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The Northern Cross - Apologetics and Catechesis
Father Richard Kunst: Mass is not a ball game, it’s where heaven and earth kiss
My first assignment as a newly minted priest was as associate pastor in a fairly large parish. I was there for two years before being made a pastor of three much smaller parishes. While I was in the large parish, I thought I had gotten to know the place and the people fairly well, but in reality I hadn’t. The parish was too big to get to know well in only two years.
Father Richard Kunst
Things changed when I moved into the three smaller parishes. I was only there for two years as well, but by the time I was moved again I knew every nook and cranny of the place. I knew exactly where every parishioner sat and when they were not there on Sundays, and I also knew if they were chewing gum in Mass. (In a smaller church you can see a lot of things from the pastor’s chair.) Since then, I have been in a couple of larger parishes for a much longer tenure, and even in these larger parishes the pastor gets to know and see a lot after several years. I pretty much know where all my parishioners sit, and I pretty much know when they are gone, and I try to observe if they are chewing gum.
If they are, I say something.
If I see a single person chewing gum in the entire church, I say this right before Communion: “Would those who are chewing gum please dispose of it before coming to Communion.”
At first, I got a few giggles, but now the gum chewing in my Masses has gone way down. I don’t have to say it as often, and when I don’t notice a particular gum chewer, either one of my parishioners sitting near them will say something to the person, or one of my flock will tell me about it after Mass.
The worst is at weddings and funerals. Pardon the expression, but looking out at the people in the pews during those times can be like looking at a herd of cows chewing their cud.
I have no sympathy for gum chewers at Mass. If I had it my way, the ushers would round them up with hot pokers and make them sit in our gathering space until it was time for the final blessing.
Now, I have to give some allowance for those who come to the Saturday night Mass and innocently forget they have gum in their mouths, but who chews gum at 8 a.m. or even 10:30 a.m. for that matter?
Mass is not a ball game, it’s where heaven and earth kiss, where time and eternity meet because the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings becomes present on the altar. What kind of manners are shown when people come into that setting chomping on gum as if they were at a picnic? Their parents ought to have some old-time Catholic educator slap them with a ruler for not having taught their children a basic understanding of manners or theology.
I say theology because of what the Eucharist is and what it means to consume the Eucharist when you are chewing gum.
Do we really know and appreciate that the Eucharist is truly the Second Person of the Trinity in all his divinity?
Do we know that our knees should be trembling as we walk in the Communion line at the thought of who will enter into our very selves?
Do we know these basic things that I often refer to as Catholic Theology 101?
If we are chewing gum in the midst of Mass, then the answer is no, we don’t know basic Catholic theology, or worse, we don’t care.
The thought of what happens when someone has gum in their mouth and then receives Christ in the Eucharist makes me shudder. And it is so common! There is a good chance that small particles of the host would get stuck in the gum, and then the common practice is not to swallow the gum (though they should) but to toss it in the garbage. It is mind boggling that so many people show so little respect for the Blessed Sacrament.
I encourage my brother priests to also take notice and say something when someone is doing this awful thing at Mass. If we don’t say it, who will? I also encourage those faithful who have a love for the Blessed Sacrament not to be afraid to say something when you see someone slobbering and making a fool of themselves in the midst of this most sacred time.
I might sound harsh in some of the words I am using to describe the gum chewing problem. Well, guess what! I am not going to apologize! The Eucharist is the source and summit of who we are as Catholics. For me personally, it is why I became a priest. I hope and pray that we grow in greater love and appreciation for this greatest gift God gave us. Don’t look like a cow with its cud at Mass!
Father Richard Kunst is pastor of St. John the Evangelist in Duluth and St. Joseph in Gnesen. Reach him at
Diocese of Duluth • 2830 E Fourth St • Duluth Minnesota 55812 • (218) 724- 9111
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