If you’re reading this, you’re probably a pro-Catholic. I’m not trying to give you a big head, but c’mon, you’re reading a Life Teen blog right now. You’re probably bought in at this point.
And since you’re bought into your faith, you’re probably like me. You wake up at 8 am on a Sunday to go to Mass with your family. You’re doing great during the readings, listening attentively, noticing connections between them. You even stay awake for the whole homily, even though you can’t quite understand the visiting priest’s accent.
Then the Prayers of the Faithful start. Oh no, the prayers of the faithful. You try your best to pray for all 20 of them, but right around number four, the lector says something about a hurricane in Florida, which makes you think about the beach, which makes you think about your grandma’s condo in Ft. Lauderdale and how funny it smells and oh my gosh the priest just held up the host. Have you been thinking about your grandma’s perfume this whole time??
Yes. Yes, you have.
You shift your focus back to the Mass, but you feel kinda bad. You receive Our Lord and sheepishly apologize for not paying attention during the Consecration. You start kicking yourself, but then you remember your friend shared a blog post about getting distracted in Mass. So, you find it and now you’re here.
Every Catholic has their Mass Achilles heel. Some people get bored during the music, some get bored during homilies, and some during the regular parts of the Mass we hear every week. Some of us have been going to Mass so long we’ve gotten bored at every part of it at some point.
Music opinions are like butts: everyone’s got one. And it’s rare that the music minister’s choices match perfectly with your taste. Even if they don’t, there’s a gem in every hymn. If you find yourself getting bored singing a hymn, find one line that sticks out to you and keep it in the back of your mind throughout the song.
In high school, I once brought a Protestant friend to Mass with me, and afterward, he said, “The first prayer the priest said was really interesting.” I had to admit to him that I didn’t listen to that prayer and rarely did.
This prayer is called the “collect.” In it, the priest collects the prayers of those present and brings them to the Altar during the Eucharist. The best thing to do during this time is to offer the Mass for a specific person or intention. You’re encouraged by the Church to do this!
The best way to pay attention during the readings is to read them ahead of time. The best way to read them ahead of time is to tell your friend, sibling, or parent that you’re going to do it every week and have them ask you before Mass on Sunday if you did it. If you have trouble reading Scripture, join Life Teen on YouTube every Wednesday for Lectio Live (or you can always tune in later) — a digital small group to pray with the Sunday Mass readings.
I’m not sure if this is the best approach, but it certainly keeps me attentive. I like to have a mental argument with the priest during a homily. At the end of the homily, I want to be totally convinced that Jesus is Lord and I should give myself totally to Him. If the priest left any of my questions unanswered, I bring them to Jesus in the Eucharist.
A priest friend once told me that the only time he cried during his ordination was during the Creed. He was overcome at the realization that this faith was handed on for 2,000 years by priests, bishops, moms, dads, and martyrs. The best thing to do during the Creed is to remind yourself what you are doing: you are making it publicly known that you stand in the ancient heritage of God’s family and look forward to living with Him and that family forever.
The Prayers of the Faithful
The prayers of the faithful are a huge distraction point for me. It’s still a struggle. Something that helps is to imagine the faces of the people we pray for. Often during these prayers, we’re imagining faceless masses affected by what’s going on in the world. If we can put a face to the suffering, our heart feels the connection we have to that person.
The Eucharistic Prayer
This part of the Mass is hard for some because of the repetition of the words. We all know to pay attention when the bells ring or when Father holds up the host. But it’s hard to pay attention during the parts right before and after that. My advice here is similar to the collect. Now is a great time to recall that intention you brought to Jesus. Now is the time to offer that prayer on the altar of Christ’s sacrifice. Your prayer is caught up with the prayer of the Church that is being offered to the Father right now!
Post-Communion is a time for personal reflection. Unfortunately, it’s seen by some as an optional part of the Mass. Don’t duck out post-communion! Remember that Jesus Christ is as close as He can get to your heart. This is the best time to bring everything to Him: your last week, your anxieties for the upcoming week, your excitements, victories, etc. He allowed Himself to be received by you so that He can receive you.
Just remember, it’s OK to get distracted. But what’s not OK is being OK with that! Failure to plan is planning to fail. Don’t go to Mass without a plan to avoid distraction. Try some of these tricks next week (or even at a daily Mass) or try some of your own. Just know, the Choirs of Angels and Communion of Saints are present at every Mass praying for you to grow closer to Christ. You’ve got a good team in your corner.
Photo by Jasmin Schreiber on Unsplash.