10 Things To Remember Before Deciding Not to Return To Mass
COMMENTARY: There is no better spiritual food for Catholics that what they receive in the Eucharist.
During the COVID-19 pandemic many Catholics have been deprived of attending Mass. This deprivation has been ongoing for months, enough time for some Catholics to begin to think that the Mass is no longer central to their lives. It is important to remember, however, what one is giving up in deciding, after a long quarantine, not to return to Mass. The following offers 10 important reasons for returning to Mass that Catholics need to remember. The four primary reasons for attending Mass:
The Mass offers us the opportunity to worship God in an appropriate environment and in the most appropriate way; to ask for his forgiveness, to thank him for the many blessings he has bestowed upon us, and to ask for the grace to be ever faithful to him. These four points can be summed up in the acronym ACTS (Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, and Supplication).
The Eucharist as spiritual nourishment: The reception of the Holy Eucharist is the reception of Christ and offers a more abundant life: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:51). There is no better spiritual food for Catholics that what they receive in the Eucharist. The Church lives by the gift of the life of Christ.
Praying as a community: Attending Mass gives us the opportunity to pray with others. Communal prayer, as opposed to solitary prayer, is more in line with the prayer of the Church as a whole and in conformity with the Communion of Saints. In joining prayer to song, as Augustine states, “He who sings prays twice.”
Praying for the Church: Prayer is the life-blood of the Church. As such it radiates outward to the whole world, asking for blessings that enable the Church to carry out is divinely appointed mission. Praying for the Church has a wider scope than is the objective of individual prayers. Catholics are privileged to be part of a universal activity that brings grace to people and situations of which they may be unaware.
Invoking the Saints: During the Mass, the saints of the Church are invoked. Saints offer testimony that that a truly Christian life is attainable. We ask for their own prayers as we seek to imitate their example. St. Mary Mother of God, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Dominic, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Ignatius of Loyola, and many others offer us the assurance that being in their company is a great blessing.
Honoring the dead: Those who have died are remembered. They should not be forgotten as members of the Mystical Body of Christ. They may be in need of our prayers. The Church includes both the living and the dead and is a continual reminder that the life of the deceased, as is our own, is everlasting. The Mass is a prayer for everyone and for all time.
Living the Church calendar: The Mass takes us through the liturgical year consisting of six seasons. Advent is the four-week period in preparation for Christmas. Lent is the six-week period prior to Easter and the Sacred Paschal Triduum. Ordinary Time includes the periods after Christmas and after Easter. The liturgical Calendar reminds us that we are involved in a spiritual cycle in which we relive the life of Christ. It adds spirituality to our ordinary secular year.
Receiving grace to amend one’s life: We approach Mass with a certain humility, mindful of our sins and indiscretions. It is a time to be honest with ourselves and ask God to help us in the coming days. The Mass, therefore, becomes a stepping stone to a better and more spiritual life. We should exit from Mass with a sense of a renewed spirit, better prepared to meet the challenges of the world.
Re-establishing a good habit: After not attending Mass for a long period of time, we stand the danger of being infected by the Deadly Sin of sloth. This vice is not simply laziness, as is commonly believed, but the reluctance or the refusal to involve oneself in spiritual activities. Abstaining from Mass invites the bad habit of lapsing into a self-centered and non-spiritual mode of living. Regular attendance at Mass forms a good habit and a discipline that is most beneficial.
Being an example and a witness for others: The temptation to avoid Mass on a regular basis is challenged by those who return to Mass who might prod the delinquents into returning. Good example can offset laziness in others. In addition, one may be a witness to the benefits derived from attending Mass. There should be a palpable and perhaps even contagious joy that the Massgoer exemplifies.
Donald DeMarco, Ph.D., is professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University in Canada and adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Connecticut.