September 5, 2008

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

A few anecdotes about disruptions at holy Mass

Shirley Vogler MeisterHow well I remember a parish Mass years ago when I could not stop coughing!

I don’t recall what time of year it was, but know that the weather was good because I had walked to church. I also took cough medicine that morning so I was irked that it wasn’t working.

To spare others, I left the Mass in progress and walked slowly around the perimeter of the church a couple times, hoping the coughing would cease. Finally, I returned home, coughing every step of the way and long thereafter.

I was concerned because years before that I had experienced something similar. It turned out to be histoplasmosis, a respiratory problem.

My doctor believed that I had been infected by using contaminated potting soil when gardening indoors that winter. (I used fluorescent growth “lights” to simulate sunshine.)

Some years later, a second super-annoying cough was caused by weak breathing muscles (the diaphragm), a result of a neuromuscular problem known as myasthenia gravis.

This came as a shock because I had been in remission for years, and didn’t realize it could return. (My breathing had not been affected the first time around with myasthenia gravis.)

Coughing, sneezing, hiccups and similar aggravations can disrupt Mass for oneself and for others. When one of these continues for very long, it behooves us to step into a vestibule in order to be considerate of others. This suggestion also applies to lengthy disruptions by babies or children. Leaving temporarily is the courteous thing to do.

There is another distraction in church that once aggravated me, but I got over it after realizing I was being judgmental. What was that? Repeated yawning!

I often cringed when others yawned repeatedly, wondering what the dear priest must think when viewing this, especially during a sermon. However, I stopped judging others when on Sunday morning I realized that I was the one yawning.

My excuse was sleeping poorly the night before. This happened long ago when a former doctor prescribed a certain medication before bedtime. When taken off that prescription by another doctor, I was again alert and productive during the day.

My point to others here is: Please try not to be judgmental because that can backfire on us. Fortunately, I learned these lessons years ago. Now when someone yawns at Mass, I ask God’s blessings on that tired soul. Perhaps he or she worked a night shift or was up for hours with a crying child or unfortunately suffers from insomnia. They are to be commended for not missing Mass.

Even if someone has no good reason for yawning, it is not up to us to show righteous indignation. Only God can discern what is deeply within our hearts and souls. Only God can judge us fairly.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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