A few weeks ago, my parish started something new: one a month, the family Mass (9:15a) would be lead by the kids from our parish school, in this case, the 4th graders. That meant that the kids would read the Mass readings, read the Prayers of the Faithful, present the gifts and greet all the parishioners. This was done because there is a bit of a disconnect between the “parish” families and the “school” families. I have heard that part of this comes from the belief that since the “school” kids go to Mass during the week, it means they can essentially skip out on Sunday Mass, or because we have 6 Masses celebrated that the families just go to different Masses. *shrug*
Our kids go to public school, and the few “school” families we know attend Sunday Mass pretty faithfully, so I don’t know about the validity of that statement other than that on the Sunday that the school kids were leading Mass, it was like a Christmas or Easter service… it was packed! And I love a packed church!
We arrived before Mass began and had to squeeze into a pew and got the stink eye from the people there because they were “reserving” that pew because their daughter was “participating in Mass.” I stopped, smiled and said, “That’s great!” and sat down. (because, yo, it’s Church.) But it was when the mother got up during the Gloria, with her camera, and scurried up to the ambo to take pictures of her daughter reading (she actually said out loud that she needed to get a better seat to take pictures) that I pretty much lost it and had to go to prayer.
You see, in a Catholic Mass, we are all participants. Not just the readers, the choir, the priest… when we celebrate Mass, we celebrate as a community, not as an audience. But maybe you get the feeling of not participating when sitting in Mass on a Sunday morning. Here are ten ways to fully participate in this great prayer we call the Mass:
- Just come to Mass! That’s it. Show up, sit down, and just be there in the presence of the Lord.
- Sing! Singing is not just for choir members or people with good voices. Remember as St. Augustine is said to have said: “He who sings prays twice!”
- Follow along with the readings. Catholics are accused of not reading the Bible because we do not typically take Bibles to church and the priest does not cite specific verses during his homily, but all of the readings in the Mass come from the Bible. If the sound system is not the best at your church or you are a visual learning, read along in your Misselette!
- Be engaged during the homily. The homily is not held at the same level of importance as in Protestant churches, but that does not mean you should just check out during the talk. You could take it to the next level and actually take notes as well.
- Greet your neighbor. The people at Mass with you are your family, even if you haven’t met them yet. Take a minute after Mass and say “hi!” (I edited to say “after Mass” because I’m one who needs personal space and quiet time before Mass begins, plus it might be part of Catholic teaching that the time before Mass is for personal reflection and thanksgiving, but my RCIA class didn’t really cover that part. However, I’ll make eye contact and smile at you!)
- Pray aloud. The Gloria. The Penitential Rite. The Our Father. The Nicene Creed. The Agnus Dei. There are lots of times for prayer aloud at Mass.
- Pray silently. There are times when life is just so overwhelming that I just have to sit at the feet of Christ and pray.
- Receive the Eucharist reverently. This is not just some little cracker you are getting. If you truly believe that you are receiving the body of Christ and not just a memorial of him, act like it! Thank Him and think about what He did for you, when we were so undeserving.
- Serve humbly. If you are an usher, choir member, worship leader, extraordinary minister or lector, do so humbly. It is not about you. The Mass is about worshipping God and we need to be humble servants to Him. (And you know this is going to lead to another post about applauding a soloist or choir during the Mass.)
- Hang around after Mass. Some of our best friends we met by hanging around after Mass. If your family takes off after communion because you want to beat the traffic out of the lot, you can beat the same traffic by just chilling out and chatting. The coffee and donuts help too!
I know, I know… this is one of those admonishing Catholic posts that people complain about, but seriously folks, think about what you could be missing out on: the beauty, the smells, the symbolism, the fact that Christ is truly present. And we get to experience that every single day if we want. But at least, experience it on Sundays.