To many people, the Mass seems very repetitive. Going to Mass every week (or every day, as I do), it can seem like the same thing every time, with only minor variations in the readings from Scripture and some of the prayers and hymns.
But while it is true that the things we do and say are the same, the graces of each Mass are unique and unrepeatable because they are for us at that particular moment. There are “never before, never again” graces available at every Eucharistic celebration!
Why are people bored at Mass? Why do they feel they “don’t get anything out of it”?
Just being physically present in the church while Mass is being celebrated isn’t enough. The graces are there, but we are free to receive them or ignore them. If we just show up but aren’t in an attitude of openness, awareness, and expectation of the special graces that God is offering, then they go “over our heads,” so to speak. However, when we go through the liturgy actively waiting for God’s inspirations and gifts, we will certainly receive them.
What you can expect to receive at Mass
So what kinds of graces should we expect? There are many possibilities!
For example: something in a reading, hymn, or the homily could:
- be an inspiration that responds to a particular problem or dilemma you have
- shed light on a sinful tendency you need to work on
- answer a prayer or a question you have in your heart
Through the experience of coming together with your fellow believers, God often showers graces of:
- consolation and comfort in the midst of grief or sadness
- encouragement in difficulty or suffering
- support in living one’s faith through others’ good example
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1391-97) gives several examples of graces that come specifically from our reception of Jesus in Holy Communion. Some that you can expect are:
- intimate union with Jesus
- renewal and increase of the grace of our Baptism
- strengthening of our love of God and union with all the faithful
- becoming committed to serve Jesus in those who are poor and suffering
- help in breaking disordered attachments and prevention of future sin
Okay, assuming we’re convinced that there are amazing graces available for us each and every time we go to Mass, how can we make sure we’re awake and ready to receive them? Here are three simple suggestions:
Read the readings ahead of time
You can easily find the readings for the Sunday liturgy in many ways. They are available on the website of the USCCB, through smartphone apps such as iMissal (paid) and iBreviary (free), and in printed missals such as our Saint Paul Sunday or Daily Missals. Having already read the Scripture readings increases your ability to listen to what God wants to say to you through them. (For many people it is also helpful to actually follow along in a missal or missalette as the readings are being proclaimed during the liturgy.)
Offer your Mass for someone in particular—living or deceased
As you probably have noticed, Mass is usually offered for a special intention, which may be announced at the beginning of Mass, at the Prayer of the Faithful, or simply listed in the bulletin. It is a beautiful and praiseworthy practice to have a Mass celebrated for a person, living or deceased. (You can contact your parish office to do this; it is customary to offer a small stipend.) However, the value of the Mass is infinite, and everyone can offer it for their own intentions in addition to the priest’s intention that is announced.
Next Sunday (or next time you go to Mass), call to mind someone you want to pray for. It could be someone you know who is ill or going through particular difficulties. Or it could be someone who has died. Offer your Mass for that person. In the Eucharistic Prayer, mentally insert their name at the part where we pray for the living or the deceased. You might find this helpful in being more present and focused during the liturgy.
Specifically pray to be open to the light and grace God offers
My third suggestion is, when you walk into church, say a prayer asking for openness to receive the gifts God has prepared for you at this Mass.
You can pray something to this effect: “Jesus, open my heart to the grace you have prepared for me in this Mass.”
Or, as Matthew Kelly suggests: “God, show me one way in this Mass that I can become a-better-version-of-myself this week.”
You can also keep a Mass journal, as Matthew Kelly promotes. They make them specifically for this purpose, or you can use any little notebook. Bring it with you and write down the main gift or grace or inspiration or light that you receive.
What an amazing thing it would be if your whole family did this! And talked about it on the way home from Mass!
by Sr Maria Grace Dateno, author of Mass Explained for Kids, Mass Explained (for adults), and the best-selling Gospel Time Trekkers Series.