Do you find yourself “going through the motions” at Mass? I know how easy it is to attend Mass and feel entirely disconnected from what is going on. To counteract that tendency, I have tried numerous aids over the years and discovered 5 ways that help me prepare for Mass.
Here they are:
1. Study the Amazing Symbolism and Scriptural Basis for the Mass
The Mass never “clicked” for me until I began to research and dig deeper into why we do certain things at Mass. It can all seem like a collection of random actions, mixed with candles and incense. However, after I discovered the amazing symbolism behind everything at Mass (and I mean ever single word and gesture), the Mass opened up and became what it truly is: the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. Until you understand the richness and depth to the Mass, it will always be a strange ritual that is hard to understand.
Personally, I have found the following books extremely helpful:
- The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth by Scott Hahn
- Letter and Spirit: From Written Text to Living Word in the Liturgy by Scott Hahn
- Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper by Brant Pitre
- A Biblical Walk Through the Mass (Book): Understanding What We Say and Do In The Liturgy by Edward Sri
- The Spirit of the Liturgy by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)
2. Read the Mass Readings Beforehand
I often notice that listening to the readings at Mass is quite difficult. My thoughts can wander very easily, or the sound system can make it hard to hear the lector. That is why I have found it very beneficial to read the readings beforehand, as you will already be familiar with scripture passages and will have a better chance of paying attention. These readings are always available online at the USCCB website. If you attend the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (Latin Mass), I still suggest reading over the Mass Propers before going to church.
3. Arrive Early and/or Observe 15-30 Minutes of Silence Before Mass
The times when I am most attentive at Mass is when I don’t come flying in at the last moment, or even late, to Mass. It allows me to decompress from the busyness of life and focus my attention on God. If you are not able to physically get to Mass early, then the next best thing to do is turn off the radio in the car. We need to allow our soul time to disconnect from the distractions of the world and that is why it is essential to reduce the noise that we experience as we travel to Mass.
4. Use the Missalette or Bring a Missal
Typically there is a small missalette in the pews that allows a person to follow-along with the words at Mass. What I find helpful is to follow along with the words of the priest, which then focuses my attention on the Mass. Sometimes it is easy to be distracted while the priest is saying the Eucharistic Prayer and so I combat that tendency by reading the words that he says. The words at Mass are really quite beautiful and very easy to miss if we are not aware of what is going on.
Besides using a missalette, a person can purchase their own missal to bring along. This puts a personal touch to attending Mass as you can also bring with you your favorite holy cards and prayers that you can say either before or after Mass. I suggest the Daily Roman Catholic Missal for the Ordinary Form and the Roman Missal by Baronius Press for the Extraordinary Form.
5. Ask Your Guardian Angel to Help You Stay Attentive
It is easy to forget that Mass is a meeting between Heaven and Earth and that your Guardian Angel is the perfect helper to keep you immersed in the liturgy. They are there at your side and ready to help. All we have to do is ask. They especially appreciate the invitation to accompany you as you receive Holy Communion. They will never have the opportunity to receive Jesus in the Eucharist and so being with you during that time is a special event.
So the next time you prepare to attend Mass, consider these 5 ways that will allow you to no longer “go through the motions,” but “actively participate” in God’s most precious gift to mankind.
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