By Anthony Barich
Rockingham parish priest Fr Michael Separovich has confronted head on the issue of parishioners who turn up late to Mass and leave straight after Holy Communion.
Fr Separovich, who took over at Our Lady of Lourdes parish in
Rockingham after Fr Finbarr Walsh retired, issued a lengthy statement
in the parish’s The Star bulletin on April 20 emphasising exactly when
the liturgical celebration begins and ends.
He is appalled that some parishioners even arrive at Mass during the
Offertory, saying that the “adopted formula of ‘come in late and leave
early, or come in early and leave early’ is neither the desired
attitude nor praxis to have in one’s mind and heart when it concerns
our Lord’s invitation to partake in His most sacred and intimate meal”.
Fr Separovich, parish priest since last year, stressed at the outset of
his message that what he shared came from “priestly duty, ie to inform
and to instruct the faithful with due necessity”.
“It is neither my intent to personally offend nor single out any one
person or group of people,” he said, then spelled out the fact that the
sacred liturgical celebration begins with the Sign of the Cross after
the Gathering Song and ends with the Prayer after Communion, with the
bidding prayers and blessing given by the presiding priest.
“To avoid abuse or disrespect of the celebration of the Eucharist, the
Church has given us the official ‘goalposts’ in regards to where Mass
begins and concludes. We have neither the licence nor the authority
to change these ‘posts’ in order to suit personal beliefs or to
accommodate our other great desired plans on the Lord’s Day.”
He said attending Mass fully is part of fulfilling God’s command and
our obligation to “keep holy the Sabbath” and that of Christ’s command,
“Do this in memory of me.”
He added decisively that a Catholic does not fulfill their obligation
of attending Mass if “an individual engages in the poor practices
“In truth, one must say ‘I have not attended the Eucharist, the Mass,
in its fullness. I have put other things before God’,” he said.
Fr Separovich acknowledged legitimate calls for absence like sudden
illness, “aged related issues” or full nappies; and parents’
difficulties getting toddlers bathed, fed, “booted and spurred” in
preparation of going anywhere, but “it is not always these young
parents or youth who are falling into these poor habits”.
“As we give importance, due respect and consideration for our hosts,
family, and events in daily life, surely the same would be offered from
ourselves to our God who has given us His only Son so that we may have
life eternal,” he said.
“Our Lord instituted the Blessed Eucharist as spiritual food in the
company of his disciples in the upper room. After they celebrated the
Passover, all stayed but for Judas, having dipped his hand in the same
dish and ate with the Lord. He left early for the ‘evil one’ had
entered his heart.”
Fr Separovich added that Our Lord’s gift of Himself to us as spiritual
food for our faith journey was wisely set within the context of the
family meal, and reminded parishioners that when Jesus proceeded to the
Mount of Olives He said to His disciples, ‘can you not stay but one
hour in prayer with me’?”
“Mass is not a ‘drive-through, fast food’ event,” Fr Separovich added.