Catholic Athletics and the Mass.

Pentecostals may speak in tongues but Catholics have track meets each Sunday.

One of the sacramentals of the Catholic Church (at least in the U.S.) is the race to beat Father down the aisle after Communion, otherwise known as "The Running for the Doors." Apparently, the point of this part of the liturgy is to allow the parishioner to run out the door as early as possible thus demonstrating that with the consumption of the Bread of Life, one is ready to immediately pitch back into the battle with the world as one winds one's way to Heaven.

The race begins with the "hand-off" when the host is placed either in the communicant's hand or on their tongue. The athlete then consumes it and makes the sign of the cross, signifying the race has begun, and starts for the back of the church avoiding returning to the pew he or she had occupied during the countdown before Communion. The idea is to beat Father to the back of the church after he finishes the Mass. The starting gun as it were for Father is the utterance of the phrase, "The Mass is ended, go in peace," either by a deacon or Father himself.

According to those who know (or at least say they do), this ritual has taken place as long as anyone living can remember. An earlier version involved the celebrant leaving by a door toward the front of the church, but this was changed after Vatican II in order to heighten the athletic drama. Watching the race each Sunday, I've come to the opinion that it is an uneven competition. One of the things I think our Church should stand for in all things is fairness. While I am a neo in matters of theology and liturgy, I have a couple of suggestions that might even things up between celebrant and communicant.

First, I believe Father's vestments should be modified. The chasuble and alb should be shortened and Father should be encouraged to wear running shorts and shoes, the colors of which should match the season.

Second, the ushers should be tasked with blocking and tackling the communicants.

Third, every competing communicant should be required to wear a scapula bearing a number (these may be roman numerals to reflect the return of the Latin Mass), so that the charging ushers may discriminate between competitors and old poots like myself just heading for the bathrooms.

Fourth and finally, the races should be scored and documented so they may be communicated to the sports editor at the diocesan newspaper for inclusion each week. This could also be used to set up pools as a source of income for those jaded with bingo, raffles, and casino nights.

All in all, I see no reason why the Church should not profit by an apparently eternal fact of life.

29 April 2010: The Feast of St. Hugh the Great. Moors land at Gibraltar 711, Joan of Arc raises siege of Orleans 1429, New Orleans captured by Federals 1862, Dachau liberated 1945.

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