Today I want to urge all of you dear readers: Don’t be one of those people who are settling! Don’t settle for attending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at a local parish church, if you see pastors and staff in you parish church ignoring what the GIRM (General Instructions of the Roman Missal) and the documents of Vatican II actually called for. If there is any way to get to a beautiful church with a reverent Mass on Sunday morning, please make the effort to travel there.
In this fallen, ugly and wicked world, we all need every bit of the strength of grace and our Faith that we can possibly get. It may surprise you to hear that we cannot get the same amount of grace from any Mass that we attend. (Article explaining this in more detail here.) Since we have free will, God gives us many of His graces only according to how we cooperate with His Will. If we go to an ugly church, one that has priests and staff who decide on their own ways to “do the liturgy,” where choirs play inappropriate music, lay people are in the sanctuary doing functions only the ordained should do, and the attitude of the parish makes the reception of Holy Communion in to some kind of drive-through fast food line, we will not receive the graces that God would give us if we were attending a more faithful church–one with an obedient, reverent, priest, who educates his flock and tries to be a father to them (not an entertainer or a manager), where the parishioners know and believe in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and their understanding of the value and purpose of the Mass is evident in their posture and attitude. God can give us more graces if we cooperate with Him and choose well, if we choose to worship Him according to the mind of the Church. After all, she comes from Him and tells us how He wants to be served.
Another reason it is important to follow the Church’s guidelines for the proper celebration of Mass is that it communicates many messages to us about our Faith. In attending an ugly/irreverent/unworthy celebration of Holy Mass, we are allowing our aesthetic and spiritual sensibilities to be formed and shaped. What we think and how we think is changed by what we see and hear, and we will rise or fall to the level of what we experience. (Since I have been learning about Sacred Music, I have noticed that there is outright catechesis in just the music used at Mass!) I believe this can make or break a child’s faith, and will have tremendous implications in his young adulthood, when that time comes for him to choose whether he will be a Catholic or not. Those families that are bringing their dear children to irreverent, ugly parishes are raising these young Catholics with a subconscious (yet distinct!) understanding of what it means to worship God as a Catholic–that we Catholics see it fitting to praise Him with kitschy and banal music, casual attire, and a worldy attitude. It is dangerous for all of us to be malformed by continually watching the abuses and disobedience of an irreverent parish go on and on, but it is especially dangerous for children, who will be shaped forever by what they experience and see in their earliest days.
When we do recognize the value of attending reverently celebrated Masses, it becomes so important to be there regularly in order to show the diocese with your presence (and money!) that obedience to God through the Sacraments of the Church is why you are a Catholic. This is not a religion for the cowardly, the weak, or the lazy. It’s the hardest thing we will ever do, and we need the constant help of God to be faithful. “Voting with your feet,” as my mother would say, shows a commitment to your fellow Catholics and your leaders that you will only give your very best to God, and will not settle. This will encourage more of the good in your diocese and even your country.
It often takes a lot of sacrifice, discomfort, and even courage to make the change to a better, more beautiful and more sacred celebration of Holy Mass. As the Sundays go by, however, you will understand that your decision is like the parable of the Pearl of Great Price–that whatever good things you have left behind cannot even compare to what you have now, and what a beautiful liturgy teaches us to look forward to in Heaven.