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Faith Formation Mass

Mass, How I’ve Missed You

Mass How I've Missed You

I went to Mass for the first time in three months recently. Masks were on, every other pew was strategically roped off, parishioners obediently sat six feet apart. Meanwhile, hymnal boxes sat empty, holy water had been replaced with hand sanitizer, and not one paper bulletin could be found. 

I prayed quietly for a few minutes before I noticed the elderly lady two rows in front of me looking around to make sure no one saw her lower her mask to gasp for fresh air. Key West is not the place you want to be sitting with something covering your face for an hour in sweltering heat and humidity. I felt her pain.

Even with the church being only a quarter of the way full, it was eerily silent. No hushed salutations from one family to the next or chatter from fidgety children as one might expect on a typical Sunday morning. In fact, there were no small children present at all, including my own. 

After several prolonged moments of silently observing the sterile basilica, bells began to toll. It was time to begin. The organist welcomed in the masked lectors and altar servers, followed by the priest from the side of the sanctuary. She belted out approximately one verse of the opening hymn before my vision blurred with hot tears. It had been too long. 

There’s a lot to be learned from a global pandemic that leaves the whole world cooped up for months on end. Along with so many things, one revelation became abundantly clear: Mass is underappreciated.

The Church is a People, Not a Building.

When the quarantine began, my friends on social media bemoaned not being able to worship together. I shared in their heartache. Coming together as a community to praise, give thanks, and petition the Lord at the start of each week is vital for believers. It’s as necessary as taking a shower in the morning or doing the dishes in the evening. 

Not being able to do these things in a particularly tense period only makes the uncertainty of current events all the scarier.

Like all things that people take for granted, I didn’t realize how good it was to be able to go to church until I no longer could. 

It didn’t take long for me to realize that I had been lulled into a drunken state of complacency over the past thirty years. One in which being able to bear witness to my faith every Sunday in the safety of my parish walls had left me spoiled and lazy. 

If there was one silver lining to be found in being forced to spend Sundays at home, though, it was getting the opportunity to pause and consider the heart of what we as Christians truly believe. We don’t congregate for social purposes. We don’t do it for entertainment or investment opportunities or personal gain. We do it to maintain a relationship with God. And you don’t need a building to do that.

By taking the only way I knew how to worship away, the pandemic left me with no choice but to be more intentional with how I was going to keep Sunday holy, or abandon it altogether. The decision was clear, but not easy.

How would I worship Christ without a priest holding my hand every step of the way? What would motivate me to sing loudly, pray earnestly, or dress for the Lord when my neighbors weren’t there to bear witness to it? 

Social distancing had presented a big, shiny mirror up to my heart and the reflection staring back at me wasn’t always pretty. 

We are Physical Beings. Our Worship Should Be, Too.

The quarantine had proven that I didn’t need a building to worship God, but it sure does help. 

Gathering my family together to pray the rosary, watch Mass online, or read the Bible was fruitful in so many ways. Striving to deliberately keep Sundays sacred is beautiful, but it made me miss the concrete reminders of my faith that I can only find in a church all the more.

It brought to mind the time a friend who’d fallen away from the Church questioned why Catholic churches insist on being so ornate. 

“Are the elaborate stain-glassed windows, gold chalices, and expensive statues really necessary? Wouldn’t God be happier with people worshipping in a simple building and using the extra money to help someone instead?” His question was sincere, but misguided.

What he didn’t realize was that all of those “extra” things help far more people on a weekly basis than the money used to buy them would’ve been able to had they been spent on food or clothing for the needy. Those beautiful, elaborate decorations not only bring glory to God, but they help remind countless people of him constantly when they are in his presence. Each statue, window, symbol, and image draw people’s short attention spans back to the reason they came to church in the first place: Jesus. 

Are these elements essential to encounter the Risen Lord? No. Are they beneficial? Absolutely.

Mass engages all five of the senses; that’s not a coincidence. Humans are physical beings as much as we are spiritual. It’s as necessary as ever that we worship as such.

Celebrating Christ in the living room had been nice, but I needed more. I want to smell the incense, taste the bread and wine, see the beautiful images that lift my mind to heaven. I need to feel my neighbor’s hand at the sign of peace, hear the uplifting music, and kneel in adoration before the Eucharist. None of these things are accidental. It’s the way God intended worship to be: spiritual and physical.

These are experiences that we simply cannot have alone in our living rooms day in and day out. They can only be found in Mass.

If that’s not essential, what is?

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Ink Slingers Krista Steele Series Spiritual Growth The Ask

Grumbling Mass Goer

The Ask

Welcome to the next installment of The Ask – a series devoted to taking your questions rooted in Catholic living and providing solid, orthodox advice you can use in your everyday. How does it work? We take questions from you, our readers, and Krista marries the spiritual and practical to give you ways to apply the advice given to help you walk with Christ. Have a question? Email KRISTA to submit your question.


My child doesn’t like going to Mass. How can I help him/her to love and appreciate it? How important is my child’s attire for Mass? Should I just be glad that he/she is going with me?

– Grumbling Mass Goer

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Dearest Grumbling Mass Goer,

Every Saturday, at 3:30 p.m., my siblings and I grumbled our way into my dad’s pick up truck for the 4:00 vigil Mass. It didn’t matter what else we were doing, we were going to Mass. We left parties early more times than I can count. I did not appreciate this as a kid. My siblings and I dragged our feet every week, protesting with complaints and half hearted (at best) effort at dressing appropriately for the occasion.

I should mention that I was an altar server, on a serving “crew” that was often called upon for funeral and wedding Masses. I went to a summer camp for Catholic youth every year, had a holy water font in my room, and regularly rearranged and organized the bookshelf that held my sacramentals and spiritual books. I only ever got in trouble at school three times. Once was for refusing to take off a purity ring that was “against dress code”, and once for “skipping art class” because I stayed in the sanctuary for a few minutes to pray after serving the 8:30 am Mass. Our principal laughed and apologized for giving me the two days of detention she was obligated to dole out.

I loved Jesus and had a deep devotion to our Holy Mother. I loved being Catholic, and yet I absolutely hated going to Mass. However, that didn’t last forever. I did not attend Mass during my college years unless I was visiting home. In my early twenties, I wasn’t so sure there was a good God at all. I was working on a master’s degree before I started going to Mass occasionally on my own, and slowly came back to the faith as an adult. If I’m being completely honest with you, I still don’t always love and appreciate the Mass the way it deserves to be loved and appreciated, even though I still walk through the doors every Saturday evening. All too often, attending Mass is another thing to do, not the source and summit of my happiness.

So, yes, celebrate the fact that she is going with you! Every time her butt is next to you in the pew is a win. As a kid, my dad’s devotion to getting us to Mass was annoying. As an adult, I’m in awe of his faithfulness and beyond grateful for the example he set for us. It was his actions, not his words that taught us the importance of going to Mass.

I’m sure you know the parable of the ten virgins, right? All ten of them went out to await the arrival of the bridegroom. The wise ones brought their lamps and extra oil while the foolish ones brought only their lamps. Scripture says the bridegroom was delayed and the foolish virgins asked the wise virgins for some of their extra oil. The parable says that the wise virgins basically said “get your own.”

I always thought that was harsh until it was explained to me this way. The bridegroom is Jesus, and the oil is our relationship with Him. We can’t give anyone our relationship with Jesus. They need to cultivate their own relationship with Him in their own way and their own time. You are doing the best thing you can by providing your daughter access to the sacred. Rest easy, mama. Jesus is pursuing your baby’s heart every moment of every day and He will never stop pursuing her. Her relationship with the Lord and with the mass will almost certainly look different than yours, and that’s exactly how it should be. Your desire for her to love the mass is good. Continue to surrender the logistics at the foot of the cross, trusting that we serve a God who holds back no good gifts from His children and the ultimate gift is Himself.

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Antonia Goddard Faith Formation Ink Slingers Mass Prayer

Confessions of a Mass-Hopper

Confessions of a Mass-Hopper

“It’s a crisis of Catholicism,” the priest insisted, “Mass-hopping is ruining our churches.”

He had a point. Young Catholics are more transient than ever, hopping between different rented accommodation (in London, this can be as often as every few months, when the rent gets hiked). Each move requires finding a new church, a new congregation, and squeezing the new Mass times around a busy schedule. This trend is only set to worsen, as more households than ever live in unsettled or impermanent tenancies.

It’s so easy to see what’s lost in a nation of Mass hoppers. Building a strong, positive, Catholic community to draw new families to God is harder than ever when your congregation swells or shrinks week on week, with few – if any – core worshippers to hold the fort. When the faces in the congregation are new and unfamiliar each week, it’s harder to foster the sense of loving welcome we should feel when entering Christ’s home. It can be tough, too, on parish priests, who are often reliant on their regulars to fill the reading rota or serve.

However, I found myself increasingly disagreeing as the priest condemned Mass-hoppers for failing in their obligation to assist in building a Catholic community around the church they attended. Of course there are negatives, but to dismiss Mass-hopping altogether as a scourge on the faith would be shortsighted. Not only should we be praising them for attending in the first place – despite unstable lifestyles and transience and all the challenges that come with frequent home moves – but we miss out on all the joys that Mass-hoppers can bring to a congregation of faithful.

Scratch the surface of Mass-hopping, and there are plenty of silver linings. Mass-hoppers bring fresh faces to the congregation, new ideas, and a change of scenery. Priests and parishes can’t afford to let things go stale when they have a new crowd to impress each week. For the Mass-hoppers themselves, the opportunity to hear new priests, hear new ideas, and pray in different ways should not be undervalued. Even hearing Mass in another language can be a joy, as having to think through the prayers and mentally translate everything breaks us out of the habit of reciting without praying.

My husband and I, before we were married, were among the more frequent Mass-hoppers. Shifting between university and homes across three different countries meant that we rarely heard the same priest twice, and got used to attending Mass on the hoof: a quick Google usually showed up the nearest churches with Masses in the next hour. We heard wonderful ideas from inspiring new priests, taught each other to pray the Hail Mary in German and Italian, and more often than not one of us had to translate the homily for the other on the way home. I paid greater attention, knowing that I’d have to remember the lessons and translate them into English as soon as we’d left the doors.

Finally married and settled, we are loving becoming part of a strong parish community, getting to know our priests, and attending the same Mass every Sunday. But to any and all Mass-hoppers who walk through the door, I for one will welcome them with open arms. Let’s see the joys and opportunities for everyone who partakes in Christ’s sacrifice.

 

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Elle Stone Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth

The Mass is EVERYTHING (so why doesn’t it feel that way?)

Kinda a Big Deal

So, the Eucharist is kinda a big deal.  No crap, Sherlock. It would be the first sentence of “Catholicism for Dummies.”  And even after that they would add “duh.”

But let me be real.  This is a truth that I know in my head…but whether or not I feel it in my heart, or actually conduct my life to reflect this truth, varies immensely.  Some days I’m on fire for the Eucharist, for Adoration, for Mass. My heart is filled. I can’t keep from singing or crying or outpouring my mind onto the pages of my journal.

But sometimes…sometimes I let it slide.  I go a while without visiting Christ in adoration, even though I definitely have the time for it.  Thinking about the meal I’m making after Mass is a lot more exciting that the consecration. For the past few weeks I’ve hit a bit of a roadblock when it comes to this Sacrament.  My mind isn’t present. My heart certainly isn’t present. I’m bored. I’m apathetic. I’m distracted. I’m disengaged. The priest is going too fast. Too slow. I can’t understand him.  The family in front of me is too rowdy. They played the one praise and worship song I can’t stand. I’ve got this big project at work…

And it’s extra bad that I let this slide, because the Church could not be more straightforward about how important the Eucharist it. According to the Catechism:  

“The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself.” (CCC 1324; http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p2s2c1a3.htm).

So, yeah.  Kinda a big deal.

But if the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Christian life…shouldn’t I…get more out of it?  It’s the source of, well, everything. This may sound painfully obvious, but… shouldn’t I get things from sources?  It’s the summit of all I do as a Catholic. Shouldn’t it just feel perfect?

Shouldn’t my heart be overflowing?  Shouldn’t my soul feel peace? Shouldn’t my mind be at ease?  Shouldn’t be strength be restored?

I recently read an awesome article, The Prayer of the Liturgy by Romano Guardini, and listened to a great podcast Praying Alone or in Community? from the Vici Mundum Show. Both really set me on the train of unpacking why I’m feeling separated from the Mass.  Bonus: they gave me insight into how I can change my mindset in order to reconnect a little better.  

I took three key nuggets of wisdom that have helped me get my head back on straight regarding the Mass.  They’re not a complete explanation or cure to why people might feel disconnected from the Mass by far–but rather three things I had not considered that I wanted to share with my sisters. <3

1. The Mass expresses the Universal Church, not us as individuals.

Stated more plainly, the mass is everyone’s prayer.  And I mean everyone. Every member of the Universal Church expresses their prayer through the liturgy.  This WAY changes the focus of Mass!

In the article by Guardini (referenced above), he states that:  
“The primary and exclusive aim of the liturgy is not the expression of the individual’s reverence and worship for God. It is not even concerned with the awakening, formation, and sanctification of the individual soul as such. Nor does the onus of liturgical action and prayer rest with the individual. It does not even rest with the collective groups, composed of numerous individuals, who periodically achieve a limited and intermittent unity in their capacity as the congregation of a church. The liturgical entity consists rather of the united body of the faithful as such–the Church–a body which infinitely outnumbers the mere congregation.”

So yes, a ton of words, but let me boil that down: Liturgy is not time for our individual prayer.  It isn’t even time for our local parish’s prayer. It is a bold, vibrant expression of our unity with the entire universal Church.

Yes, God reaches out to us in the liturgy–He reaches out to us at all times, constantly longing for our hearts.   And yes, our parish and ourselves individually should make a spot for our own prayers during Mass. But those prayers aren’t the point!

The Mass itself–and other forms of the liturgy–is our unique chance to pray with our ENTIRE CHURCH AROUND THE WHOLE WORLD.  Whoa.

I have received a ton of fruit from this paradigm shift–going to Mass as a chance to experience unity, rather than to quest for my own personal experience.

2.  The Mass must express the the full Truth, not just the parts that speak to us.

Some images of God, some mysteries, some saints, are going to resonate with our hearts more than others.  Maybe you’re more of a Good Friday person than a Holy Thursday person. Maybe Advent speaks to you in ways that Lent falls flat.  Maybe St. Therese is your girl and St. Teresa of Avila leaves your head spinning.

These are all natural experiences within our faith!  But what’s important to remember is that our Church is the fullness of all these elements.  Guardini points out that:

“If a prayer therefore stresses any one mystery of faith in an exclusive or an excessive manner, in the end it will adequately satisfy none but those who are of a corresponding temperament, and even the latter will eventually become conscious of their need of truth in its entirety. For instance, if a prayer deals exclusively with God’s mercy, it will not ultimately satisfy even a delicate and tender piety, because this truth calls for its complement-the fact of God’s justice and majesty. In any form of prayer, therefore, which is intended for the ultimate use of a corporate body, the whole fullness of religious truth must be included.”

Again, a lot of words–let me paraphrase.   Your heart might be SUPER moved by God’s incredible mercy.  Whenever there is a powerful reading about mercy, or the priest proclaims a wonderful homily on mercy, you can feel God’s presence, right then and there.

However, if the Mass were to focus only on certain things (God’s mercy, for instance), and neglect the rest of the picture (God’s justice), the mom of four kids sitting behind you, who’s heart is just wrapped up with imagines of God’s majesty, would be neglected.

What’s more, our hearts long for the fullness of truth.  If all we get is the same message of mercy over and over, but no justice, sooner or later our hearts will not be satisfied.

That means that sometimes–sometimes Father’s homily will fall flat on us.  And that’s totally ok–our hearts secretly hungered for that nugget of truth.

3. We expect too much of ourselves.

This final nugget of truth came from the Vici Mundum podcast, referenced above.  I’m going to paraphrase because it’s a little more difficult to transcribe from a podcast. (Definitely check it out though, awesome people with really thoughtful insight.)

One of the presenters expressed similar struggles as I had: not really feeling anything from the Mass.  Feel super disconnected. She mentioned that we can often get frustrated by this. But she noted that God is never frustrated with us.  He knows we’re human, He knows that we have a lot on our hearts. We might be expected more of ourselves from the liturgy than even God expects of us.

I loved this.  Because when I don’t connect with the Mass, I feel like something is totally wrong with me.  But that isn’t the case. God knows exactly where I’m at. He asks that I come to Mass, participate, and pray that my heart be open.  Other than that, it’s all in His hands. It doesn’t need to “feel” like everything. It just is, and I can rest in that.

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Alison W Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth

Inspiration–Let’s Be It and Receive It!

Why are so many of us are walking around tired and defeated? God did not design us to be tired and defeated! God designed us to know him, love him, and serve him in this life and the next. He designed us to encourage each other and help each other get to heaven. In this overworked and over-stimulated world, we are losing sight of that.

I encourage you to look for inspiration. I think the Holy Spirit is constantly trying to get our attention. Constantly giving consolations and we are missing them. The kind words we hear, the flowers growing out of cracks, the people just suddenly cross our paths, the whistle of the birds, sunsets, the eyes of our children, the food on our table, our jobs, our homes, etc.

We are so blessed to be living in this time when the lives of the greatest saints can be dissected from our phones. Never has it been so easy to find the truth, yet we are also so distracted it’s hard to focus.

It’s so important to carve out time for God–to just be with him, to love him and be loved. It’s important to keep our attention alive. I’ve found journaling and studying to be a great way to find inspiration to be a better follower of Christ. The Church is 2,000 years old, so there is an endless ocean of people and events to study. The times may be different, but God is not. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. When we are able to receive his love, we are also able to share it.   

I encourage you to be inspiration to others, too. You never know who you are inspiring. 

Some of my inspirations have been right in my own family. For example, my mother never missed Mass.  She dragged three little kids to Mass every Sunday by herself. She needed that strength to keep going and she wanted to be a good example.   

My Aunt Dorothy always kneels after Mass to Jesus for a few more minutes. I found it to be so beautiful when I put it into practice.  

When my Uncle John said the blessing before meals, you could feel the Holy Spirit in the room.

I’ve also witnessed other people being inspired.

My friend, Joseph, had been away from confession for 20 years. Upon watching a teenage boy go to confession, he got the final push to go himself. He was amazed how easy it was to get back in God’s grace.

My friend, Anne, started praying her rosary daily after being encouraged from a friend. She watched sin break away from her and her home became peaceful again. Our Mother has directed us to pray this devotion, and has promised her protection.

There are few stories of my great grandmother that don’t reveal her strength and her faith…strength and faith that is still leading four generations later.

It is up to us to keep this great faith moving forward. It is for us to know it, to love it, and to share it.

The example we give makes a difference to other people, even if they never say anything. Unfortunately, sometimes we give pretty horrible examples, so let’s be intentional about being good examples. Let’s be intentional about letting the Holy Spirit guide our lives and about being in a state of grace. Let’s be intentional about being both inspired and an inspiration on this journey to heaven.

Do you have examples of inspiration in your life? I’d love to hear about them!