The priest, in his homily last Sunday at the 6PM Catholic Mass at the Mt. Carmel Church in Quezon City, Philippines, mentioned that 80 percent of the 90 million Filipinos are Catholics. But, he said, 40 percent of these Catholics are nominal Catholics—or those who neglect to do a lot of things that Catholics should do. He gave examples of how one can be called a nominal Catholic, such as going to Mass or to church, for that matter, only on three occasions in one’s life—that is, during baptism, during a wedding, and during a funeral, or during one’s own funeral.
Get up and leave
After his homily, in the minutes before the Host was raised, I took note that about 15 people—young and old, some as a group or maybe as families—stood up to leave the ongoing Mass. Now those people were just from my side of the Church, I was sitting at the left of the altar. I don’t know how many people left from the other side, if anyone did.
I also don’t know if some other churchgoers took note the same way I did of those people leaving, because I was thinking whether they were walking out because of the priest’s homily, or did they have to go someplace else so they had to go out right away? But seeing how these people were in a hurry to get out, I surmised that they had to go some appointment or some place else where they couldn’t be late. Maybe they had jobs that Sunday night. But it would have been sad to know if they were hurrying to leave the ongoing Mass only because they had to attend some party or merry-making. After all, that Sunday, according to the same priest that Sunday, was the last day of the Christmas season (where Jesus was baptised by John). So that Sunday was still the time for gift-giving and maybe Christmas parties for the merry-makers, the priest said.
But then, I thought that if these people who were in a hurry knew that they had to go someplace else even before the Mass could end, why didn’t they have the initiative to go to Mass earlier in the day? That way, that they can still finish Mass and go unhurriedly to their appointments? Maybe they could have attended the 5PM Mass or even the 3PM or 4PM Mass. Almost all Catholic churches in the Philippines have almost hourly Masses on Sundays, in the morning and in the afternoon up to early evening.
I just feel sad when I see people leaving a Mass when it’s not yet over. I feel sad for them that they don’t seem to realize how wonderful a Mass is and how wonderful it is to be part of a Mass. And its even more wonderful, and even proper, to be in it the whole time--meaning, don't be late for a ridiculously long time or not at all, and don't leave early. After all, it’s only a hour in a week that a person is offering for the Lord. Of course, there are also Masses during the other days of the week. But many people don’t attend or can’t attend Masses in these other days. Sunday Mass is supposed to be where all Catholics should be, a hour or so, to join other churchgoers in celebration.
If some people will only make their stay in the Mass a stopover en route to their real destination after the Mass, or even before the Mass, then that’s a really regretful thing to happen.