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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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Mass is the most wonderful way to worship God and Our Lord Jesus.
I wonder why you do not like it. Ask yourself what aspects of it do you not like?
In mass we listen to the Priest, we pray (you said you like praying), we sing (again that is praying) and we are offered Holy Communion (very important).
Perhaps it is not the mass at all that you do not like. Is it that it is full of people, is it too much noise, light etc?
Do you feel a bit of panic when at mass?
It could be that you simply do not like crowds of people? or that you might be on the autistic spectrum? A lot of people are autistic and do not know it, a lot of people in different careers have autism, l know of journalists, actors, musicians, scientists etc that have some form of autism.
One thing a lot f autistic people do not like is crowds and noise, and some time they find it hard to focus at mass.
Why dont you find an online mass (make sure it is catholic) I like the mass at Saint Mary’s of the Angels, Worthing in England, UK, you can google it. Pick an online mass and just watch one at home during the week (as you say you go to mass on a Sunday) so pick one during the week. Now ask yourself after watching it online if you thought it was less stressful for you?
If so then you will know that it is not mass itself that you do not like, but perhaps it is people and noise, and those around you whom you do not know that you find a bit stressful.
Now, perhaps watch online mass during the week and then go to mass on a Sunday it might help you to get into a habit of focusing on the words that the priest says . If you find you are a bit put off because of the people there and the atmosphere find ways to solve that by focusing on the mass rather than the people around you. Think of mass as being a wonderful way to connect to God.
I would ask you also to pray The Rosary (even a decade or the full Rosary) each day and ask for help with this.
You can then try to come up with coping strategies for attending mass in person.
Mass is such a wonderful gift, and I am sure that God would be so very happy to have you attend mass each time. So think of it that way.
There is obviously something that is making you a bit unhappy , so try to find out what it is. Perhaps you sit the same seat or area each week, even changing were you sit could help you a lot.
I really hope this helps you. and I hope that you can go to attend mass with peace. But working through it and trying your best and attending it even if you are struggling with it is a good thing. God and Jesus will see how you struggle with it, yet you still attend and try your best. And it is showing that although it is a struggle for you at present that you are doing your duty to attend mass.
In the future when you are older, you could try a different Catholic Church to see if that suits you better. but It could just be something simple such as you simply do not like crowds. sit near the end of the aisle if you can as that might make you feel calmer. Light a candle before mass and that might help prepare you for the mass.
You are doing good at trying your best.
It was good of you to seek advice on this, it shows your love of God.
I hope I have been able to help.
I know that God is everywhere, but sometimes when I go to church I feel that I am in God’s house visiting him, it makes it special.
I am at home in lockdown so have been watching mass online, and have realised I am not one for crowds at mass. But when this situation is over I will try to go to mass in person more often. So you are not alone, a lot of people have problems in going to mass in one way or another. It is how we walk through these problems that matter, even if we struggle we still need to attend mass as best we can.
May God bless you
Excellent resources included. Helpful to remind us all that our main purpose in Mass is to worship the Lord.
I wonder if there might be another parish where the liturgy would inspire this person more.