Do you ever emotionally struggle with your parish’s lack of sacredness during the celebration of Holy Mass? Is the celebration of Mass loud and distracting, banal or ugly, casual and secular-flavored where you are? Do you have to grit your teeth each and every Sunday morning, wondering how you’re going to get through the next hour?
Over the years I have developed strategies for attending ugly and un-sacred celebrations of the Mass. Perhaps they can help you if you find yourself in a difficult situation at your parish.
- Reading Before you go to Mass, you should read the Sunday readings and get them into your heart. Doing this will help you pray the Mass better, and perhaps hear the homily with more receptivity (more on that below). (Find this week’s readings here.)
- Dress I’m a huge proponent of dressing to the nines for Sunday Mass (even if no one else in the parish does!). Dressing in your best is universally known as a sign of respect. If you dress on Sunday mornings like you are going to the most important event of your week, your faith will be a witness to those around you, which may draw souls closer to God.
- Prayer At home or in the pew, pray that your soul will be well-disposed and that you will attend Mass attentively and worthily. Pray that God will make you receptive to the graces that He has to offer you. Pray for charity and for the conversion of the hearts of all those who are in charge of the liturgy, also offering up any suffering it may cause you for their conversion. (You can find many prayers for using before Mass are here and here.)
- Music If the music at parish is bad, you don’t have to sing. When the parts of the Mass Ordinary (Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei) are not what they should be, I recommend reciting the text in the missalette quietly and prayerfully (in Latin for maximum effect!). At risk of falling into a rabbit hole, I’ll bring up the Propers at this point, too. At the Entrance, Offertory, and during Communion, hymns or “worship songs” are improperly sung 99% of the time in Catholic parishes–the choirs should be singing what are called the “Propers,” which are antiphons and psalms. They are fitting, meditative, and beautiful. You can look up the current Sunday here and print off the day’s Propers to pray with during the song-singing at Mass.
- Homily Be sure to pray to the Holy Spirit that He will help you internalize and act on your pastor’s preaching that morning. Although lots of sermons are squishy and feel-good, with little to no catechetical substance, God can still help you bring the wisdom out of each homily that He wants you to apply to your life. Attend with an open ear and an open heart for the message that you might need.
- Offertory Put your heart in the collection basket with the check you write. During the offertory, as you watch the gifts carried up to the sanctuary, offer your whole heart and your whole life to God along with those gifts. Tell Him that you want to be a gift to Him that He may use you for the good of His Church. (I love doing this–it makes the Offertory seem like a special, prayerful time of re-offering my life to God, and renewing my commitment to living out my vocation.)
- Communion Beginning with the opening words of the Eucharistic prayer after the Sanctus is sung, we enter a profound period of adoration at Mass. Incredibly, Almighty God through His servant the priest transubstantiates the bread and wine into Christ’s Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Pray, pray, pray at this time: pray to Our Lady for graces for your worthy reception of Communion, offer up your Communion for a special intention, and after reception of the Eucharist spend time in quiet thanking Our Lord for this Gift and privilege.
- Kneel and pray. Once the priest has processed out, and the last measure of the recessional hymn is sung, it is time to kneel and pray for a few moments. Now is the time to thank Our Lord that He has allowed us to be present at these Sacred Mysteries, and to receive Him in the Eucharist: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. May our attendance at Mass, the “Source and Summit of the Christian life,” give us the grace to live another week in Faith, Hope, and Charity.
I have found faith in the Presence of Our Lord in the tabernacle will be the greatest asset in a difficult liturgy situation. Focusing on this, you can offer your sufferings to be united to His Suffering on the Cross, and that will do much good for souls. Whatever your parish situation, it certainly can’t hurt!
I’m sure you readers have thought of things that I have not that can help ease the mind and focus the heart at Holy Mass! Please share your own ideas in the comments below.
~ Blessed Lady Day to all of you! ~