Ouch! The comments above are just a sampling of the letters and emails I received.
Q. In one of your recent columns, a Kentucky reader expressed an opinion about people who leave Mass right after receiving Communion. You said that when that happens, it bothers you, too. I will tell you about some people I know who leave Mass early.
One is an emergency department nurse who works every Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. So she leaves Mass at 6:45 a.m. on Sundays (right after Communion) to make it in time for her 12-hour shift. Another is a caregiver for a patient with dementia who becomes agitated if the caregiver is away for more than a short period of time.
Yes, the ideal is to remain in church to thank the Lord, but I would ask the letter writer to pray for those who leave; you don't know their reasons. (Spotsylvania, Virginia)
Q. For the first time in a long time, I disagree with your answer. You should have told the questioner to keep the focus on the Lord and stop policing and grading others. I asked my uncle, a priest, about people who leave Mass early; he said that he is just grateful that they came in the first place. (City of origin withheld)
Q. It might be worthwhile asking why a parishioner might leave Mass early. I can tell you that I left early once following the seventh request for funds at a single Mass. (The last appeal was for the "change in our pockets" to offset the cost of altar flowers.)
Another time, on Mother's Day, I left at the 90-minute mark of a Mass centered around a 45-minute homily -- a homily with more wind than wisdom -- while trying to mind my two small children who had behaved heroically for all that time. I was not turning my back on Jesus; I was taking him with me. (Arlington, Virginia)
Q. We used to attend a parish where the priest regularly called out those who left early. It was one of several reasons for our leaving that parish for a different one. And truthfully, had our faith not been as strong, we may have left for a non-Catholic church where rigor was not the focus. (southern Indiana)
Q. Some folks are just uncomfortable engaging others in conversation -- at church or anywhere else -- and staying until the end could force them to do so. Others may have a medical reason for avoiding much contact.
Rather than castigating someone, even just in one's own mind, why not pray for the person instead? One doesn't always know the burden someone else might be carrying. (Indianapolis)
Q. I read your column regularly and normally appreciate your clear and commonsense answers. But the response about "leaving right after Communion" was disappointing. Both the question and your answer seem to be guilty of judging others.
My suggestion to the communicant distracted by this is to sit closer to the front of church or to cover her eyes while praying so as not to notice those who are leaving. Maybe they have small children at home or are on their way to work or to visit the sick. (Atlanta)
A. Ouch! The comments above are just a sampling of the letters and emails I received. (I suppose I should be grateful that so many people took the time to read the column.) I stand corrected. I should have mentioned that there might be a legitimate reason for someone's leaving Mass early.
Maybe it's the cynic in me, though, who believes that such situations are in the vast minority; most of those who leave right after Communion, I still think, just want to get their car out of the parking lot before the crowd.
Father Kenneth Doyle is a columnist for Catholic News Service