There’s a pervasive, important question that’s come up a lot this year. Seating at Mass. More specifically the significance of some people sitting together. For it’s very commonly said that the best sign that two people are dating is when they’re sitting together at Mass. I’ve heard this a lot, used this fact, as a rule, to be applied in my interpretations of what I see at Mass, and even passed on this rule as stated to others. Yet again, it’s controversial, as many people this semester have attempted to disprove the rule in various ways. We asked some of` the top philosophers at WCC and staff at IIT about their opinions and they had a great conversation about it. So here’s IIT president Everett Polinski and WCC sophomore Omnisciens Scientiae Omnis discussing the question philosophically and coming to some sort of conclusion… maybe? Perhaps the dialectical spiral needs to continue. We’d suggest talking to senior Miguel Fiandeiro to see if we need to continue this dialectic…
Everett: “Plora et labora. Plora et labora. Plora et labora.”
Omnisciens: “What’s going on.”
Everett: “Andrew… Andrew… No more fun dances anymore?”
Omnisciens: “What do you mean?”
Everett: “Haven’t you heard? He’s not doing skits for dances for a long time.”
Omnisciens: “Really – Diu?”
Omnisciens: “Never mind, no one really knows Latin after this curriculum anymore.”
Everett: “Everyone says he had some great lines.”
Omnisciens: “Lines. Are you saying he’s like a dodecahedron because that has the best lines of any figure I’ve met?”
Everett: “Well, there was that whole thing about divinity last year…There’s always something interesting going on with that guy…”
Omnisciens: “That’s a mathematical substance abstracted and existing without matter as defined by Euclid in his Intermediates to be the building block for the substance itself of Olympus…”
Everett: “We may have to treat the indefinite end of skits from Andrew like some kind of end of direct public revelation…”
Omnisciens: “It’s interesting that you talk about revelation. Did you know that in Boethius he mentioned that Divine Revelation happened outside of Israel and that Plato was a prophet?”
Everett: “Like Andrew’s revelations?
Omnisciens: “Never mind, let’s talk about something else.”
Everett: “What do you think about Darius and Sarah then? Did you notice them?”
Everett: “No, that’s interesting, because didn’t you know that there’s one easy way to tell who’s dating, the Mass rule. Because Darius and Sarah were sitting next to each other at Mass, they’re dating. I read about it in the Evangelium Andreii, which by the way you can order from me after this performance. It’s so simple!”
Omnisciens: “I’m not so sure, let me argue it to you. We both had to do something like that today for Theology…”
Omnsicens’ Thomistic Argument about the Question
Obj. 1. It seems that two unmarried people sitting together at Mass at WCC are necessarily dating. For those conscious actions of a person not determined by another are by a free action of the will. Choosing where to sit is a conscious action of the two involved, two conscious choices by two people and therefore by two wills. Since no one is forced to sit in any particular place by another, choosing where to sit is thus a free action of the will. Now love is said to be the highest and ultimate action of the will and is the final end of marriage. Therefore the final end of sitting together by free choice of the will is necessarily the same as that of marriage, and the two who do so are in at least the first stage of love. As this first stage of love precedes marriage and dating precedes marriage, two unmarried people are thus dating when they sit together at Mass.
Obj. 2. Further, attendance at Mass is the highest form of activity that one can do in their day according to St. Dominice Antunes. The one with whom someone is closest during the highest activity one performs is thus united in the proper sense of activities and will thus, in lower activities as all other activities are lower, be united even more easily with that self-same person, i.e. dating as a prerequisite to eventual marriage.
Obj. 3. During many liturgies, an extension of the offer a “sign of peace” or sometimes the “kiss of peace” is offered by the priest before communion. If two people are sitting together and so offer a “sign of peace” to each other this is the same as a “PDA”, or a public-display-of-affection in at least some sense as the offering of affection publicly on display for everyone in a church. Love is affection and one whom you love is one with whom you are at peace necessarily as love is not compatible with any discord. As PDA, according to the almighty authority of WCC graduate and former four-year-prefect Jonathan Rensch, is associated substantially and not according to a concomitant attribute with dating, the one with which you give a sign of peace is one whom you are dating. Two people sitting next to each other always exchange a sign of peace, so they are thus dating.
Obj. 4. On the basis of statistical authority, experience as such recorded by prefects such as Francis Langley and the WCC Student Life Office testifies to the fact that all couples which are now known to be dating, are sitting together at Mass.
On the contrary, according to the authority of liturgy expert Bernadette Heithoff in her book Traditional Metal For The Traditional Mass, “the altar servers sit together at Mass and are in no way dating.”
I answer that, the lack of essential correlation between sitting together at Mass and dating can be proved in three ways, by the essence of the Liturgy, by the faculty’s families, and by dorm-related reasoning.
As Christ said in Matthew 22:30: “in Heaven they do not marry, nor are they given in marriage, but are as messengers of God in heaven.” The Mass, according to St. John Paul II and Dr. Scott Hahn is Heaven on Earth “a mysterious participation in the heavenly liturgy.” Thus as the Mass is heaven in some sense and there is neither marriage nor “giving in marriage” (i.e. dating…) therefore there is no consideration of Marriage or dating to be applied at all at/in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Therefore sitting together at Mass is not even to be considered at all in any relationship at all with dating.
Further, many professors bring their families to Mass. Their children most definitely are not dating each other or any of the students, showing that there are other modes of people sitting together that do not presuppose relationships.
Similarly, we see similar examples of sitting together in incidental senses that are unconnected to any dating at all. For dorms (and dorm rooms and their roommates) which are incidental groupings created by the arbitrary fiat of a roll of the die and whims, or that is passions, of prefects and the WCC Student Life Office, sometimes sit, as a body of their constituting members, together at Mass. Since these people are “obviously” not dating, both essential and incidental causes can make people who are not dating sit together at Mass.
Reply to Obj. 1: Although it may seem that in sitting together at Mass, two people are making a precursive free act of the will to that ultimate free movement of the will involved in the love between spouses, this correlation does not apply in this specific circumstance. For sometimes people simply sit where there is open space at Mass and not for the essential purpose of sitting. Thus their decision on where to sit is only incidental to the fact that they are together and not by reason of will, that being a higher form of human nature as such. What is thus incidental is not then according to anything determinant of a future state in life and thus not determinate of the fact of dating.
Reply to Obj. 2: Unity occurs amongst the highest natures, substances, and activities, as we see from the testimony of Chapters 68-72 of Aquinas’ (actually Dr. Holmes’) Compendium Theologiae. Amongst lower activities and natures, potentiality and particularity create multiplicity and disunity and this is what happens here. While two people may be sitting together at Mass, they are not necessarily together for any other activities and thus not necessarily in any state of dating.
Reply to Obj. 3: The sign of peace is meant to be a pluralistic act as with St. Paul saying, “Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss”(2 Corinthians 13:12). Mass and the sign of peace in particular following his counsel are meant to be a unified activity with the community as a whole and not an individual action with reference to any one individual in particular. It is meant to be like the experience of a charismatic prayer group, something which may cause some to conflate it with dating, due to the definition of Jeremiah Davis Smith which associates it with “group dating” incidentally:
People who act like a dater toward large groups of people at once are known as Group daters.” Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between a Group dater and a Charismatic Prayer group. In fact, they are so similar that sometimes they are the same thing.Evangelium Andreii, 176
But even then group dating is not the same as traditional dating and the PDA which sometimes is associated incidentally with such. Actions properly undertaken in the context of the sign of peace are in the sight of the whole community, true, but they are for the community, and not separated as for a dating pair. When people do act for the sake of a pair, it is in no way for the community, and they are thus acting liturgically improperly. In spirit, they are thus not truly present at Mass, and their actions, which in this case are truly PDA, have nothing to do with the Mass except by concomitant attribution which gives no true causal implication of sitting together at Mass to dating.
Reply to Obj. 3: We see here a fallacy of distribution. Just because all couples do sit together does not necessarily mean that all people sitting together are couples. In the proven premise, “all couples which are known to be dating, are sitting together at Mass” is wrongly taken to be fully distributed in its minor term, when in fact that is not the case.
Everett: “But, but, but, what about all the couples you find out about at Mass.”
Omnisciens: “Yes, but that’s pseudo dating. Let’s read the Compendium and find out.”
Everett: “You’ve never mentioned that it talks about that to me before.”
Omnisciens: “Don’t you know your own wisdom of Andrew, the Compendium Andreii… I actually read things besides Boethius and Aristotle!”