Mass Is More Than Essential — It Is the Source and Summit of Our Life

“The Eucharist is the heart and the summit of the Church's life, for in it Christ associates his Church and all her members with his sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving offered once for all on the cross to his Father; by this sacrifice he pours out the graces of salvation on his Body which is the Church.” [1407]

Unknown German Master, “Holy Mass in a Village Church,” 18th century
Unknown German Master, “Holy Mass in a Village Church,” 18th century (photo: Public Domain)

The Holy Mass — that moment when heaven and earth are joined — wasn’t subject to government interference for most of my life. Things have changed. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, most churchmen and government officials were understandably worried about the spread of the coronavirus. Many restricted large gatherings like the communal celebration of Mass.

Those cool guys in the flowing white robes — the Dominicans of the Thomistic Institute — didn’t waste any time. They formed a working group of infectious disease experts, medical professionals, scientists and Catholic theologians and came up with guidelines for administering the sacraments and pastoral care.

Despite the science supporting a safe celebration of the Mass, houses of worship remain fair game for regulation. The religious liberty law firm Becket Law created a map of the country according to the type of government-mandated restriction on worshiping. You can check it out here

In recent months the Supreme Court has come out strongly against worship-targeting. On the eve of Thanksgiving, the Court stopped New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s numerical attendance limits for houses of worship in certain areas of the state. (This week a lower court granted Cuomo’s unusual request to block his executive order’s percentage-of-occupancy restrictions.) And this past Friday the Court struck down a ban on indoor worship in parts of California. 

San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone was quite vocal in denouncing the rule. “My people want to receive the Body and Blood of Christ; they need it, and have every right to be free to do so,” he said.

Cordileone is not oblivious to the safety of his flock. Before the recent judicial reprieve, Mass attendees wereushered inside San Francisco’s cathedral — violating the state’s restrictions on indoor worship — to avoid possible violent protests at the Chinese consulate nearby. 

Perhaps it’s time for Catholics in the pews to raise our voices in defense of the importance of worship too. I’ll go first.

I am a “daily Masser.” I’m saying this not to virtue signal or wag my finger at anyone who isn’t. Mass simply is an everyday thing for me.

I start my days (often begrudgingly, I’ll admit) with an “I will serve!” It literally takes the form of serving breakfast to seven of my 10 children. (The oldest three are now adults.) I am fortunate that school is “in-person” for my young scholars. Helping zip up jumpers, pack lunches and make beds is also part of my early morning routine. 

Next, we are off to the races. My older boys head off in one direction to their small Christian liberal arts school while I shuffle the younger ones to the local parish school. “Have a great day,” I say just loud enough to mortify my teen and pre-teen daughters as they exit the minivan and walk into school. 

Then I take a deep breath, park, put on a mask and head into the church. 

I’ve usually got some time before Mass to do some spiritual reading, listen to a meditation or pray the Stations of the Cross. Last spring the parish began to keep the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar before and after Mass. So sometimes my pre-Mass prep is just sitting in adoration. 

It’s been well over 15 years since I started making Mass a daily part of my life. And, boy, doing so has helped me weather some pretty rough storms. There is a point made by St. Josemaría Escrivá that seems to sum things up perfectly:

“Going to Communion every day for so many years! Anybody else would be a saint by now, you told me, and I … I’m always the same!”

“Son, I replied, keep up your daily Communion, and think: what would I be if I had not gone?”

Of course, Mass is important for much more than what it does to steady me. It offers the chance to thank God, ask his forgiveness and petition — and, at its core, to give God glory.

As we approach the first anniversary of the pandemic, Catholics can remind our friends, family, elected officials — and perhaps even ourselves — that the Mass is more than just an “essential service.” It is at the center and root of our interior life. And that even if it is a challenge to do so, the right to worship is something that we plan to keep exercising.