If keeping your attention at Mass is difficult for you, try these simple tips to remain in the moment.
Focusing on what is happening at Mass isn’t always easy to do. For many of us, distractions take our attention away from the altar and on to something else.
To help remedy this situation, French Trappist monk Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard shared in his book The Soul of the Apostolate three helpful tips that can help a person focus on the Mass and reap more spiritual fruit.
He summarized his tips in three Latin words: Digne, Attente, Devote. This can be translated as “with dignity, attention and devotion.”
In this first tip, Chautard encourages those attending Mass to do so with “a respectful position and bearing, the precise pronunciation of the words, slowing down over the more important parts.” More specifically, consider, “my tone of voice, the way in which I make signs of the Cross, genuflections, etc.; my body itself: all will go to show not only that I know Whom I-am addressing, and what I am saying, but also that my heart is in what I am doing.”
He goes on to explain, “In the courts of earthly kings, a simple servant considers the least function to be something great, and unconsciously takes on a majestic and solemn air in performing it. Cannot I acquire some of that distinctive bearing which will show itself by my state of mind and by the dignity of my bearing when I carry out my duties in my capacity as member of the guard of honor of the King of Kings and of the God of all Majesty?”
In other words, we reap what we sow. The manner in which we approach Mass will directly impact our reception of it and our ability to remain attentive during it.
It’s important to follow along with the Mass, taking notice of the various words that are being used in the readings or prayers. Chautard writes, “I take time to meditate on some word that has struck my attention.”
When distractions derail our attention, Chautard gives the following advice.
As soon as distractions arise it shall be my will to return to the act of adoration; but I shall make this movement of the will without irritation or harshness, without a sudden violent jerk, but peacefully (since everything that is done with Your aid, Lord Jesus, is peaceful and quiet), yet powerfully (since every genuine desire to cooperate with Your aid, Lord, is powerful and strong).
Try to keep focused on the words and maintain a strong desire to remain attentive at Mass.
One of the most essential keys to remaining attention at Mass, according to Chautard, is devotion. He explains, “This is the most important point. Everything comes back to the need of making our Office and all our liturgical functions acts of piety, and, consequently, acts that come from the heart.”
Chautard go on to say that, “‘Haste kills all devotion.’ Such is the principle laid down by St. Francis de Sales in talking of the Breviary, and it applies a fortiori to the Mass.” He explains that rushing through Mass or other liturgical functions can often inhibit our ability to engage in the prayers with our heart.
Chautard urges us to slow down as much as we can and not try to rush through Mass. While the laity are not always able to control the pace of Mass, we can control some things. Do we rush our responses? Are we always eager to get Mass over with, so that we can run out of there as fast as we can? Our interior disposition plays a vital role in our attention at Mass.
When we pray with the heart, slowly and attentively, our spirit will greatly benefit from it.