My Prayer Why Mass? by Rachel Penate One summer, I found myself attending a Sunday service in the back of a van. It was August and I was travelling with some family to canoe and camp the beautiful boundary waters of Minnesota. My Uncle thought it would be a good idea to attend church first. I’m not sure if he thought it the unique quality of this Protestant church was going to garner favor with his teenage nieces or if he just really loved the place, but that Sunday I found myself at a “drive in” church. Nope. Your eyes did not deceive you. Legitimately the church was (I kid you not) at a drive in movie theatre. Cars were our pews and the radio our speaker system. It was wild, and I cannot even begin to describe all the different thoughts that I found myself entertaining. But, what I was left with wasn’t so much a resounding sense of “this is awesome!” but rather an undeniable emptiness. Yes, we prayed to God and talked about love. Yes, we made the effort to be in a house (well, field) of worship. Yes, there was even bread to symbolize the Last Supper. But, I knew, in my heart of hearts that this wasn’t what I was entirely created for. I knew that Sunday Worship is about so much more. As the years progressed and I kept coming back to this experience, I realized that what was lacking at this Sunday service were all aspects that the Catholic Mass offers in fullness and beauty. While some Sundays come and go with an air of absolute dog-tiredness, Sunday Worship isn’t meant to just be another obligation to fulfill in the rigamarole of Christianity. NO! Sunday Worship in the form of the Most Holy Mass is meant to invigorate and revitalize not only our hearts and minds but also our bodies and souls. It is not just something nice we do, but absolutely necessary to the health of our Christian lives. Why!? You may think. Oh, I’m so glad you asked… The Mass is set aside. The beauty of the Mass (and really all Sunday services) is that it is given priority in the week. When you set aside and prioritize a commitment, you signal to yourself and everyone around you that the commitment is important. Sure, you could say “this hour in the day is for me to pray” but what sets that apart from every other day of the week? Mass, as a regular and dedicated part of Sunday, helps us to do as God commanded and “rest on the seventh day.” Through the form and reliability of the Mass, it takes the responsibility and “guesswork” out of worship for us and truly “helps everyone enjoy adequate rest and leisure” (CCC 2184). We don’t have to do the work in coming up with the form of prayer, we simply need to arrive and be open to relationship with the Lord. The Mass is ever ancient, ever new. “The celebration of Sunday observes the moral commandment inscribed by nature in the human heart…” (CCC 2176). Worship was written in our hearts from the very beginning. God created man and woman out of love, to be loved. Worship is our outward expression of love for the Lord. And, our hearts are most fulfilled when we encounter God in the most intimate way we can – the Eucharist. The Mass is Eucharistic. Every time I find myself tempted to believe the Catholic Mass is not important, that Sunday obligation is a farce and it is not necessary to my life – I come riiiiight back here. Whatever your experience is with the Eucharist may be, if you believe what the Church asserts – that it is truly the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ – what in the world are you waiting for!? The profound gift of the Eucharist is found in the sacredness of the Catholic Mass and we are each invited to partake in the mystery! Even if we find ourselves in a place unable to receive, we are still welcomed into this place. In fact, we are just invited we are highly encouraged. The Mass is communal. “Participation in the communal celebration of the Sunday Eucharist is a testimony of belonging and of being faithful to Christ and to his Church. The faithful give witness by this to their communion in faith and charity. Together they testify to God’s holiness and their hope of salvation. They strengthen one another under the guidance of the Holy Spirit” (CCC 2182). Ooof. Those are powerful words. We indeed are stronger when we are together. Christ has given us a beautiful and unique gift in the Mass. And, participation in the Mass is a beautiful opportunity to worship God in a setting prioritized in your week along with the community that He has given you and the incredibly profound Sacrament of the Eucharist. The Mass will indeed change your life if you allow it. What to do when making it to Mass is hard… Some of you may be saying, now wait a minute! I get it, I really want to go to Mass, but it’s hard. For whatever legitimate reason you may have, here are some helpful and practical tidbits: If you struggle making it to Mass: Prioritize the same Sunday Mass every week and make it a non-negotiable commitment. Invite a friend or two from youth group to go with you. It takes about 30-60 days to build a new habit, so give yourself grace but don’t give up! If you have a chaotic schedule: Have a list of all the Sunday Mass times in your area. Every week schedule which one you will make it to and stick to that Mass time. If, for some reason, something comes up outside of your control, have no fear! Consult that list once again. If your parents don’t go to Mass: First, encourage them to go with you! Explain how this is a priority for you and how it’s a good opportunity for your family to grow. If that doesn’t change, drive yourself or find a friend to drive you. Perhaps Uber or another form of public transportation is even an option for you. If you feel “checked out” or consistently don’t “get anything out of the Mass”: First, allow yourself to come to grips with the Mass as a mystery. All Sacraments, while celebrated in a physical form are indeed mysteries. Start there, then open your heart to seeing the Mass differently, to actually listening to the words, and being patient with the experience. Learn more about the Mass (I highly recommend Behold the Mystery) and ask the Lord to really open your eyes to seeing this beautiful prayer in a different way. If you are sick or physically unable to make it to Mass: The Church understands that sometimes our bodies limit us in ways outside of our control and dispenses Sunday Mass for “a serious reason” (CCC 2181). If that is you, it is OK. Stay home, get better, and if possible call the parish and see if there is someone who can bring the Eucharist to your home. For more on this, here is a helpful article. Photo by Annie Theby.