The Mass

This was the subject of an email I recently received that received caught my attention.  A evangelical     named Thom Schultz wrote the following that I found interesting:”Last weekend most people in America avoided church. And, a sizable portion of those who did make it to church
wished they were somewhere else. But why?I decided to go direct to the source. I staked out a city park to ask the public why they weren’t in church. What they
told me echoed what I’ve been hearing for several years now.Their reasons centered around four recurring themes:

“Church people judge me.” A young woman told me that as a child she regularly attended church and Sunday school. But she’s given up on the church as an adult. “They make me feel like an outcast,” she     said. “How? Why?” I asked. “Well, I’m a smoker,” she said.

“I don’t want to be lectured.” More people today want to participate in the discussion. A man told me    he’s talked with over a thousand other men who’ve given up on church. He said, “Guys don’t want to sit in     a room and idly listen to some preacher do all the talking. They want to ask questions. They want to share their thoughts too.”

“They’re a bunch of hypocrites.” I know church leaders are weary of this “excuse.” But people are’nt merely referring to incongruous behavior.    What bothers them is the sense that church spokespeople act like they have all the answers. That they’ve arrived. That they’re only interested in telling others what to do—“teaching,” to use the church vernacular.

“I don’t want religion. I want God.” Most people don’t experience God at church. They’re not looking for the “deep” theological trivia that seems to interest some preachers. They crave something very simple. They’re dying to be reassured that God is real, that he is more than a historical figure,       that  he is present today, and that he is active in the lives of people around them.

Those of us who remain in this imperfect gathering of the faithful need to stop talking and “teaching” long enough to listen to the majority outside our  walls. I’m not suggesting their views are flawless. Or that we should design ministry merely according to consumer whims. But we do need to keep        our ultimate goal in mind—to help bring others into a closer relationship with Jesus Christ.

That’s what defined the ministry of Jesus himself. He boldly broke away from the habits and routines of the religious elite of the time. And he fashioned     a highly relational ministry that connected with the disenfranchised.”


Do you find these reasons to be true?  

The Pew Forum study from 2008 found that about only 30% of Adult Catholics are actively practicing their faith.  I suspect that also includes going to    Mass.  30% – Wow!  The “missing Mass is a grave sin” (Cf. CCC 2181) does not seem to have much weight in the Third Millennium.  

What can we do in our Catholic parishes to draw people to church?

No Ordinary Meal

This poster got me reflecting on how we catechize about the Eucharist and invisible things in general.  I think it is very common to want to connect the Eucharist to what we all know – a family meal.  Yes, in a certain sense it is like a family meal because we gather each Sunday to a a community of faith to participate in the Holy Mass.  However, it is much more: It is the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross being made present.  As I’ve heard it said before “It’s the same old miracle that happens each time Mass is celebrated”.  This heavenly banquet is ever new and ever fresh.  We have the opportunity as Catholics and as catechists to live our earthly lives anticipating the pledge of our future glory (cf. CCC 1402-1405).  This is no ordinary reality happening at each Mass, but we’ve come so accustom to it and live in a culture that seeks to enliven the senses to no end that the divine exchange that occurs is often overlooked or taken for granted.

Catechetical Takaway

I just have one takaway that I’d like to share:

Seek to impress upon those you are catechizing that the God of the universe is constantly seeking to draw our hearts and minds into his reality of holiness and life.  The things of this world- the signs and symbols that this world offers and our Church uses are meant to connect us to what only the eyes of faith can see clearly (Cf. 1 Cor. 13:12).  It is no less real just visible through a different lens.

A Prayer for Faith

Lord Jesus, eternal and infallible Truth, since Thou hast said that Thou art really present in the holy Eucharist, I believe it firmly. Yes, this Host which I see, and which I am to receive, is not bread, but the living Body of Jesus Christ, God and Man: it is the God Whom the Angels adore in heaven; I believe it. I do not understand this Mystery, but I wish to believe it without seeking to penetrate it, that I may have the happiness of seeing and contemplating it one day in heaven. Strengthen it so lively, that I may honour Thee, love Thee, and receive Thee, as if I already beheld Thee.

Like Change?

Change is not easy for people.  Even in a world that is in a constant state of change it is difficult to experience, especially when we have become so accustom to the way things are.  Are you looking forward, indifferent or are hesitant to the new changes of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal?

Seeing the Mass with New Eyes

Almost all diocese across the country have had numerous workshops to discuss the changes which are bringing a sense of renewal in general to the Liturgy.  Hopefully the faithful everywhere have come to a greater awareness of the beauty and the depth of the Mass.  I just recently gave a talk to parents about the Mass in general and hope that it brought a greater sense of all that is going on at Mass and how we are truly engaging in something heavenly and supernatural at Mass.  My talk was not so much about the upcoming changes as it was to focus on the wonder of the Mass and how it makes present the events of Calvary. Participating in the Mass is the closest we come to heaven this side of it.

Helping Your Students

What are you doing in your Religious Education, Youth Ministry and Adult Faith Formation to help individuals prepare for the changes?  Many resources have been printed and made available to help various age groups understand the changes and be ready for them in Advent.  Here are a few ideas for the various age groups to consider:


~ A series of presentations on the changes for the parish.

~ Resources published in the Bulletin and made available on your parish website.

Elementary and Youth:

~ 30 minute lessons on the specific changes that will happen (I’m especially doing this with 4th – 6th graders).

~ Taking lesson plans and connecting them with the changes.  For example when the lesson plan mentions the Creed take that opportunity to discuss the changes in wording. Or when you do a lesson on Reconciliation take that opportunity to discuss why the changes in the penitential rite.

~ Learning Stations:  We recently had an enrichment session at our parish for 1st – 6th graders about the changes.  We set up 6 learning stations where students and parents spent 10 minutes at each station focusing on some aspect of the Mass (4 stations related to the changes and the other two were intended to give a greater appreciation of the Mass)  They walked away with something from each station.

~ Aim to mention the Mass and how it is central to our life and worship as Catholic Christians.  What a great opportunity to dive more deeply into the Mass and why it is so important to us as Catholics.  St. Bernard said “you will gain more from one single Mass than you would from distributing all your goods to the poor or making pilgrimages to all the most holy shrines in Christendom.”

Opportunity Knocks

Don’t miss this opportunity to talk about something ever ancient yet ever new.  I’ll repeat what has been said by many for the last 2 years about these changes: It gives us a great opportunity, a unique moment to really emphasize and help those we catechize not only become aware of why the changes but how the Mass continues to be our strength, life and source of life giving grace for the faithful.

LIFE TEEN has done a great job helping teens understand some of the Mass changes.  Check out the following videos. I think you’ll find these a very valuable resource.

Word for Word [Teens] from Life Teen on Vimeo.

Here is a video LIFE TEEN put out for youth ministers:

New Roman Missal for Youth Ministers – Word for Word by Life Teen from Life Teen on Vimeo.

A Dinner Like No Other

Imagine this dinner…the “Last” Supper that these 12 men (11 before the end of the dinner) would have with their Lord, Master and friend, Jesus Christ.  He gave them something truly incredible – His very self.  It was their First Holy Communion.  They experienced a communion not only of being in His presence, as they had been for 3 years, but they now celebrated and encountered Him by receiving Him and becoming living tabernacles filled with God.  I can barely get my head around it – Jesus Christ is present in the flesh of His body and in the flesh under the disguise of bread and wine at the same time.  At the Last Supper, He is giving His total self to them and will physically do the same the day after this amazing paschal meal.

First Communion Then and Now

Thousands of new Catholics (fully initiated into the Church) will receive their First Communion this Easter Vigil and thousands of 2nd graders over the next two months.  The miracle of the Eucharist, of simple bread and wine that are transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ will come into the lives of so many in a new, more complete manner as they not only take and receive but encounter their divine savior filling them with nothing less than God’s very self.  No greater love, no greater wonder then this!

The Apostles didn’t have any gift giving and party after their First Communion but their memory of that Last Supper was never forgotten and transformed them beyond their wildest imaginations.

Thank you Jesus for giving us yourself so that we can be more fully transformed and one with you.   May we be changed beyond our wildest imaginations every time we encounter you in Holy Communion, Amen.

As we approach the great Solemnity of Christmas I have been pondering about the connection between Christmas and the Mass.  Here is what I’ve thought about:

1) Every Mass is a little Christmas.  The Word became flesh and dwelt among us or “pitched his tent among us”.  Isn’t that what happens at every Mass?  Heaven come to earth.  What a celebration and an encounter Mass is each time we attend (that is if we are open to the miracle of it).

2) Christ was born in Bethlehem which means “house of bread” and He was born in a manger fit not for a king but for animals.  His bed was a feeding trough.  Isn’t that interesting and actually providential.  Jesus Christ laid in a feeding trough upon his birth and is our bread of life that we feed upon every time we receive Him in Holy Communion.

O Come let us prepare our hearts to adore Him and receive Him with a soul that allows Him to take up His throne in our hearts!