Sunday, January 8, 2017

When Going to Mass is Hard

Because of the recent snowstorm we had, Masses for today were canceled at one of the parishes we sometimes attend. We were late for getting to our regular parish too and driving on ice isn't among my husband's set of skills, being that he is from Phoenix. So no Mass for today, although tonight we will pray a rosary together.

Thankfully, this is the only Sunday we have not gone to Mass. We try to be pretty faithful about getting to Holy Days of Obligation too. But can I be honest?

Going to Mass is sometimes the hardest part of my week.

For one, I have a terrible attention span. Ask my husband and he'll tell you I am awful at finishing book series, watching one Netflix series at a time, and sticking to one task at a time. I also occasionally burn food because of this. So when the time comes for us both to sit in our self designated spot in the congregation, my mind wanders as if on cue. And it stays wandering until Mass is over. It goes something like this:

We kneel down when we first come in, like we're supposed to. I find the tabernacle, to remind myself where the main point of the room is. Sometimes I even get to this part before the priest walks in. Yup, already starting out badly. I say "Hello, Jesus"... and then what? Well, I could tell Him how my day went, ask Him to help me be present at Mass, pray for my husband. But before I know it, my focus is gone. As Mass starts, I try to participate in the part where we say the Confiteor (because we always need that), and lose it again. At this point, as I am confessing my faults as part of the congregation, the familiar feeling of guilt creeps its way back in. Since Jesus is there and sees everything, I tell Him, "I'm sorry, Lord. I think its going to be one of those days".

Trust me, its gone on like this for years. I will have those Sundays that feel more grace filled and it makes things easier. But I wish I could make more of an effort to be there and let God know of my desire to be with Him. For my husband and I both, I wish with all my heart that we stopped coming to Mass out of obligation and instead went to be intimate with the third person in our marriage. Obligation gets you in the door and keeps you in the pew, and might even keep you Catholic, if habit and regulation means that much to you. But at what point will we understand how much value there is in what we do? At what point will we desire to be there?

I think maybe we understand the value in little chunks. Brief moments where we recognize the gravity of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I must believe that He enlightens each and every one of us at some point, because we are, after all, making the effort to sit there in front of Him. I thought about the fact that the Mass is the greatest prayer of all. So full of mystery, a phenomenon among the roughage of our daily lives. Of course we aren't going to be able to take it all in perfectly! It did take the saints many years to be able to understand and appreciate what was meant by the "Sacrifice of the Mass". The Eucharist itself is something I still have a hard time explaining to non-Catholics outside of "Yes, I'm sure its really Him!!".

So maybe God is telling me I just need to slow down. In that case, here are the parts of the Mass that mean the most to me; the ones that I try my best not to miss:

The Confiteor:

              Like mentioned above, this is something we all need. If you haven't taken the time to make an act of contrition or do an examination of conscience, kill two birds with one stone! The Mass is so brilliantly set up in the way we, led by the priest, approach God. We start out by acknowledging we are sinners, in front of everyone, so we're all on the same page. In the Traditional Rite, the priest doesn't even approach the altar until this part has been said. We speak the truth with our lips, slightly mortify our flesh as we strike our breast three times, and then we ask all of heaven with the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph to help us do better next time. A perfect preparation receiving the Word of God in both senses, i.e. Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist.

The Sanctus:

           The first and simplest reason I love this aspect of the Mass is because they always ring the bells when its being said. Bells are great because they serve a multi-function. That is, they announce when something important is happening and at the same time arouse parishioners from their sleepy/distracted stupor. We know why the consecration is important, but why is it necessary for the bells to be rung at the Sanctus? If you go back to Revelation, God is being proclaimed "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts" several times throughout the chapters. It is the chosen words of praise given by the angels, saints, and prophets of heaven. So why shouldn't we mimic their gift? I never understood the gravity of the Sanctus until I once asked a Benedictine sister to pray for me during it. She replied that what I was asking of her was a huge favor, because it is the prayer reserved for sole attention of the Holy One. She said yes, and I felt rather ashamed for asking for such a large piece for myself. In any case, it taught me a lesson. I love to pray it because it is the once instance where I always feel heaven and earth are speaking the same words. It is straightforward, and not difficult to remember for us sheep. :)

The Consecration (duh):

               This is kind of a no brainer; although I won't deny that I've been distracted through this one too. Isn't it amazing that in one moment, Christ humbles Himself as easily as He did on the day of Calvary, to once again be displayed in front of us? That in itself is the mystery, as well as a binding event of heaven and earth. The least we can do is this time instead of walking away from Him, we proclaim, "My Lord and my God!". Its also nice there's a partial indulgence for saying it. :)

Time with Jesus:

              I can't remember which saint said it, but the first fifteen minutes with Jesus are the most precious. There He is, inside you. Yea, He tastes a little bit like wheat, but that's all part of the faith-filled journey! Don't know what to say? Well, think about the fact that you are the closest you can get to your Creator. The very Being that formed you! Take account of your existence: find your heartbeat,  listen to your breathing, and locate all your extremities. Examine your soul. Then realize where all of you came from. Your Origin knows you, desires for your safety, and created you out of love. Jesus is your origin, and there is no reason to hide from Him. You don't have to say anything. Just be. That is exactly what He waits for. Imagine you quenching His insatiable thirst, even for just a few moments!

Sacred Heart Catholic Church of Dunn, NC aka our parish.

And thats it. Sometimes I can only muster one or two... all of them on a good day. It grounds me and helps me find my footing again. Even if I've been a heathen all week, the tiny amounts of time I can find in Mass make it better.

So heres to a Happy New Year, both liturgical and astronomical. Here's to many more happy Masses, whether we make it through like a saint or not. Because no matter what, Jesus is always waiting.


  1. Lovely thoughts/reflections! I too struggle with staying focused throughout the entire Mass. A few things that help me are sitting in the front pew (so I don't get distracted by people in front of me) and having set prayers that I pray before and after the Mass. Also, using the Magnificat missal helps me to follow along with the readings.
    And oh I hear you on sometimes seeing Mass as an obligation instead of something I "get" to do. Especially in these winter months..brr! But then I remember there are people who have literally died for attending Mass or places where Mass is not available, that usually is a wake up call ;)

    BEAUTIFUL parish! I love that it has a Communion rail!

  2. We are pretty lucky that our priest is extremely devout and prefers the Traditional Rite. Also, I LOVE the Magnificat! We should be getting one soon. Having them really got my through college!

  3. Beautiful reflection! I just love the part about "find your heartbeat…" I will have to remember that! What a great way to rest in His Presence after holy Communion!

  4. Love this Larabeth! I too get distracted more times than I'd like to admit! It's definitely a struggle and it's nice to know I'm not alone on my own journey toward santification. And I remember just one time in my life growing up in NC (and where I still live now) during the 80's when Mass was cancelled due to a big snowstorm. (It was considered a blizzard for our area!) Even as a child I remembered I missed going to Mass, but I think if Mass had to ever be cancelled as an adult and mother now, I'd miss it even more. I heard somewhere that after the consecration and just before receiving Communion that we can say an Act of Contrition to prepare our hearts and souls to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. So I've been doing this for awhile now and it helps me refocus and prepare me for the reception of the Eucharist. Reading the lives of the Saints with my children has helped me also grow a deeper appreciation and love for the Mass because of all those past and present who risked their lives and lost them to defend the faith and the Holy Mass. And I know a few families that travel to Dunn to attend the Latin Mass at Sacred Heart. :)