Why do we have ushers? Except at a wedding or Christmas and Easter, I’ve never seen them actually “usher” people to a seat. A major duty I see is that they physically block pews so that only one pew can go to communion at a time. I don’t get it. Are we too stupid to know when to go up and take our turn? Perhaps a newcomer would need direction, but even newcomers can see the pattern from watching the first people (and I’ve never seen a newcomer sit in the first row).
I’m a cradle Catholic and always sit in the first row. I know when to stand up and get in line. At Christmas mass, the usher was trying to get me up and in line a little but too soon (I was first). Instead of getting up, I smiled at the usher to let her know I saw her. She then started jabbing me on the shoulder and loudly whispered “Come on!”
What if I weren’t able to receive communion that day?
I always have thought that the job of ushers was basically useless (can the congregants not be trusted to pass the offertory basket around?), but the situation at Christmas was just ridiculous.
If I am missing something with the role of ushers, please let me know. It just doesn’t make sense to me.
Bigger parishes I could see having them, but even our cathedral doesn’t to my knowledge have them. Our smaller parish doesn’t. At my previous parish they only really seemed to do anything if someone came in towards the beginning of Mass or even late and pews were beginning to fill up. I suppose they also may be the ones to do the collections as well. One time I saw someone wearing a hat in Mass and a guy sitting behind him brought it to the usher’s attention who told him to take it off.
It probably depends on the parish and even the particular Mass. At our parish they greet people and hold the doors open. If it’s a busy Mass they have one or two at the doors asking how many people you have and then 2 or 3 others in the nave that find spots and/or ask people to move in. Our ushers also handle the collection. After Mass they hand out the bulletins. They also don’t call them ushers, but rather “hospitality ministers” (not a fan of everything is a ministry).
Personally, I am neither pro or anti usher. I do wish the practice of flow control for communion would cess, but that has more to do with what I perceive as subtle peer pressure for most/all to receive at every Mass. If ushers disappeared it wouldn’t bother me one way or the other. We manage without them at daily Mass so we could figure it out for Sunday Masses too.
Yes, I think the communion part bothers me the most. Friends from other countries tell me that people just go up during communion time, in no particular order (and without assistance from ushers). This way, those not receiving communion aren’t as obvious. So the pressure to go up isn’t there.
I think many parishes differ in how their ushers - and their collection - are handled. In none of my last 3 parishes did ushers do the pew-by-pew Communion control. And I think in many parishes the ushers are primarily the collectors, using a long-handled basket, not a plate that’s passed from pew to pew, Much of this may be dictated by regional or national custom.
Our ushers don’t do more than take up the collection with long handled baskets. I don’t think I’ve seen the ones in our small parish even have to find anyone a place to sit, except for the Christmas Eve Family Mass there are no Masses so well attended that finding a pew is a hardship.
I haven’t been to a parish that uses ‘Communion police’ in more than 40 years yet, except for the Masses I attended at San Marco & Notre Dame, in every parish where I’ve attended Mass over the years we all go up to receive Communion row by row without fail.
Users are not supposed to block pews so that people go up for communion one row at a time. I understand that it happens out of ignorance but they are not supposed to do that.
Doing so creates the impression that everyone has to go. People who are not disposed go, people who are not Catholic go. It draws attention to who goes and who doesn’t. It isn’t supposed to happen and what the OP describes is a perfect example why.
My wife’s Anglican parish does that and it’s always a pain when I attend because I disrupt the flow by staying in my pew at communion. The pastor always invites folks to come up for a blessing if they can’t partake. I tried that once to see if it would disrupt less, but while the pastor, who was distributing the bread, recognized what I was there for (he knows I’m Catholic and can’t receive), their “EMHC” or whatever, that was distributing the wine couldn’t figure out what was going on and kept thrusting the cup at me. Maybe I should have just had a good swig of wine… but didn’t want to be disrespectful: they think it is the blood of Christ.
In any event I found going up more disruptive even than staying in my pew so what I do is sit at the very outside end of the pew so nobody has to step over me to move into the centre aisle to go up, and when our row starts coming back, I step out of my pew for a moment to let everyone back in.
The abbey I normally attend Mass at used to have an usher, an elderly brother, who would pick a couple to bring up the gifts, but he’s too feeble now to stand for long periods and since they’re so short-staffed, they no longer have someone in the nave bring up the gifts.
But as I said, even without ushers, in all the parishes where I’ve attended Mass over the years, bar two, the faithful proceeded exactly the same way without ushers ‘blocking the pews’ as they would have if the ushers had been there. They go row by row, the first person exiting a row waiting until the last person wishing to exit the row ahead has done so before stepping forward. In no way does it force anyone to go to Communion who does not wish to do so.
We visited a parish recently where one half of a pew went to the center aisle for Communion and the other half of the same pew went to the side aisle. Never having seen such a thing, our confusion as to what to do was apparent, so a parishioner seated in front of us told us which way we should go. So, not everyone always knows what to do. When visiting somewhere, I rather appreciate the service of the ushers whether it’s handing our the order of worship program, greeting us with a smile, taking up the collection, or handing out the bulletins after Mass. At my church we have a guy with some mental limitations, and being an usher is the way he can offer his service to his church and his Lord. It makes him happy, and he’s there every week in his place doing his job. I love that.
My wife is the head usher at Mass on Sunday. She is called a Minister of Hospitality.
Since you “always sit in the first row,” you don’t see all that goes on in the rear of the church.
First of all, the ushers greet people before Mass & open the door for elderly & handicapped people.
Next, she has to escort or ‘usher’ people who come in late to a seat. It has to be at a time in between readings & done as quietly as possible.
She also directs people who don’t know where the Rest Rooms are, during the Mass.
The ushers must collect the baskets after they are passed around and make sure the collection is brought up at the Offertory, by the people who were chosen by the usher.
Yes, people are too stupid to know when to get up and get on the Communion line. They are like cattle trying to jump the line.The usher maintains a sense of order.
As usher, my wife has also helped people who fainted, had heart attacks, etc. during the Mass. She also had to call the paramedics once or twice.
She directs the Eucharistic ministers to give communion to people who can’t walk up to the altar.
She had to tell kids sitting on the floor in the back to stop playing with their game-boys & get their feet out of the path of people walking.
Then she distributes the bulletin at the end of mass!
I cannot believe you just wrote that! What a disgusting attitude. There is absolutely no reason that Communion has to proceed as though robots were going up to receive. People should be able to chose when they go up and it should not be dictated by ushers.
What does it matter when people go? If a person in pew 3 wants to spend a little more time in preparation and go near the end, is it going to hurt anyone? If the person in pew 7 joins the line before those in pew 4, are those in pew 4 going to miss out on something? Is the priest going to run out of Jesus?
I’m old enough to remember receiving at the rail and there was no ‘sense of order’ in the way people did that. It was wave of people to the front of the nave, in no particular order. People went up when they were ready.
We like to attend Mass with our DD and her family. When she moved to a new town, we began to attend Mass there. The ushers were so sour-faced and unwelcoming that it set a bad tone for the entire Mass. There were a few other reasons why we decided to return to our old parish, but that’s the one that stands out in my mind.
Bless you to all the ushers, like the ones in our parish, who greet everyone with a smile or welcoming word, whether they know them or not.
And if you think they are unnecessary, it’s probably because they are do good at what they do that you are not even aware they are doing it.
BTW…why do people feel they are pressured into going to communion because the ushers direct people, row by row?
If people just got up at random, the one’s not receiving will still be sitting in their seats…and people will have to climb over them.
I don’t like the way almost everyone in the church receives communion & never misses a Sunday.
There are people who tell me they haven’t gone to confession in 15 or 20 yrs. but they receive at every Mass because they don’t have sins.
I tell them, not making your Easter duty of Confession & Communion, once a year, during the Lenten season, is a mortal sin in itself! Those years are a long time to remain sin free! :rolleyes: :dts:
*340 During Communion the antiphon or appropriate hymns may be sung, or the choir my sing, or music may be played. Users may assist people to come to Communion, but never making people come to the altar row by row. This could oblige people to come forward who are not properly disposed or others, such as Catholics unable to receive the Eucharist, non-Catholics or even non-Christians. *
All the above, except the part about the stupidity of people (Whoa, uncharitable!). Plus, we straighten up the Church after Mass: gather trash, left behind bulletins or personal items, straighten hymnals, etc.
I’ve seen sour-faced ushers too…though pleasant ones as well. We’ve also had fainters and people who need medical attention, but it’s always been those closest who’ve stepped in to help, not necessarily the ushers.