Even those of us who love going to Mass on Sunday can have weeks when we don’t feel entirely present—that we’re “not getting anything out of it” because we seem to have shown up without much to put into it.
A lot of times, those days can be the result of our hurried contemporary lifestyles. We find ourselves at Mass feeling as if the week simply swept us along and dropped us into our regular pew without even stopping at home.
Since Mass is our path toward the Eucharist—“the source and summit” of our lives as Christians—it’s probably worth putting in some extra effort to avoid those not-entirely-present occasions. Here are a few ideas we’d like to share.
Check the liturgical calendar.
Even in Ordinary Time, there’s nothing strictly “ordinary” about the life of the Church. Check and see what the upcoming Sunday is intended to celebrate or commemorate and keep it in mind as the weekend approaches. If there’s no special feast or commemorative, look up the collect (opening prayer) for the Mass and spend some time thinking about it as Sunday approaches, perhaps even adding it to you own daily prayer. Creighton University offers a handy, online Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer where you can find upcoming collects.
Read the readings.
Taking a few minutes to read the scripture passages you’ll be hearing at Mass makes it all the more easy to absorb them when you hear them, because the words will already be familiar (especially those tricky Old Testament names and towns). Also, because church acoustics and sound systems aren’t always exactly concert-quality, trying to truly hear the readings without having an idea of what’s coming can be more than a little difficult.
Remember the fast.
The way the fast rule is these days, it’s not so much a fast as it is a “slow”—meaning all it takes is putting the brakes on eating about 30-45 minutes before Sunday Mass starts so you can put an hour between your last bite and Communion. It doesn’t sound like much of a gesture, but it is something deliberate—an admittedly small, but deliberate effort to make that hour before communion no place for bread other than the Bread of Life.
It’s no great revelation to say that we feel different in various types of clothes. Dressing for success in business situations is about, in part, how you feel about yourself when you’re projecting a positive, well-dressed image. In much the same way, you can dress to be blessed. If you’re wearing something at Mass that you’d also wear to watch TV in at home, odds are you’re under-dressed for the occasion.
Keep in mind that the second you walk into church you’ve walked into one very large Eucharistic adoration chapel. So, whether you get to Mass 15 minutes or 1 minute before it starts, focus on the tabernacle and remember Who’s inside. There’s no better way to put yourself in the right frame of mind for Mass than some face time with He Who invited you. In addition to sounding like the title of a Catholic John Lennon song, “instant adoration” takes literally no time that you’re not already putting into your Sunday obligation.
Those are just a few thoughts on preparing for Mass. There are plenty more out there. You can even discover personal ones by taking some time to go through the Mass looking for parts of the liturgy you don’t fully understand and reading up on them; that way, you’ll get more and more meaning out of your Mass experience.
Let us hear from you.
Is there anything special that you do to get yourself ready for Mass? Please tell us about it in the com box.