Hey, Father! What can you say about people who leave Mass after the final blessing, but before the priest processes down the aisle and into the vestibule?
Phil in Maryville
On one level, the Mass has technically ended. So, on one level, it is good that people are at least waiting for the final blessing to be over. It is better than leaving even earlier. With that being said, the priest processing out and everyone singing the recessional hymn is part of the Mass, at least in a loose and practical sense.
I guess the question is: What is the reason people are leaving at that point? Are they really in that much of a hurry? If someone is legitimately in a hurry, then I think it is fine. I am thinking particularly of someone attending a daily Mass but having work shortly after. That seems to be a good reason. However, if someone simply just wants to leave earlier for the sake of being done earlier, to get out of the parking lot earlier, to go eat, etc., then I don’t think that is a good reason.
As Catholics, we try to be united to each other during the Mass. It sort of kills the familial or unitive spirit to rush out of Mass. As Catholics, we are part of a family. There hopefully is some sort of interaction with our fellow Catholics. Even apart from the socializing, when people leave something early, one gets the impression that the person has something better to do or doesn’t want to be there. On a practical note, is there honestly that much time being saved by leaving before the priest processes out?
Another relevant point: Many, if not most of us receive the Eucharist. We truly receive His entire person into our body and soul. Not just His body and blood, but also His soul and divinity. Nothing is more remarkable than that. The grace we receive can forever change us. However, there is a particular window of time where Jesus is fully present to us in the Eucharist. Once the Eucharist becomes digested enough, Jesus is not fully present to us in the Eucharist, although He and His grace do still remain in our souls. For that reason, it is important we are really focused on praying and staying with Jesus after receiving Him in the Eucharist. There isn’t an exact amount of time we can say Jesus remains intact in our bodies, but many recommend 10 to 15 minutes. St. Josemaria Escriva said, “Surely you have nothing so important that you cannot give Our Lord 10 minutes to say thanks. Love is repaid with love.”
To put it simply, we should wait until the priest processes out, pray a prayer of thanksgiving for at least a couple of minutes, then leave the church and socialize with others.
Father Michael Trummer is parochial vicar at Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Thomas the Apostle in Decatur and chaplain at St. Teresa High School and associate chaplain at Millikin University.