Northern Ireland

Silence is golden, but not in church

Church bells
Image caption In past years, only the sound of bells and the murmur of prayer was heard in most churches

Silence may be golden - but not in our churches it seems, where some people believe the noise is reaching occasional Babel-like levels.

Father Owen Gorman, from the diocese of Clogher, finds the reverential silence in church has given way to the din of noisy conversation.

He says he finds people chat a lot and loudly instead of listening to a service and remaining quiet after services, when people are trying to say their prayers.

Fr Gorman, who has written a newspaper column on the issue, said he also feels people talk about things that are not related to church life and use their weekly church-going at times to catch up on gossip.

"There has been a general loss of the importance of the sense of silence," he told BBC Radio Ulster.

"It can be more of a problem at the large ceremonies such as Confirmations or First Communions but it is also a problem at daily Masses as well, mostly before and after Mass."

'Recover'

He said that from the comments of a number of priests, chatting in church seemed to be a common problem now.

"It's up to us to try to help people recover a sense of the sacred once again.

"The church is not a bingo hall or a community hall, it's the house of God and it's important that when we enter the church, we are aware of God."

He said that after people had exchanged greetings, they should focus on preparation for Mass.

"There might be certain times in a day when a person may be in the church and they have no other time or moment to turn to God... if conversations are happening, it's hard for that person to enter into the peace and silence of prayer.

"Afterwards, they can go to a coffee shop or whatever for a chat."

Fr Gorman recently wrote: "Silence is golden, as the English band, The Tremolos reminded us in their 1967 hit song.

"So let us all do our part to keep it and contribute to it in our Catholic churches".