We’ve all thought it at some point in our lives: “Why does Mass have to be so boring?” I’ll admit to it. Growing up in a Catholic household, I used to dread going to Mass (although for a youngster I think that’s almost expected).
And there have been times – yes, even as an adult – when I have caught myself losing a war against a set of heavy eyelids (although, in my defense, these instances have primarily occurred on days when I’d spent the last 48 hours ministering to the youth, who are much more… youthful).
But I’m writing to tell you that the Mass, in fact, is not boring. What??
In my experience, both personal and through observation of others, the people who look and feel bored are the people who are simply there. And the ones who look like they are paying attention and, dare I say, enjoying themselves are the ones who are not there; rather, they are in another place with God.
What I mean to say is that bored people do Mass; interested people feel Mass. And a large part of that comes from adequately preparing for Mass and actually knowing what Mass is.
Many people don’t realize that Mass starts before Mass actually starts. One thing that has helped me and that I strongly encourage you, readers, to do is to make Mass an all-day event.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “But Sam, Mass is only an hour long, how can I make one hour last an entire day?” Well chill out, I’m about to tell you. The answer is simple, make Mass last for more than an hour. Don’t even think of Sunday as another day of the week. Sunday is Mass. This way of thinking helps keep me from scheduling things on that day that might distract me and helps me start my day in the right state of mind.
Take an hour or two before Mass to wind down. Turn off the t.v. or the computer or the video games or whatever distraction you prefer. Bust out that old bible and take a look at the day’s readings. Read your favorite scripture. Enjoy some peace and calm and invite the Holy Spirit to quiet your heart. And then arrive at Mass early – 15-20 minutes is a good amount of time so you can both spend time in prayer AND get good seats. : )
When you are actually at Mass, try to feel the words that you say. Listen to what it is that you’re saying and recognize what the words mean. For example, when we profess the Creed, don’t recite it. Profess it. That is what it means to feel the Mass. And when you do that, you will notice that you will break from the congregation’s monotonous tone and find yourself expressing – feeling – the words with passion and enthusiasm.
And when it comes time to listen, do your best to really pay attention. It is human nature for our mind’s to wander, I’m the worst when it comes to wandering minds, but we can catch ourselves and snap our attention back when we notice that we’ve lost focus.
Some good friends of mine like to take notes on homilies and readings to help them pay attention and so that they can hold onto messages and images that stood out to them. And if that isn’t enough for you, consider a ministerial role. As a Minister of the Word and Music Minister, I have found that becoming a part of the Mass outside of the congregation helps me find meaning and deepens my faith every week.
After Mass, stick around and maybe try to fit in some more prayer and time for socialization. It’s amazing how forming bonds with your congregation-mates(?) can encourage you to come to and participate in the Mass. My greatest friends are the ones I met through Church, and they keep me growing my faith and encourage me to feel Mass.
But I think the most effective and most important way to gain meaning from Mass and learning to feel Mass is by understanding what Mass is.
It’s an unfortunate truth that a large portion of the Catholic population is unaware of what Mass actually is. It’s just this thing we have to go to every Sunday where we listen to scripture and eat God. Wrong! Well, no, it’s not wrong, but it is so much more than that! It is a place for us to come together as a community – as a body – to celebrate the miracle and mystery that is God.
We come to worship and praise, we come to appreciate, we come to proclaim, we come to renew our bodies and our faith, to learn, to grow, and to share, we come to shape our Selves and our souls, and most importantly we come to take part in the single greatest sacrament that creates and defines our faith – the Eucharist.
When we know what it is we are doing and why it is that we have come to Mass, we unlock the door that stands between doing Mass and feeling Mass.
With that, we need to truly strive to understand the Eucharist. (Don’t say source and summit, don’t say source and summit) It is the source and summit of our Catholic faith (well, it is)! Yes, the Eucharist is a mystery, so we can never truly understand it. In fact, Saint Jean Vianney said that “if we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy.” However, what we know from Christ is that when we take part in the sacrament of the Eucharist, we are literally taking the Body, Blood, soul, and divinity of GOD into our own bodies, blood, and souls.
We are experiencing heaven on earth, and joining the two together – becoming one with the Body of Christ. And we are doing it communally!
How amazing is that? To be gathered in one place and sharing such an indescribably divine experience with the tens to hundreds to thousands of other Catholics there with us. How can anything compare with that – how can anything bring a people together in such a deep, personal, holy, and powerful way? I’ll tell you: nothing else can.
So next time you go to receive communion, just think about that. I guarantee Mass will never seem “boring” again.