The word that stands out to me the most in this question is “OK.” This word means that what’s being proposed is satisfactory, and thus the question asked is: Is it a satisfactory practice to leave Mass immediately after receiving Communion?
Let’s first look at the question by way of an analogy. If my boss calls an important, mandatory meeting, would it be satisfactory if I left a few minutes before the end? After all, I stayed for the most important points of the meeting. Or would it be satisfactory for someone to leave a dinner while food is still being served? Well, you could say, I ate and I am good, so I can leave.
Neither of these would be satisfactory answers. In fact, a boss might get really offended that an employee left the meeting early. Additionally, it may show poor manners to leave a dinner at a time while people are still eating and enjoying the meal and the company is present.
These same social conventions apply to leaving Mass after Communion. Put simply: It’s in poor taste.
After we receive Holy Communion, we’re a living Tabernacle. God is physically present and dwelling inside of us. How many other times during the week can we say this? How many times in the week do we crave God’s loving presence with us? Taking time to return to the pew to dwell with God in personal prayer invites Him to remain longer with us, especially in those times during the week that we need Him the most.
The priest then has one final prayer he offers on behalf of the community. This is the priest in the name of the community thanking God for the gift of the Eucharist and asking Jesus to remain with us in a particular way during the week. Even though we have just prayed for this privately in our pew, why not join in with the community in asking for that grace during the week?
Finally, the priest gives a blessing. Think about how special it was when your parents took time to pray and bless you at night or for you to do it with your children or grandchildren. This is our God reaching out, wanting to give us His unconditional, loving approval for each of us and all that we do that week.
Why would we want to miss this?
Lastly, there may be reasons we feel like we need to leave early — such as avoiding a parking lot jam or excessive announcements at the end of Mass. Making parish leadership aware of concerns such as these may help improve the situation for everyone — rather than accepting the status quo, leaving early and losing out on the graces we receive at the end of Mass.
This column appeared in a previous edition of the Review.
Father Mayo is pastor of St. Raphael Parish in St. Louis.