Practicing Catholic VIII: How to Go to Mass

I’m going to wrap up this “practicing Catholic” series with some tips on two central practices of Catholic worship fitting for Holy Week: Mass, and Confession. Here are a few suggestions for getting the most out of Mass:

  1. Love God and neighbor through the week.
  2. Read the coming Sunday Scripture readings. (Use p.2 of the weekly Bulletin or some other source to locate them.)
  3. Spend some time each day in prayer.
  4. Plan to arrive early, and succeed. Use the five minutes of silence before Mass well.
  5. Don’t plan something for “right after Mass,” so you won’t feel hurried to get out.
  6. Dress carefully for Mass: cherish and display your God-given dignity and individuality.
  7. Bless yourself as you enter the church. It’s a reminder that this is a special place and time. (Silence any watch, pager, or cell-phone for the same reason, unless your job requires you to be on-call.)
  8. As you enter the pew, bow or genuflect.
  9. Sit quietly before Mass begins, and gently put aside any thoughts, worries, or plans that try to intrude; make space to hear God’s Word.
  10. When the Gathering Hymn begins, pick up a hymnal and join in the singing. Do this for all sung parts of Mass.
  11. When the presider says, “Let us pray,” don’t “say private prayers”; instead, quiet yourself to be attentive and receptive to the words about to be prayed aloud.
  12. During the readings, look at the reader; don’t use a missalette unless you have a problem with your hearing.
  13. When you sit, stand, and kneel, be attentive to posture. (We pray with our bodies as well as our souls; that’s why we change postures during the Mass.)
  14. To receive the Holy Communion, bow just before you approach the minister; to receive in the hand, have one hand resting in the other, palm flat, and about chest-high. Say, “Amen” to both consecrated bread and cup before receiving them.
  15. During the Communion procession and after, join in the singing; this isn’t a time for private prayer.
  16. Don’t neglect to receive from the cup (unless you’re ill); Christ instituted it for a reason.
  17. Join in singing the thanksgiving and/or recessional hymn.
  18. Don’t even think about leaving your place until the procession of ministers reaches the doors.
  19. Make it a practice to talk with your family or your friends about what Christ said to you at Mass (and make it a practice not to offer a critique or a review of the Mass). Consider using a notebook to jot down what Christ says to you at Mass each week.
  20. Don’t expect fireworks; the effects of praying the Mass are cumulative, and appear only over the course of years of doing it regularly, every Sunday.
  21. (Return to #1, and repeat.)

Nothing about ritual prayer is accidental. Taking shortcuts doesn’t work. Until next week, Peace