          I don’t know where you “once read” that, Gareth, but you should dismiss it immediately. I very much doubt that “all the good saints have taught that”. It is simply not the case that “God literally dwells within our souls” for the ten minutes or so after receiving communion in a way that he does not outside that timeframe. The Eucharist does not “wear off” the soul. Participation in the Eucharist seeks radical transformation, not basking in the moment.

          After receiving communion may well be a very apt time for prayer, but that is because of your disposition, not God’s.

          • Gareth

            Actually Peregrinus,

            As in most cases – you are wrong again.

            I am not entirely sure why you continue to challenge people’s assertions when you have not a proper knowledge of the subject???

            Every good Catholic knows that the ten minutes after receiving Holy Communion are the ten minutes most important to God.

            It is when we talk to God face to face

            I have direct quotes from St Josemaria, St George Preca and Mother Teresa on the subject.

  18. Thanks all for your comments.
    If it’s OK I may cut and paste some of those which were more germane to my subject over to my blog where the original post appeared with a concluding comment from myself.

  19. Gareth

    Found on my old friend Wikipedia:

    Practice of saints:

    St. Teresa of Ávila urged her daughters not to rush out after Mass but to treasure the opportunity for thanksgiving:” Let us detain ourselves lovingly with Jesus,” she said, “and not waste the hour that follows Communion.”

    St. Francis de Sales compared the care in carrying the body of Jesus with the care of merchants during his time of walking with extreme care so as not to “stumble and break their costly wares. In like manner should the Christian, when he carries the priceless treasure of Our Lord’s Body, walk with great care and circumspection in order not to lose the costly gift committed to his keeping?”

    Once Saint Philip Neri noticed that a parishioner usually left the church immediately after receiving Holy Communion. To correct him, he told two acolytes to accompany the man with lighted candles as he walked home. The people in the streets stared in surprise. When the man returned to St. Philip to ask why, St. Philip replied, “We have to pay proper respect to Our Lord, Whom you are carrying away with you. Since you neglect to adore Him, I sent two acolytes to take your place.” Realizing his fault, the man knelt and made proper thanksgiving after Holy Communion.

    St. Alphonsus said, “There is no prayer more agreeable to God, or more profitable to the soul, than that which is made during the thanksgiving after Communion. It is the opinion of many grave writers (Suarez, Cajetan, Valentia, De Lugo, and others), that the Holy Communion, so long as the sacramental species lasts, constantly produces greater and greater graces in the soul, provided the soul is then constant in disposing itself by new acts of virtue. Father Balthasar Alvarez used to say, that we should set great value on the time after Communion, imagining that we hear from the lips of Jesus Christ himself the words that he addressed to his disciples: But you do not have me always with you.”

    St. Magdalena de Pazzi said, “The minutes that follow Communion are the most precious we have in our lives.”

    St. Louis de Montfort wrote, “I would not give up this hour of Thanksgiving even for an hour of Paradise.”

    St. Alphonsus Liguori: There is no prayer more agreeable to God, or more profitable to the soul, than that which is made during the thanksgiving after CommunionSt. Josemaria Escriva preached: “If we love Christ, who offers Himself for us, we will feel compelled to find a few minutes after Mass for an intimate personal thanksgiving, which will prolong in the silence of our hearts that other thanksgiving which is the Eucharist.” In his short homily In Love with the Church, St. Josemaría says, “We give thanks to God our Lord for the wonderful way He has given Himself up for us. Imagine, the Word made flesh has come to us as our food! …Inside us, inside our littleness, lies the Creator of heaven and earth!”

    St. Faustina Kowalska said that she received a private revelation from Jesus who told her: “My great delight is to unite myself with souls…When I come to a human heart in communion, my hands are filled with graces which I want to give to souls. But souls do not pay attention to me: they leave me to myself and busy themselves with other things. They do not recognize love. They treat me as a dead object.”

    St. Padre Pio, canonized June 16, 2002, wrote:

    When Mass was over I remained with Jesus in thanksgiving. Oh how sweet was the colloquy with paradise that morning! It was such that, although I want to tell you all about it, I cannot. … The heart of Jesus and my own — allow me to use the expression — were fused. No longer were two hearts beating but only one. My own heart had disappeared, as a drop of water is lost in the ocean. Jesus was its paradise, its king. My joy was so intense and deep that I could bear it no more and tears of happiness poured down my cheeks.
    Padre Pio, who asked God to become a victim for poor sinners and souls in purgatory, received the marks of the stigmata, believed to be the wounds of Christ, while he was praying before a crucifix and making his thanksgiving after Mass.