Going to Mass is about more than just making it in the door for Communion. My day-to-day life has changed significantly in the last few months, so I have found myself approaching Mass attendance in a whole new way. It used to be part of work. My biggest concern was getting to attend a whole Mass as an ordinary parishioner rather than “working” it by greeting before and after, popping in to make an announcement, or moonlighting in the choir. (Can you moonlight as part of your actual job?) Now that I have to make more effort to get to Mass, I’ve started to improve my pre-Mass procedure, too.
Before you take a look at my tips, consider what kind of person you are and how your journey to Mass usually goes. If you’re a planner like me, this list will be second nature. If you like to fly by the seat of your pants, you might think this is overkill. I challenge you to consider Mass the most important part of your Sunday (or Saturday evening), though, and decide to prepare for it.
- Decide which Mass you’re going to attend and where. Putting off this decision until midday Sunday is a recipe for disaster and sin. If you have a regular Mass time and a home parish, it’s a no-brainer—until a special event, a houseguest, or terrible weather throws off your plans. Keep your parish bulletin handy from week to week (I put mine on the refrigerator) and get to know MassTimes.org.
- Calculate when you need to leave. Consider standard traffic patterns and local megachurches. Think about how long it takes you to get ready (and to get your family ready) and add in ten extra minutes. Better early to church than late! Get-It-Done Guy recommends planning a “ready to leave” time before your absolute last minute. If you’re ready to leave by your “ready” time, you’ll be all set before that last minute.
- Plan your Mass attire. In Texas, this can be tricky. I woke up to discover that it felt like winter one morning in March. True story. This isn’t another post about modesty in dress or veiling, but if you would dress nicely for dinner at a friend’s house or with your favorite celebrity or political figure, why wouldn’t you dress up for Jesus?
- Get your offering ready. I have a tithing plan, although I’ve adjusted it since my income has changed. I know exactly how much I’m going to give each week, I pay attention to second collection announcements, and I know how I’m going to give it (almost always by check, so I don’t have the excuse of lacking cash). I wrote a post about tithing at my personal blog, Lindsay Loves. If you find yourself rummaging for cash while the basket (and its usher) waits or struggling to sign a check in the car, this may be the best tip of all.
- Pre-read the readings. This is my new favorite step. Daily Mass can throw you for a loop with optional memorials and local celebrations, but Sunday Mass has a pretty strict calendar. A great way to drive to Mass as a family is to have the non-driving parent or oldest child read the readings aloud in the car. If you’re single like me, you might have to whip out your smartphone in the church parking lot. (True story. Again.) The readings can be found at the USCCB website for every day, diocesan and parish quirks notwithstanding. As a bonus, you can take a moment to discern a theme from all four readings. That reflection can support a Mass with a lackluster homily.
- Pray. I’ll bet you already do this one. Plan to arrive at least five minutes before Mass is scheduled to begin—longer if a little one will need a potty break. Select your pew, check in with any liturgical ministries, and spend a few minutes in prayer before Mass begins. Even a “Hail Mary” or a frenzied “Thanks for getting us here, God!” can put you in the right frame of mind.
And then Mass begins. If you’ve done these six things, though, you’ve been ready for Mass since yesterday!
Did I miss anything? Add your pre-Mass tips in the combox.
Book reviews will resume with my next post.