It’s been a long time since I attended Mass at this particular church.

That morning, I noticed a couple of wardens staring at the feet of parishioners flocking in for Mass. It was not until we were stopped at the entrance that we realised the reason for their strange behaviour.

“Sorry, she [my wife] cannot enter because she is wearing flip flops. You can go in but she must stand outside to listen ... she cannot receive Communion too.”

I was taken aback by this. That day was the first time in her life that she wore flip flops and it was really coincidental that such a conflict happened (little did we know that this rule in this church had stirred up quite a bit of controversy in the past months).

Saddened and not wanting to kick up a fuss with the warden (who was probably following instructions), we walked away.
The next week, we attended Mass at this church again. This time round, my wife was not wearing flip flops. We gained entry since our dressing was acceptable but we also were given another surprise during Mass itself.

The Lord’s Prayer was in Latin instead of English. Naturally I was unable to recite the text shown on the screen as fluently and sincerely as I wished. I was not alone.

There was at most a soft murmuring with the loudest voice coming only from the presiding priest.

Another occurrence that left me a little unsettled happened during the Eucharistic celebration when the stern voice of the priest boomed, “All those standing at the back of the Church, please kneel!”

Maybe I could have mistaken the tone of his instruction but what I’m certain of is that it was by no means inviting to say the least.

I hope to share my opinions on the above issues.

It is understandable with regards to the concerns of some parishioners who are uncomfortable with certain inappropriate dressing in church. However is there a need to go right down to footwear too?

Does it mean that a person who is sincere of heart should be discredited of his faith just because he does not wear the right footwear in the presence of God? What about the poor among us who do not even own a pair of decent looking shoes?

The Lord’s Prayer is probably the most important prayer in our faith formation for the words came directly from Jesus Himself. Being forced to speak in a foreign language does not make our recitation of this prayer more sincere.

It merely causes confusion, frustration and potentially casts a shadow of doubt on the real motives behind such a strange rule. Besides, why is this practice found only in this parish and nowhere else?

I’m not surprised that many parishioners do not realise that Jesus is present at every Eucharistic celebration. Hence, some may not kneel at the designated time. Some may not even bother at all. However, shouldn’t that be their own account with God?

There is no element of “force” and no insistence whatsoever when it comes to faith.

We can always consistently encourage the congregation to be mindful of dressing and habits. This can be done through the announcement period towards the end of Mass.

A couple of minutes to explain the reason behind the need to kneel during the Eucharist will go a long way. The same principle goes for the usage of mobile phones and texting habits in Church.

There is really no need to go to extremes on footwear or to scrutinise the congregation for such behaviour. The time spent by the wardens on this work can be better used for other ministerial roles.

Aloysius Cheong

Singapore

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