Attending Holy Mass on Sundays in the Philippines has changed slowly but significantly since my childhood days.
I remember when I was a child, my parents would gather us five children, make us wear appropriate Sunday clothes, and take us to Church first thing in the morning, every single Sunday. Whatever activities we had in mind, like going to our favorite restaurant, attending our classmates' birthday parties, or eating ice cream at home, would only come after the mass.
I was often told by my parents to stop fidgeting and fixing my dress during mass, and to learn the mass songs by heart. They did not allow us to act up a storm at church, no matter how much we wanted to buy balloons or cotton candy from the vendors waiting outside.
That was when we lived in a small city within a province. When we moved to Manila, we were shocked that masses were held inside shopping malls, children ran around the church throughout the Eucharistic celebration, and mass-goers wore anything from spaghetti-strapped tops to micro mini skirts.
I am not generalizing, in fact I have attended the most solemn masses in churches and communities within Metro Manila. I am just thinking of ways how we could get our parishioners to participate more actively during mass in this day and age.
Some people are in the habit of coming in late, and I know there are legitimate reasons for that, especially for big families, but some latecomers also choose to sit at the front pews, thus distracting the rest of the congregation and disrupting the solemnity of the mass. I sit there thinking of how to share with them what we celebrate during mass, and who is in front - not the priest, but our Lord Jesus - but I know that is too self-righteous and holier-than-thou of me. I pray that at the right time people would re-learn to genuflect when they enter the church, and to offer their hearts in gratitude and reverence to the Lord. I cannot sit there and judge what is going on in people's hearts anyway. But I wish they would show it with more zeal and passion.
Come offertory time, people who are seated in front do not even attempt to get the collection baskets, even if in our parish we do not have a ministry assigned to do this specifically, in order to encourage participation among the people. If the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, I hope that we as his disciples and followers could imitate him.
We need to get our act together as we are a young parish. We need to build the proper structures for all our ministries, and I do pray that the obstacles that hinder this would all disappear soon. We need to set the tone during Charismatic Mass by preparing the choirs to lead the time of worship through music, and I have volunteered to help in this area. We need to prepare the lyrics so that everyone can sing. The parish pastoral council is doing a lot of marvelous work, and I am not complaining.
I pray that in our parish, we would all learn to pray together as a community, and to please God who deserves all our love and service.