It doesn’t take much to change the way you live the liturgy
The Mass is the greatest prayer known to mankind, but it doesn’t always feel that way. Here are a few practices that can help you enter into the Mass with interest and devotion.
1: Start by saying a silent prayer.
“Lord Jesus, we are gathering here to witness a miracle. We are joined by the angels and the saints and, as St. John Paul II put it, ‘Mary is present, with the Church and as Mother of the Church at each of our celebrations of the Eucharist.’ Through her intercession and at her side, help me enter this Mass more deeply.”
Look at the statue of Mary, and statues of the saints and angels, to remind you of their presence.
2: Pick someone you are praying for at this Mass.
There is no need to tell them, necessarily, but you can “offer” your Mass for a particular person. The Mass can’t take on any greater meaning, but it can take on a greater personal intensity.
3: When your mind wanders …
Look at the crucifix or the tabernacle if your mind wanders. This could help you stop “saying the prayers” and start praying them. While you look, listen to the liturgy or the words of the hymns. Those words are your way back in.
4: If you are afraid to go deeper at Mass, ask why.
Often sins in our lives are at the root of our fear to be intimate with God. If we sincerely ask to be allowed to see and confront the weaknesses that hold us back, we can recognize them and bring them to confession.
5: If you start judging others during Mass …
We are hard-wired to focus on people. Mass is no different: The weakness of the people around us, the foibles of the people in front of us. Try focusing on those objects used at Mass that are meant to be symbols of Christ: the altar, the candles, the vestments, the sacred vessels. They are designed to elevate the mind.
6: Listen for the “code” in the readings.
The readings at Mass offer two rich veins of meaning: The words themselves are usually exhortations to live a better life. But if the plain meaning doesn’t grab you, look for the coded meaning.
In the Old Testament, figure out how the reading refers to Christ. In the Psalm, “own” the prayer that is being said instead of just repeating the refrain. In the Epistle, look for the “soundbite” — a helpful message you take away. In the Gospel, focus on how Jesus reacts to situations in the world.
7: Offer yourself with the gifts.
When the gifts are brought forward, either from the back of the church or laid on the paten, put yourself beside them. Offer yourself to Jesus with the gifts. Say: “Jesus, I place myself before you with these gifts to be taken up and transformed by your grace.”
8: Transport yourself through time.
When the consecration comes, you are no longer just at Mass with people from your neighborhood. The Church teaches that you are witnessing not a new act, but the original sacrifice of Jesus Christ re-presented. So don’t just glaze over watching the same old priest raise the same old chalice; see through what is happening to that one sacrifice and offering of Jesus Christ.
9: Pray silently during the elevation.
It is an old and helpful custom to pray silently when the host is elevated, “My Lord and my God,” and when the cup is elevated, “My Jesus, mercy.”
10: Pray in the communion line.
Some prayers I have learned over the years: “Mary, lead me to the altar of love.” “My guardian angel, bring me closer to Jesus.” “Lord Jesus, truly present in the sacrament, I bow down before you; I adore you.”
11: Finally, on the way out the door …
Try to remember something from the homily or Gospel that struck you that you can mention to someone. Repeating what moved your heart makes it “stick” more.
Mass is the best thing you will do that day, any day you go to Mass. Make the most of it!