Brawling With The Ushers

Tell the truth. Haven't you at least momentarily though about popping an overly officious and pushy church usher in the chops? Or maybe pulling his polyester jacket over his head -- ya know like NHL style?

Well somebody went and did it.
HILLSBOROUGH — Police responded to Mary, Mother of God Roman Catholic Church on Sunday for a report of a fight in the parking lot between an usher and a parishioner after the usher told the parishioner to stop videotaping during Mass.
Now, of course most ushers are wholly interested in serving the church and do a thankless service week in and week out. I am not talking about them. But there are those other types, you know who I am talking about. The kind of ushers that buzz about the church like bouncers at a KISS concert flashing their poly-blend jackets like a US Marshall service badge -- some of whom view usherdom as an excuse to pay no attention to mass. Well I know that I am not the only one who has.

Fr. Jay Toborowsky knows the type. After rightly criticizing the school play Catholics who treat their bi-annual visit as if it is the school production of South Pacific and they will be darned if they don't get the picture they want, Fr. Jay has this to say about the usheristas.
Now, about Catholic Church ushers. For the most part, your task is about taking up the collection and handing out bulletins, and these are necessary things in the life of a parish. I also know there's times when you get asked to do the priest's "dirty work" (telling someone to sit down when all they want to do is stand in the back of church because they want the quick escape after Communion), and for that, I thank you. But, let me also say this: I don't care what you do or did as a profession, putting on the blazer does not give you superpowers. It does not exempt you from sitting through Mass like everyone else. It doesn't allow you to stand in the back of church chatting away with fellow ushers whilst Mass is going on. I have visited lots and lots of churches over the course of my years as a Catholic, a Seminarian, a Deacon and a Priest. I think there's a lot of ushers who are going to be quite shocked when God makes the delineation for them on judgment day between the Masses they "attended" and the Masses they were merely "at".
Now I certainly do not condone parking lot smackdowns of the overbearing, but perhaps there should be term limits.

Comments

  1. "Jersey." - Phil Leotardo, from the Sopranos.

    Seriously, this must be an east-coast/west-coast thing because the ushers at ever church I've been at on the Pacific side are pretty much good for two things; collectin' da monAY and holding the church floor down. That's it. Granted, the more traditional the church, the more strict and proactive the ushers may get. At one church, an historic landmark which gets quite a bit of out-of-town visitors who come in wearing shorts, t-shirts and baseball caps during mass to take pictures, I have never seen an usher so much as make a move to tell these people to "keep it down" when they talk about how purdy the art is.

    I say bring back good old fashioned ushers who tap you on the shoulder and say, "eh, buddy! No shirt, no shoes, no communion!" Or is that being too unpastoral?

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  2. I don't know if this is a regional thing, or maybe something that only happens in large parishes in big cities? But I have been to quite a few different parishes, mostly in Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, and California, and thankfully I have never seen an usher act in any of the ways described here.

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  3. ....Blazers?

    You guys have uniforms for the ushers? I thought it was big time when the altar servers got outfits.

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  4. I still remember walking onto the Basilica San Juan Capistrano in 2001 with my then 80-year-old father. He thought he looked pretty snazzy in his bright green sports jacket. We weren't 10 feet inside the door when he was asked to usher. He politely told them he was an usher back in our home parish in PA and he'd be happy to help, but they declined in embarrassment. I explained to him after the mass that some churches have usher uniforms and his vivid green jacket must have made him look the part!

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  5. Around here in our oh so progressive diocese, we don't have "ushers" we have "hospitality ministers"! It is like running a gauntlet to get into church because there is a whole gaggle of these people wanting to shake my hand and tell me how happy they are that I am there. There are often from 8-10 of these "ministers" between the front door to the church and actually making it through the "gathering space" to the nave. The noise from this backslapping, glad-handing, laughing and talking pours into the church and drives me nuts. It is an obstacle course trying to navigate through these people. I use my daughter as a shield and have to constantly move from one side of her to the other to avoid all this nonsense.

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  6. At my parish, they all wear SUITS. ALL the time. Every one of them. It is like - if you can't afford a suit you can't join their club. So my parish is for rich people, mostly.

    Best part is they actually GUARD the inner doors to the church. Once Mass starts, no one is allowed to enter until right before the Gospel. So if you come to church ONE MINUTE LATE because you were just cleaning baby puke off your nice shirt, you are forced to STAND there will all your kids and gear and whatnot with these usher/goons (nice goons, mind you) facing YOU in front of the doors. It's as if you are trying to get in to Paris Hilton's party wearing sneakers or something.

    When the doors open, a FLOOD of 50 or so people generally come in and all try to sit at once, which only creates a carnival atmosphere. I understand the Pastor's intent with this, but at the same time, it is kind of ridiculous. It ensures that I begin my Mass experience in a foul mood. Not good. But I don't blame the ushers.

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  7. Bring back the minor order of Porter.

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  8. Tee hee hee hee. I've been to that church, it was around the corner from where I grew up (before I converted). Can't say I'm surprised. I'm a Jersey girl so I can say this, there is no shortage of belligerent men in Central NJ :D

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  9. Stop talking about my blazer!

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  10. Best part is they actually GUARD the inner doors to the church. Once Mass starts, no one is allowed to enter until right before the Gospel. So if you come to church ONE MINUTE LATE because you were just cleaning baby puke off your nice shirt, you are forced to STAND there will all your kids and gear and whatnot with these usher/goons (nice goons, mind you) facing YOU in front of the doors. It's as if you are trying to get in to Paris Hilton's party wearing sneakers or something.

    Wow, this is a whole side of Catholic parish life that I have never even heard of! As I mentioned, I have been to many parishes in multiple states, and I can't recall ever seeing the ushers do more than take up the collection, discreetly direct the communion line, bring up the gifts, and sometimes open doors for people. This concept of an usher at a Catholic church taking on kind of a "bouncer" role is new to me! :-)

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  11. The Prayer of the Usher

    St. Peter, pray for me that I might welcome all who enter through the doors of God’s Holy House with good cheer and warmth, in Jesus name I pray. Amen.

    Hebrews 13:1-2
    1. Let the charity of the brotherhood abide in you. 2. And hospitality do not forget; for by this some, being not aware of it, have entertained angels.

    I am an usher and I have never seen anyone act like that!!! I say the above prayer that I wrote before I usher at Mass...

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  12. You know gossip is a sin, and this is what this column represents. It is out of context and biased towards one group of people without presenting both sides of the story. Firther, adding the testimony of the priest (again out of context) shows poor integrity, as worse as what goes on in the media. You bloggers are inciting debate among Catholics where there is no debate and thus creating a sinful act. Go to confession.

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  13. N. Trandem mentioned the minor order of Porter. Can you explain what this order is?

    I guess very rarely you might need a bouncer (like once every 5 years), but an ushers who exhibits the attitude of a bouncer would raise my ire. Their role is one of service.

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  14. Someimes I wish we had a bouncer. We had one nut who hecled the choir, called the choir director a faggot, and cursed our Spanish language priest. The faithful finally told him to shut up or cop a walk.

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  15. Sandy has the right idea. No, ushers can get arrogant no doubt about it. But today ushers in some parishes serve as a form of security preventing drunks and nuts from getting to the priest or dinking the wine left at the back for the offetory. I know some ushers who "work" their Mass and "attend another" and I know people from choirs who do the same. Pax et bonum

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  16. Man, Lankester, you would have loved the post about being tempted to kill choir directors.

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  17. So you're siding with the person who was videotaping Mass?!

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  18. Where in the world do ushers have this much influence? I wouldn't call this an "East Coast/West Coast" thing. It just doesn't happen anywhere I've been to mass in the world. N.J. must just be an anomaly.

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  19. I wonder if the usher was just repeating what the priest himself had told members of the parish before. Don't know if he did so in an overbearing manner or if the guy with the camera was just a jerk. It's not clear who threw the first punch and why.

    No matter how many times the priest tells people, "No flash pictures during the Mass" during, say, a wedding or a First Communion Mass, someone (usually a relative from another parish) will take flash pictures anyway. The usher may have simply reminded the guy with the camera that videotaping the Mass was inappropriate and against the wishes of the parish priest (which the guy with the camera should have respected).

    The ushers at our parish usually greet people (discreetly), help people find seats, take up the collection and respond to minor emergencies (like when I walked into the edge of an open window while trying to avoid stepping on the shoes of the little girl in front of me on my way back from Communion). We've got good ones, and I'm grateful for that.

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  20. At a Church where I used to cantor, in a touristy area, we had to recruit ushers. This was after the Korean tour bus pulled up and about 50 of the passengers decided to receive Communion on the hand to take back to the bus as a souvenir! Yikes!
    So now they stand to the far right and left of the Priest during the Communion Procession to ensure that everyone receive Communion by the time they're back in the pew...Or else...LOL

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  21. See more scandal, dialogue is not about revealing the sins of others, its about looking at ourselves first. Stop thinking about your need to gossip, start thinking about what you are portraying, that of course is if you are not here to destroy the image of the church in the first place.

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  22. Yep, that's the whole reason we're here. To make the Church look bad, grind it to nothing, and hear the laments of the nuns.....

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  23. In my parish in Queens, NY, as well as many surrounding parishes, the ushers definitely wear blazers. Sometimes I wish that they would get more involved in maintaining order, but this post makes me realize that might be a bad idea! We have had some bad situations in the past (First Communion parents and step parents actually tussling on the front steps of the church!). Maybe we should ask some of the little old European mamas who belong to the parish to enforce the rules.... no exposed bellies, etc. and no cell phone calls or texting during Mass...and absolutely no gum chewing! Now they might be a force to be reckoned with.

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  24. Foxfier, formerly Sailorette:

    LOL!

    Lankester clearly does not work in a police station. How would that discussion of crime take place?

    No disrespect intended here, but a discussion of an event such as this is not gossip in any way shape or form. When you gossip - among other things, you are doing if for no good reason. Whilst here we have a perfectly GOOD discussion of different ways that ushering can and should be handled in a parish.

    Plus some of it is funny. Not all funny is bad - IS IT?!

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  25. Heh, that's my sister's parish. We'll be going there for Memorial Day weekend. I'll ask her about it.

    As for the ushers, treat them with respect. They've had to chase down people who are walking out with communion in their hands, they take thier ministry (yes *ministry*) seriously.

    Oh, and Anonymous, if you'd like to volunteer as an usher at your parish, *I'll* buy your suit.

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  26. I showed this column and the comments to my pastor and he said, "Gossip". That's good enough for me.

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  27. So you showed your pastor this post and the comments for no reason other than to feel superior to us, eh, Lankester?

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