Is Mass boring, or is it Just Me?

Iíve sometimes heard Catholic friends and acquaintances complain that mass is boring and repetitious. Yet, God calls us to worship him and give him thanks in prayer and as a community. This means that we must celebrate our faith lives with the rest of the body of Christ. Because God loves everyone as much as he loves you, he wishes all his children to gather together, in love, in churches across the globe to celebrate their love for God.

For those of you who want to keep Godís will and love by going to Church but find it boring, I offer these suggestions to increase your appreciation and love for the Sunday Mass.

This seems like a suggestion that should go without saying doesnít it? Yet the key to understanding and enjoying the liturgy is prayer. All too often, we find it easy to let our minds wander during mass, and participate in the vocal prayers in a shallow way. We let our mouths move with the prayers, but our hearts and minds are elsewhere.

So how do you learn to pray with an open and willing heart? It comes with a realization that God truly loves you. It comes with faith, with hope and with charity. For those who have the beginning seeds of faith, it must be kept alive with honest prayer and the sacraments. Faith is a gift; it cannot grow from intellectual pursuits alone. For those whose faith is very fragile, I would ask you to pray to God with honesty and hope. Tell him your pains, doubts, troubles and struggle to believe. Ask him for the gift of faith. If you are honest and sincere with God, he will listen. But realize that faith is something that grows ever so slowly, over our whole lifetime. You wonít wake up one day and suddenly have no doubts or worries.

For those who believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, yet still find it hard to pray at mass, I would advise you to have a more active prayer life in your everyday life. Take some time out of each day and thank God for the pleasures, challenges and faith in your life. Talk to God with openness and honesty. Take time to listen to him also, for what good is communication if you talk but never stop to listen? Spend time in meditation to reflect on your life, and Godís role in it (Two of my favorite ways to meditate, is to visit a dark, empty church to pray and contemplate or listen to Gregorian chants in privacy). If you listen and are open, God will speak to you in his own way. Those who regularly talk to God in their everyday lives will be better able to praise him and pray to him in church.

Here is another suggestion that seems obvious. Yet, I canít help but notice people at church who refuse to vocally participate in mass. Obviously you can participate in the mass by answering the prayers in your heart without verbally responding during mass, but this means that you are not publicly and vocally celebrating the mass with your Christian brothers and sisters.

For those who have difficulty keeping their mind and hearts focused on God, it only makes it harder to pray if there is refusal to even vocally participate. The Second Vatican Council of the Church changed the liturgy of the Mass from the Latin Tridentine Mass to the vulgar Novus Ordo mass to increase participation at mass. More prayers, singing and laity involvement was added to the Novus Ordo liturgy to increase a sense of family and Christian brotherhood. If you participate in the mass with both action and heart, you will surely enjoy it more. What you get out of mass and prayer is often related to how much you put into it.

Singing is a great way to become more active and involved in the liturgy. Singing lifts your prayers and spirits to God, and when accompanied by the choir and congregation, create beauty and better appreciation for God and his gifts. Sometimes it can be embarrassing to sing publicly (especially if your voice isnít the best) but remember that you are singing your thanks and praise to Jesus. If you close your eyes, think of Jesus and have courage, singing can be a great way to open up your spiritual life.

If you have a strong prayer life, praying in Church should not be very difficult. Yet, sometimes you can be distracted by crying babies, friends, family or even that special someone you see in church :) A good way to filter out the distractions is to close your eyes and think of Jesus while praying. Just donít fall asleep!

Sometimes it can be difficult to listen attentively to the readings and the Gospel in Church. An attentive listener who is instructed in their faith can reap enormous benefits and wisdom from the readings. But that means that you have to actually LISTEN. I would suggest reading along with the Lectionary in a missal. This will make you actively participate in the readings and will keep your mind from wandering. Additionally, it is always helpful to read the Gospel and readings of the day prior to the Sunday Mass. Then you can better focus on the depth and meanings of the scripture in Church or on your way to mass.

How can you appreciate the mass if you know nothing about it? Did you know that the Mass is both a living sacrifice and a communion meal? Did you know that the bread and wine that the Priest blesses is truly the real body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ? Do you know why we bless ourselves with holy water? Or why Jesus wants us to congregate in a group every Sunday to give him thanks? If these and other questions give you trouble, try attending a local Catholic bible study or development of faith group to teach you about what it really means to be Catholic. Talk to your parish priest for help in developing your faith or advice in which group to join.

Some people would advise you to learn from the Bible, but in reality the Bible is often confusing to those who have little instruction in their faith. If you want to read the Bible then also purchase a Catholic Bible commentary to help explain its meaning.

One of the best sources of Catholic teaching is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. A paperback version costs about eight dollars, but sums up the near entirety of Church teachings. If you understand the mass and the Church, then you will be able to better appreciate it.

Certain parts of the liturgy have silent parts built into it. This is meant for quiet reflection and prayer. After all, we need the silence to pray the private prayers of our heart. Try reflecting on Godís gifts, the challenges and troubles of your life or just quietly meditate on the life of Christ. Silent devotion to Christ goes a long way in enriching our prayer lives.

Prayer isnít always just lifting our hearts and thanks to God. God wants to be our companion and friend as well as our diety. Jesus tells us in Scripture that he calls us his friends and not his slaves. Thus Jesus wants an intimate relationship with us. This means that we should be able to openly and honestly bring our doubts, troubles, suffering and joy to Jesus through prayer. By doing this before mass, we learn to treat Jesus as a friend as well as our God. It makes it easier to sing and pray with joy during Mass because we know he truly loves us and listens.

It can be difficult to pray and sing joyfully if no one around you is actively participating. So bring along a friend who does actively participate in Mass. This makes it easier to sing and pray with the congregation and helps to make mass more intimate and friendly.

The Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ. This is a fundamental Christian mystery and is very hard to accept, but we know this to be true by faith and not by reason alone. If we can faithfully believe the Eucharist to be what it is, then it means that our Savior is personally and spiritually present before us at mass. And if you know Jesus is before you, then how can you not burst out in song and joy, and say "My Lord and my God".

The miracle of the Sacrament of the Eucharist binds us personally with our God. On a theological level, the flesh of Christ gives life to the soul and increases faith, hope and charity. On the personal level it binds us to our God, our savior and our friend, Jesus Christ.

--S.M.M.

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