The seven habits of highly effective Mass-goers, part two

Not a piece specifically for parents, but a tremendously helpful piece  for any Catholic on how to truly participate in the mass. By David Philippart, used with permission from U.S. Catholic magazine

2. Sing for your supper

Singing together blends many voices into one. Won’t you join your voice to the great voice of the Body of Christ? The musicians are there to lead and to help, not to perform. We are there not to be entertained, but to sing.

Singing together is a great experience. Assembling as the church at liturgy gives us an opportunity rarely found in our technological culture: an opportunity to make music with our voices, to sing together. There is a power in our common song to spread joy to hearts that are without joy, to share sorrow so that the burden is lighter for all, to give voice to hope and yearning and gratitude and love that words alone cannot express.

3. Listen: it’s hard work

It’s hard to simply listen today. We are so used to seeing a story as well as hearing it: watching television, going to the movies. And it’s hard enough to follow the plot of a contemporary soap opera, let alone the stories of ancient Israel and the first Christians. But Baptism gives us the grace to hear the Word of God. Just as Jesus opened the ears of the man who could not hear, he opens our ears to hear God speaking to us today in the old and holy words of scripture.

Think of the times a loved one tried to tell you something you didn’t quite understand at first. What did you do? You probably positioned your body carefully so you could pay attention. You listened hard, with your heart and mind as well as your ears.

The proclaiming of scripture and preaching at Mass is like this. The One who loves us beyond all telling is telling us. The proclaiming of scripture and the preaching of the homily at Mass is not like someone giving a report, it is a living dialogue between God and the church. And when God speaks, things happen.

So strive to listen. Position your body so that you can concentrate. Unless you have a hearing impairment or difficulty understanding the language in which the scriptures are read, put down the missal and truly listen. When we have a lively dialogue with someone we love, we don’t read the newspaper at the same time. We look into each other’s eyes and listen deeply. We should do the same thing with the reader and the preacher.

Not every homily will be engaging. Some will even be horrible. If the preaching is consistently terrible, we need to speak up. Charitably, we need to make some positive suggestions to help the priest or deacon do better. Offer to be part of a homily preparation group that meets early in the week to allow those who preach to pray together, share insights into the scripture, even practice and be critiqued. But remember that even in the worst homily, God may still be trying to tell us something. Listen for that, and try to disregard the rest. Don’t worry about understanding every word. Let the scripture and homily wash over you, and pay attention to the droplets that stick.

Some people read the assigned scriptures before Mass. The citations are often in the bulletin, or the readings themselves can be found online at Most people, though, can’t always make such preparation. So try this: Return to the scriptures that were read first at Mass again and again throughout the week. If nothing else, try to remember the verse from the responsorial psalm and use it as your prayer during the week.

During periods of silence, don’t pick the lint off your lapel, futz with or read anything. Listen for God’s voice. If you listen hard, you’ll hear it.

4. Be a beggar

After the homily, the general intercessions – or prayers of the faithful – often slip by us. Too bad, because what could happen here is powerful. As baptized people, we share in Christ’s priesthood. Part of what a priest does is to ask God to care for those in need, especially those who can’t ask for themselves.

The general intercessions are our opportunity to beg God for help. Not because God needs to be persuaded to lend a hand. it’s more like this: When we hear a cry for help in the world and bring it to the liturgy, we begin to generate in ourselves and in our community the energy and momentum of compassion. And we know that if we are going to dare to ask God for help in this matter, we had better stand ready to be part of God’s answer to our prayer. So by praying these general intercessions, we begin the long and hard work of bearing one another’s burdens. The early church took this so seriously that only the baptized were allowed in the room when the prayers of the faithful were prayed.       …continued next week

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One Response

  1. This is SUCH a blessing. Thank you, thank you for writing it.

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