If you are reading this sentence,
it is probably because the column title got your attention, as well it
should. We have seen the words "Mass" and "boring" closely aligned all too
often in recent years, but we know intuitively that it should not be so. How
often, though, have we thought to characterize ourselves as boring?
Probably not often enough. Please read on.
The "One Book, One Diocese" winter selection of
the Diocesan Evangelization Committee is "The Mass: Four Encounters with
Jesus that will Change Your Life," by Dr. Tom Curran, PhD. My column
title is also the heading for the Introduction in Dr. Curran’s book. The
premise for such a seemingly presumptuous headline is that what is missing
all too often in our participation at Mass is a genuine appreciation for
what is happening there. "The Mass" is a wonderfully simple remedy to
the common perception that we go to Mass to keep God happy. In actuality, it
is we who would find true happiness if only we realized what privileged
encounters are available each and every time we participate in the Mass.
Chapter One of the book, "I Once Was Blind, But
Now I See," reviews for the reader so many things we have said or thought
ourselves, or have heard others say about attending Mass. It all boils down
to not knowing truly why it is that the Lord earnestly wants us
there, and why we desperately need to be there.
Children typically attend Mass for one reason
only: their parents expect it of them and provide the transportation.
Without good catechesis, young people end up resenting the obligation of
weekly Mass attendance. Unfortunately, many adults grew up without such
catechesis themselves and consequently have become "Cultural Catholics" who
give the age-old, but sadly vapid, reason for going to church: "I am
Catholic, and that is what Catholics do on Sunday." It is no surprise that
many from this group no longer attend Mass regularly.
Dr. Curran presents the Mass as four special
encounters with Jesus: in the community, in the Word, in the Priest, and in
the Eucharist. A chapter is devoted to each of these significant ways that
Jesus comes to meet us at Mass. What he points out is that we have to do
more than physically show up at the church in order to enjoy the benefits of
these encounters. We need to understand and appreciate them. A deeper
understanding of how Jesus is active at Mass can do wonders in making us
more involved and engaged in the liturgy.
A study guide in the book provides several
reflection questions for each chapter, making the 125-page paperback very
user-friendly for discussion groups and families. Naturally, it will be
beneficial also to those who simply wish to read it on their own. This book
makes a great gift, too. I gave more than 50 of them away at Christmastime,
and it received only positive reviews.
So, let’s not be bored—or worse yet, boring—at
Mass. After reading and sharing with others new insights from "The Mass,"
we are sure to participate in the weekend liturgy on a whole new level. The
upcoming Lenten season provides the perfect backdrop for getting together
with fellow Catholics to reflect on how we might better profit from our
encounters with Jesus at Mass. Hopefully, it will motivate us to bring
others (back) to Mass as well.
Please contact a Catholic bookstore to obtain
copies of "The Mass: Four Encounters With Jesus That Will Change Your