Let Mass light a fire under you

[Reminder: Last chance to chime in on U.S. Catholic’s quick survey about kids at Mass: “And lead us not into temper tantrums.”]

Every aspect of the liturgy has an element that can change your life. On any given Sunday, the words to the opening song, a verse proclaimed in the first reading, a phrase in the gospel might stick in our minds and challenge us to change something about the way we go about our business that week.

A priest’s comment in a homily might move us to reach out to someone we might normally pass by. The nourishment of the Eucharist might give us the strength we need to make a decision we ordinarily wouldn’t be comfortable with. The quiet after communion might bring an insight from the Holy Spirit to take a risk to benefit another.

Colleen, a mother of five, says the Eucharistic prayer of “Grant that we who are nourished by his Body and Blood may be filled with his Holy Spirit, and become one body, one spirit in Christ,” was the impetus for her thought to begin a parish-wide program of small-group faith sharing centered around dinner. “The roots of the program were definitely born out of the liturgy,” she says. Continue reading

Why going to Mass is worth the effort

Getting to Mass on Sundays feels optional to many families. After all, if we don’t show up for work, we may lose our job; if our children miss school, they’ll have make-up work; skipping a practice means you don’t play in a game. But missing Mass? Will anyone even notice? Is there a consequence?

Since the very early years of our church, Christians have gathered on the Lord’s day, Sunday (which early on was a workday), to praise God. Attending was never optional; members were expected to be there, but they also wanted to be there, to have the privilege of participating that Baptism gave them.

Today the church teaches that attending Mass is so important that we look upon it as an obligation for Catholics, barring a grave cause for absence (illness, for example).

But why? Shouldn’t we go to church because we want to, not because we have to? Continue reading

Eucharist: You are what you eat, part one

Our family overslept on a recent Sunday, and, having missed our regular Mass, we went to church at a neighboring parish. The deacon giving the homily that day spoke about his anguish over a survey reportedly showing that two thirds of Catholics did not believe that Christ was actually present in the bread and wine at Mass.

After Mass I remarked to Jacob, 14, that when the deacon spoke of the statistic, my feelings were the opposite of his: Continue reading

Three ways to be more prayerful during Mass

Lasso a part of the Mass.  If you don’t yet have a part of the Mass that is especially prayerful for you, decide on one. When it arrives, put all your energy into being present and prayerful in that moment.  Give yourself over to it.

Plan to get there early–just so you won’t be late. Decide what time you need to leave home to make it to Mass on time, then tell your family to be ready ten minutes earlier than that.  This will get you there on time, and in a less stressed state.  It’s easier to be prayerful when you’re not frantic or annoyed.

Talk to others. If you stop to chat after Mass, try starting the conversation with a comment about a song, a reading, or the homily. Talking about what moves you makes it more real and will make it easier to bring the prayerfulness into your week.

by Annemarie Scobey, from the pages of At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the 2010 General Excellence award from the Catholic Press Association. Here’s a sample issue.

Deepen your family’s Sunday Mass experience: Body language (part two)

More on the body language of Mass, continued from last week’s post

Praying with hands open: Known as the orans, the priest uses this posture for many prayers during the Mass including the Eucharistic Prayer. In many parishes the congregation uses it for the Lord’s Prayer. Try this at home with your kids, lifting your hands to pray the Lord’s Prayer, for example.

Standing is one of the oldest postures of prayer. We stand during the opening procession of Mass and at other times throughout the liturgy, for certain prayers, as well as for the gospel, Prayers of the Faithful, and the Lord’s Prayer.

“I have my children stand when the congregation stands,” says Regina, mother of five. Continue reading

Don’t skip meals, especially Sunday Mass

Most nights, our family of six eats dinner together. It’s rarely a Norman Rockwell scene. Jamie, 6, sometimes chews with her mouth open just to get a rise out of her sister Teenasia, 7. Fourteen-year-old Jacob too often acts as the fact-checker for 11-year-old Liam’s stories.

Almost once a week we run out of salad dressing, and lately I’ve been forgetting to set the timer for the dinner rolls, and we’ve had to cut off the blackened, Frisbee-like bottoms.

Despite our nonperfect dinners, we come together each night anyway. While I may routinely ruin dinner rolls, I’m pretty good at spinach fettuccini. And when Jacob can hold back from correcting Liam, he finds his brother tells an entertaining tale. Bill and I recognize that a meal doesn’t need to be perfect to be nourishing.

So it is with Sunday Mass. The Eucharist is a family meal. And even when the Mass isn’t perfect, it still nourishes us. Like the family meals around our own kitchen table, we go to church because we know it’s good for us—we come because it will fill us and keep us spiritually healthy.

Take a look at the common excuses we may find not to attend Sunday Mass regularly, and watch what happens when we apply them to family dinners. Continue reading