People Who Arrive Late to Mass

Sort of inspired by the leaving Mass early thread but mostly just coming from experience, why do some people show up so late to Mass that it seems almost pointless?

Now, I understand the kids taking forever to get out of the house, weather (common here), health reasons, etc. but there are others, well actually this one person who always shows up super late, never says ANY of the prayers at Mass, receives Communion, lights a candle, waits till the end of Mass, and then rushes out the door. And this person sits in the pew with such a look of contempt on their face like they are deigning to be there and that it’s such a chore that they would rather not be there. The only reason I know this and know this well is that this person forever chooses to sit next me and invade my personal space when there are plenty of space in the pews in front of me or behind me. This person almost always shows up during the Gospel or Homily and even one occasion showed up during the Creed. Now, we only have one Mass in the morning in Sundays and it hasn’t changed in years (we’re a small parish).

So this person comes up the aisle during the middle of the Gospel, points at the very small space between me and the other person in the pew and then climbs over me to stand in the pew. All I wanted to do was tell this person was to go away because a) they had invaded my personal space (this person was standing very close and I have sensory and personal space issues) and b) why bother showing up when all you do is stand, sit, and say nothing and c)treating the Mass like it was unimportant enough to show up to the whole thing. I held my tongue but my mind was in overdrive. I was very overwhelmed by this (like I said sensory and personal space issues) that I was crying and praying to get over something so stupid that was bothering me so much as someone who couldn’t be bothered to respect my personal space.

And not saying any parts of the Mass, I know it’s not hard. They’re all in English, the Missalette is in the holder on the back of the pew in front of you, and Father tells you where we are. But this person refuses and clamps their mouth shut so as to say nothing. Not even a “Peace be with you” when exchanging the Sign of Peace. And yes, this person can speak, because I heard them speaking to their spouse who came with them, who also said none of the prayers during Mass.

I guess I just don’t understand why someone would come to Mass late, say none of the prayers, receive Communion, go light a candle (there’s a statute of Jesus in the little hallway by the side entrance and the sacristy), and then rush out of Mass at the end.

I understand legitimate reasons for being late just not this person. And rarely do other people come in late. The latest people ever come is during the middle of the entrance song or even during the Gloria but that’s it and they have little kids so it’s understandable.

So why bother showing up late when you can attend another Mass in full at another time?

In a parish where I was an usher for many years, there was one family that was punctually 10 minutes late. We ushers were quietly aware of this, noticing that people would leave the same pew space open for this family. Then one of our priests said he knew if the Mass was going slowly or he was proceeding too fast, by the “Clock Family”.

I don’t see anything wrong with that. A person can arrive until the homily and still have the Mass “count”. A person also doesn’t have to say any of the responses.

Why don’t you try sitting in a random place next time and see if he/she still sits next to you. If he/she actually finds you and sits next to you, then maybe he/she just likes you or wants to be your friend LOL.

If he/she sits in the same area as your regular area, maybe he/she just feels comfortable in that space. Humans often let off a sort of “territorial ownership” when it comes to regular seating arrangements.

For example, in a class that meets regularly in a classroom where people tend to sit in the same seat most of the time, if someone were to take someone’s “spot” the next day in class, the person who regularly sits there would feel a sense of “ownership” to that spot because he/she has defined it as his/her personal space even though he/she doesn’t actually own it.

I see you’re an anthropologist, so you should already know this. :smiley:

I don’t sit in the same place. It’s just not possible even though it’s a small parish because I don’t arrive at the same time every week. It’s the whole whoever shows up late and there are many completely empty pews all over that every time seeks out the little spot next to me and sits there. So all I want to do is get up and leave. (Like I said, I really have a problem, especially with strangers or people I don’t know very well entering my personal space).

The only thing I look for when sitting is a spot on the end. It’s just this one person particularly though I’ve had it happen quite a bit that people for some reason just have to sit next to me and leave no space between me and them. I was just annoyed that I let myself be bothered by this more than the actual situation.

As for Mass “counting”, I’ve always been taught you showed up after the entrance song began, you hadn’t gone to Mass but that was my parents and reinforced in school and at Mass. Granted, I’ve been a minute or too late but this person never shows up before the Gospel. Never.

And as for not saying the responses, why bother showing up at all? I can understand not singing but even praying just the Creed and the Our Father would be enough and this person never says anything. I think if this person could show up just for Communion they would and leave right after.

There is a lot wrong with showing up late to Mass on a regular basis.

Anyone who is late for Mass causes a distraction and disruption when they arrive. Should they still come in? Almost always, yes. Should they be as quiet and unobtrusive as possible? Yes. Is is o.k. to crawl over someone and squeeze in? Only if there is no other seat in the church. And even then I might stand rather than disturb someone else. Standing would be my penance for being late.

Regarding having the Mass “count” , do you mean this literally as in the most important issue is checking off the “went to Mass” box? Or do you mean that it is o.k. to come in right up to the homily and it is o.k. to present myself for Holy Communion? I very good priest that I know recommends not going up for Holy Communion if you have missed the Penitential rite. Another recommends that depending on your intention that morning (you intended to go to Mass on time) then it would be o.k. to receive Holy Communion. Conversly, if you were a slacker that morning and through your own laziness were late then perhaps you should not receive.

When someone shows up late for Mass on a consistent basis then not only are they disruptive but there is obviously something amiss in their spiritual life. Hopefully, at some point they will realize what they are missing by being late all the time and make more of an effort to be on time.

We never know the reason someone is late so I try not to judge but if someone is as rude and disruptive as the OP described then I would find that highly annoying. Last Sunday a mother came in with her 2 young children during the 2nd reading, stood in the center aisle for a minute discussing with her child where to sit, continued down the center aisle, sat in the first row and after a minute or two, go up and left. Odd to say the least. Very noticeable. I have no idea what was going on. She may have had to take care of a child so perhaps she had to leave but another time I hope she makes better choices with her time and seat placement.

Yes, I have been late and yes I have made bad choices in my rush to get seated. I try to slow it down and I have apologized for the inconvenience to those next to me. Most important, we make every effort not to be late. It is an effort and to consistently be late shows a lack of effort.

Just a short story on this one.
A priest at a local church here I swear used to count how many people came in late for mass. It seemed like once he counted four or five he would stop and give a different sermon one he would regularly say when this happened.
He would talk about a wedding and the importance of being on time and how rude it is to come in late.I never thought much about it.
Well one Sunday a good friend walked up to me who was dying from cancer and she of course was the final late comer that mass.

She said you know Toni I have never been late for mass in my life.I was so sick and I wanted to attend mass so badly that I dragged myself here only to be greeted with this awful sermon.

It made me really think twice about judging others for coming in late.
We never know the reason why people are late but that is a great thought for all of us who so quickly get irriatated by all of them who do.
Now I just say a quick prayer and remember my friend who died of cancer a couple months after this episode.

The ideal is we should come to mass on time in order to be able to join in the general confession. We need to confess before we can participate of the body of Christ in the Eucharist.

There is a difference between judging them and being irritated by the disruption. I learned last weekend not to sit in the back by the door. It is a circus with the comings and goings right up through the homily.

I will have to keep your story in mind the next time I wish a priest would “get tough” on Mass etiquette. For every person who deserves a lecture there is at least one who does not and that is the person who will listen and be hurt like your friend. Thank you for sharing.

God bless.

A nun told me that showing up until the homily counts for the Sunday obligation. I suppose it’s because the Liturgy of the Eucharist is the most important part. While it is best to arrive early, I think the fact that this person shows up every week and lights a candle afterwards shows that faith does have some degree of importance in his/her life. This person is far better than all the lapsed Catholics I know who refuse to take a step inside a church.

You didn’t mention this person’s age. It is possible he/she grew up during the Tridentine Mass era where silence was the norm. In any case, full and active participation in the liturgy doesn’t necessarily mean vocal prayer. While it is certainly encouraged, it is not required. Some people like to pray mentally; some just like to stand in the presence of God.

You mention that you always sit at the spot on the end of the pew. You probably find the person sitting next to you frequently because that spot is the easiest to enter for someone arriving late.

I understand if your problem about sitting next to someone stems from some kind of emotional or psychological issue, but if it’s nothing like that, leaving your seat when the person enters could be interpreted as snobbish.

I suppose it’s normal for people to be a little uncomfortable with a stranger sitting at too close of a proximity, so maybe you can move a few inches. On the other hand, it is a Catholic church and there should be a sense of welcoming and community as we are all united in the Communion of Saints.

If you really want to avoid this particular person, you can sit at the middle of the pew where he/she can’t find you, but I don’t know if you’d be comfortable sitting in between people.

Like I said, I understand there are people who can’t help being late due to health, corralling kids, weather, car won’t start, etc. Most people have valid reasons.

It’s just this one person who seems to not be bothered to show up before the Gospel. Every time this person shows up for the Mass, the earliest is the middle of the Gospel or during the middle of the Homily. This person does not care that they are late and impacting other people by their behavior. It’s like they are deliberately late and refuse to change their behavior. And then this person, for no reason I can discern because I know there are plenty of empty places to sit before they get to me, deliberately sits next to me no matter if there is space to do so or not. Especially since there isn’t.

People who arrive late for Mass are disruptive sometimes but the ones who leave early, that is after Holy Communion, are being disrespectful. Ok, sometimes you have to do what you have to do but not every Sunday.:shrug:

It was hammered into me by my parents to be on time for Mass.:stuck_out_tongue: And we always had to be on time for school Mass and the priests never said otherwise. So I guess for me, you always showed up for the entire Mass.

The person looks to be in their 40s. Yet there are others in that age rage who at least say the responses (I won’t make anyone sing what passes for music in the OCP).

I try to be understanding but it’s honestly like this person wants to do the bare minimum to get by. And makes sure I and others see it. I don’t get it.

I don’t get up and leave, no matter how strongly I want to. And believe, there are times when it takes all my strength to stay and get through Mass. The only time I would ever leave would be if Father said something in the Homily that was totally incompatible/heretical with the Faith ( I do pray for him because that’s all I can do).

I just don’t understand why I end up being the person every late person/couple/just everyone in general has to sit by. There are still spaces at the end of the pew in the pews or even completely empty pews behind me that are empty and they can sit in but it never fails that this person or anyone doesn’t sit there but comes up to where I am and sits next to me. And when I sit at the end of the pew, I mean right at the end. There are times when I have to sit in such a way as not to fall out of the pew because people don’t move down the pew, they just sit and end up practically sitting in my lap. Or the whole pew is filled with people with me at the end, there’s only a few inches between me and the next person, there are five empty pews in front and ten empty pews behind us, and they still have to sit next to me. I just don’t get it.

Maybe there’s just something special about you that is so warm and inviting that people want to sit next to you even when they can sit in an empty pew. :smiley:

You can try bringing a jacket with you and putting it in the space right next to you so that you will have a space between you and the person by your side.

You must live where it’s warm in winter.:smiley: I have to keep my jacket/coat on just to keep warm and yes we have the heat on in the church.:winter: :snowing: And even having the jacket doesn’t work because I would end up having to move it because someone still wants to sit there and I would have to let them.

As for something special, I don’t know.

You must give out a vibe that draws latecomers to you. :stuck_out_tongue: No, really, I think I give out a vibe too, but of a different kind. Random people I sit near on the train seems to always want to talk to me, ask me questions, tell me their problems, etc. When all I want to do is sleep, study, read, think… I’ll just be minding my own business, too. I hardly ever see that happen with others on the train. When that happens, I take it that perhaps I’m meant to sit there and listen to them and perhaps offer them words of advice or comfort. Or sometimes, it might actually answer questions or concerns of my own - as if God was speaking through these random people.

Perhaps that is similar with you. The person is apparently someone who doesn’t talk much, but maybe your presence gives him comfort. Perhaps he is caring for someone ill or has difficult emotional problems, anxiety problems, agoraphobia. These could explain his continual lateness or even not speaking any of the responses. Just thoughts… I really don’t know the situation, but do you know if he has a job where he works like a graveyard shift? If that is the only mass in the morning, perhaps he does his best to get there on time and is why he gets there around the same time each week? I don’t know… just trying to give the benefit of the doubt. At the same time, I can understand how someone could get irritated by it. But maybe you are being used to provide more to him than what you actually think.

In terms of him not every saying the prayers and responses… it could be some of the above, but at the same time, just because we don’t hear him saying the prayers and responses, doesn’t mean that he isn’t saying them in his head and heart. That doesn’t bother me at all. He might be a “man of few words”.

My parochial vicar came up with a pretty good solution to the latecomer problem. People will still come in during the Gloria, all the way up to the Collect. However, the moment the readings are proclaimed, the ushers will not let anyone inside. In fact, in the vestibule, there is a sign that says that Sacred Scripture is important and must be respected. Therefore, out of respect for the Sacred Scripture, latecomers will be admitted into the Church prior to the proclamation of the Gospel.

When the latecomers are allowed inside the church, they are told to enter through the side aisles. The ushers will not allow anyone to use the center aisle.

People are slowly getting the message.

I understand the reasoning behind this, but my family and I were a victim to this thought process at a church in VA a couple years ago. We were visiting and got lost trying to get to the church. We got there during the entrance hymn and the ushers would not let anyone in. The priest hadn’t even gotten up the aisle yet. I was so turned off, as if we were punished for getting lost. Not to mention the music was pure garbage. And with the way this church was built, you can only enter in the side aisles.

I have the same problem (but I don’t travel by train:p ). People always talk to me, random strangers just seem to have to talk to me. Babies and small children stare at me. I don’t know what it is. There’s nothing special about me, nothing stands out but random people just seem to want to talk to me. I don’t get it.

Could this personhave a job that prevents him/her from getting to mass earlier?

Could this person have a developmental disability of other disability that makes him/her unable to speak?

Could this person be dependent on public transport, which typically runs less frequently on Sundays, to get to mass or is dependent on a friend to get to mass?

Could this person have a developmental disability (i.e. high functioning autism) that makes him/her uncomfortable with change and sitting next to you gives him/her consistency?

Some ushers blocked people arriving for Mass during the “entrance hymn” (or should I say rock n’ roll solo) at a local parish community. Really turned me off. It makes the Mass seem more like a theatre with a couple of pseudo security guards in polo shirts. It creates more of a spectacle when you have a crowd of people at the entrance being blocked. Ridiculous.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit