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“Ask a Priest: What If Mass Is Hard for Me?”
Q: I was baptized when I was a baby and I have been told go to Mass from a young age. I have been required to go to Mass every Sunday, but I really do not like it. I can’t focus or listen and I don’t enjoy it. I don’t see the point in it. I love Jesus and I love praying. I pray all the time. I pray for guidance and for people and for advice. I’m always talking to Jesus. But I do not like Mass. I dread it every single week and I am always looking for ways to get out of it. When I succeed and am not forced to go, I feel super guilty. But why do I feel like that? Is there something wrong with me? Am I going to be in trouble for skipping Mass? What can I do to make Mass better? I’m honestly lost. Please help me. – C.B.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: It’s good to hear that you pray all the time. Jesus wants us to do as much (see Luke 18:1).
It might help you to know that “The Eucharistic Celebration is the greatest and highest act of prayer,” as Pope Benedict XVI said in a 2009 homily in Rome.
For perspective, it’s good to note that the Mass is about giving proper worship to God. Its primary goal is not so much about us feeling good, though when we live the Mass well we come away refreshed spiritually.
There is also a community dimension to Mass. It’s not a private act of worship, it’s a public act. As such, it involves believers gathered together. In fact, the word Church means a gathering or assembly, from the Hebrew qahal.
This is important to remember since Catholicism is meant to be lived within a community. If our personal and family ties are weak or troubled, this could affect how we perceive the Church itself and how we live our faith.
Also, you mention that you have trouble focusing. Perhaps this is a problem that might lend itself to a bit of medical help.
In any case, to appreciate the Mass, it’s important to understand it and to bring your understanding to it. So it would help to learn about what the Mass is.
At the heart of the Mass is the Liturgy of the Eucharist, where Christ becomes present in the Eucharist. It is a re-presentation of his sacrifice on Calvary.
It is the gift of Christ back to his Father in heaven. This is why it’s the highest form of prayer that we can offer, since it is Christ himself, a Petition par excellence, whom we are presenting to the Father.
It’s Christ himself who instituted the Eucharist (at the last supper). It’s Christ himself who ministers through the celebrant at Mass.
Moreover, it is Christ, the Father, the Holy Spirit who speak to us through the readings and homilies and prayers.
So to say that we want to be close to Jesus but forgo Mass wouldn’t be very coherent. The Mass is the best thing we can offer to God.
It helps, of course, that the Mass is celebrated reverently and that the music, etc., is tastefully done.
For now, it might be good to try to learn more about what does on at Mass. A few resources:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eb0R-edS3Y (this is the traditional Latin Mass)
Attendance at Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation remains a grave duty for Catholics, binding under pain of mortal sin unless there is a legitimate reason for missing the Eucharistic celebration.
Ideally, though, we shouldn’t be going to Mass just to fulfill a minimum requirement and avoid serious sin.
Rather, we should want to go because we recognize it as a most fitting way to give thanksgiving and praise to a God who loves us and who gives us everything that is good.
And if focusing on the Mass is hard, it might help to review the readings, etc., before Mass and keep your missal handy. I hope some of this helps.
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