In my time as a youth minister, and now as a Director of Faith Formation, I hear the following phrases more often than words can say:
- Mass is so boring.
- I don’t get anything out of Mass.
I could sit here and tell you how totally wrong you are…but I’ve said those exact same phrases too. Even though we’ve probably all said those phrases a time to two, it doesn’t make them right.
Mass is boring.
People complain that we, as Catholics, do the same thing every week. The only things that change are the readings and sometimes the music, but even those get old after a while. I’m sorry, the Word of God gets old? I had a teacher in high school that told us that life is never boring and we should never be bored. If we find ourselves bored then the fact is that we are the boring ones. Isn’t the same true with Mass? Is the Mass really boring or are we bored with it? Mass – the Sacrifice of Christ, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist – is never ever boring. In fact, if we truly understood each aspect of the Mass, if we understood what was taking place up on that altar, we’d never leave Mass. Instead, we’d be drawn to immerse ourselves in His Word and in His Sacrifice each moment of each day.
This is where people often counter with something to the effect of: “But I don’t understand the Mass.” I get that. I’ve been there – in fact, it was among the driving reasons that I majored in theology. I am not, however, telling you that you need to major in theology or else you are a bad Catholic. But you can still learn about the Mass without going back to college. There are so many amazing books and websites out there about Mass that can (and will) deepen your understanding of exactly what is going on. I recommend (though I haven’t read all of them in their entirety): The Lamb’s Supper by Dr. Scott Hahn, Why Do Catholics Do That? by Kevin Orlin Johnson, The Spirit of the Liturgy by Pope Benedict XVI, The Crucified Rabbi by Taylor Marshall, and Do I Have To Go? by Chris Stefanick and Matthew Pinto. Got any other favorite reads/links about the Mass? I’d love to hear them!
I don’t get anything out of Mass.
As almost any youth minister (or parent) will tell you: you get out what you put in. I know that the times I’m more distracted by the off-pitch choir, the less-than-orthodox words a priest ad-libs for consecration, or the person chewing gum and/or texting in the pew next to me, the less likely I am to get anything out of Mass. Why? Because my focus isn’t where it should be. Our focus isn’t supposed to be on anything but Him – whether it is in the Liturgy of the Word (the part of Mass where we listen to Scripture and the homily) or the Liturgy of the Eucharist (consecration and communion) – our focus is Him and Him alone.
A few years ago someone dealt me a harsh reality check when I began to complain about how I wasn’t getting anything out of Mass: Mass is NOT about YOU. Mass isn’t about what you get out of it, Mass is about worshiping, praising, and thanking God. Mass is about remembering His goodness and His Sacrifice. As someone once put it to me, “If you don’t understand the sacrifice of love, Mass is meaningless.” Mass isn’t so much about who we are, or what we bring to the table, it is about Him, who He is, and what He brings to the table, which is everything. Mass is His open invitation for you to do the same: to bring your everything to the table and lay at His feet, all for His glory. As Katharine Hepburn once said, “Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get, it’s what you are expected to give – which is everything.“