With that in mind, I’ve decided to give 15 ways to pay attention at mass.
- Prepare. Don’t go into mass waiting to get blindsided. Find out what the readings are going to be before hand and read them. They can be found many places. They were probably in last week’s bulletin. You can find them in The Catholic Key and easiest of all you can find them on the US Bishops site. Read them before hand. Meditate on the readings. Let scripture speak to you.
- Arrive early. A sure way to be distracted is by walking down the aisle either right before or after the processional. People should not be wondering why you are not wearing an alb.
- Pray. What should you do with that extra time?? Sure, visiting with your fellow parishioners is nice but get to your seat 5-10 minutes before mass starts and spend it in prayer. Ask God to be with you during mass and to give you the grace to actively participate in the mass. And if you choose to continue visiting please do it in the entry. The sanctuary is a holy place and people are trying to pray.
- Sing. During the processional, the Gloria and all of the other parts of the mass. It’s been said that when you sing you are actually praying twice. You don’t have to be Pavarotti to sing as mass (if you haven’t noticed by the singing of some of the cantors!) Don’t be embarrassed. None of us are great singers but we are singing God’s praise and that’s a good thing. That doesn’t mean that you have to belt it out louder than everyone else in the congregation either.
- Follow along. I’ve heard pros and cons of following along in the missalette. I’ve heard that the lector is breaking open the word of God and we should be listening and not reading. Well, that’s a valid point but there are some of us out there who can comprehend better by reading than by listening. If this is you then follow along. Some churches have the readings in the back of the hymnal. Some have seasonal missalettes for you. Or you can bring your own. They sell them bound or in a monthly periodical called the “Magnificat.”
- LISTEN to the homily!! Father has got something to say!! He may not be some inspirational speaker. He may have been busy this week and not prepared the best homily but you never know. You can always find some nugget in what Father has to say. Sometimes you may have an “Ah-ha!” moment and you wonder if Father wrote this with you personally in mind. You will think to yourself, “No—it couldn’t be. I haven’t talked to him about this issue I’m having –besides—I’m from out of town and have never met the man!”
- LISTEN to the prayers of the faithful. For some reason I always find this a distracting time. It’s after the homily. It’s after the creed and my mind is stretched to the limit. Listen to each intention and when say, “Lord, hear our prayer” know what you are asking for. Maybe you will remember the name of a sick person or recently departed to take home to remember in your prayers there.
- Meditate. If you are still too shy to sing during the collection than spend that time meditating. Think back to the readings. Think about Father’s homily. Or prepare yourself for what is about to come.
- Repeat to yourself what Father is saying during the Eucharistic prayers. I admit that I get distracted during the Eucharistic prayers. So much is being said. After the priest says something simply repeat what he says in your head. A simple way to become a more active participant.
- Visualize what is being said during the consecration. Imagine Jesus at the Last Supper. Only he is right in front of you saying, “This is my body.”
- Appreciate what is going on around you spiritually. Sure, sure, you may be in a church surrounded by your friends and family but much more is going on in the spiritual realm. The mass is a unification of Heaven and Earth. You are in Heaven when you are at mass. It’s more than your wife and kids there with you. There is a giant cloud of saints there with you. Your loved ones who have passed are there with you. Even more than that—you are truly unified with the universal church and you are there with the church from across town as well from the church on the other side of the world.
- Realize what is about to happen as you walk up to communion. You are about to hold Jesus Christ in your hands. The creator of the universe is about to be put I your hands and you, the created are about to consume the creator.
- PRAY! The time after receiving the blessed sacrament is one of the best times to pray. Think of it. Jesus is never closer to you than at this moment. Jesus is literally in you. Thank him. Praise him. Offer him your petitions.
- Stay!! Mass isn’t over after communion! There is still a closing prayer!! Don’t be like Judas who left the Last Supper before it was over!! Sing that final song!
- Now here is probably the crazy suggestion. Stay after mass and pray some more!! Why rush off?? The parking lot is going to be crazy!! You are not going to get out of there for a good ten minutes anyway.
This list by no means is an end-all list. I’m sure there are hundreds of other tips and suggestions to pay better attention at mass. This list can actually be boiled down to three things: pray, concentrate and realize what a gift we have in the mass. Does anyone else have any ideas?