Many of you have probably had beautiful experiences of the Mass. Especially if you have Life Teen at your parish and with it a vibrant Youth Liturgy with good music and preaching. But what happens when we go on vacation or off to college and that dynamic celebration of Mass is nowhere to be found?
Growing up as a Catholic, my mom would take my brother and I to Mass every Sunday. Sometimes we would whine and complain. Sometimes we would pretend to be sick to get out of going. Sometimes we would just go for the doughnuts.
In my middle school and early high school years I did everything I could to get out of going to Mass. Honestly, I thought it was boring. I didn't like the music, the preaching was too long, and I didn't understand why eating some bread-like wafer would make me a better person.
By the grace of God (and my mom's influence), I kept going to Mass. Eventually, a new pastor came in and brought a new youth ministry to the parish: Life Teen. With it came vibrant music, more engaging homilies, and a focus on the Eucharist. I was hooked and began to experience Mass like I never had before.
It's important to remember that no matter where Mass is celebrated, it never changes. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us,
'The liturgy of the Eucharist unfolds according to a fundamental structure which has been preserved throughout the centuries down to our own day' (CCC 1346).
This means that no matter where you go to Mass or what language it's in, you will still hear the same Word of God and still receive the same Eucharist that you would at any other Catholic Church in the world. If you ask me, that's pretty powerful.
Ultimately the mission of Life Teen should be to lead you to a deeper love of the Eucharist, the source and summit of Christian life (CCC 1324), through the Mass. Our desire is that you recognize that the Eucharist is more than some bread-like wafer. It's the way God places His grace, His divine life, inside of you – transforming your heart and soul. A mature faith knows that it's not about the friends or music but about an encounter with God, and there is no place that you can have a deeper encounter than at Mass.
A couple of years ago, I was tested in this way. When I was on a family vacation and there was no Life Teen Mass around, we were left disappointed with our Sunday Mass experience. On our drive back to my grandma's house, we were all complaining about how the hospitality, music and homily were so much worse than what we were used to.
'Yeah, but it was the same Eucharist' my mom said. Bingo! That's it. And that's what makes the Catholic Church great.
So, whether you're going on vacation, or going off to college, be sure to find the nearest Catholic Church and go to Mass. Your experience may be different, but the Eucharist is still the same.
And that’s what matters.