“Ask a Priest: What If Fears of Violence Keep Me From Going to Mass?”

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Q: As I live in the U.S. I know that the likelihood of something terrorist or violent in nature taking place during Mass is minimal. But I still can’t help feeling vulnerable at Mass. I don’t live in a community that is unsafe either. I am a devout Catholic and attend Mass every Sunday, however, if I feel the slightest feelings of hesitation or worry come over me prior to Mass I just scare myself out of going. I pray daily to try to help me get rid of these feelings. Any help and guidance is greatly appreciated. -M.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It is understandable that you experience fears, given all the tragic news of recent months.

Still, as a devout Catholic you have every reason to cultivate a sense of hope and trust in God’s providence.

Sure, we live in a world marred by terrorism. But there has always been violence in the world. As Christians we ideally should be encouraged by the words of Jesus, “I have conquered the world” (John 16:33). Christians have suffered persecution and martyrdom throughout the history of the Church, and God has shown that he will give us whatever strength we need to face the difficulties that come our way. When we feel fearful, we can renew our faith in God’s goodness and wisdom.

At a practical level, the chance of you or I being attacked in Mass is probably much smaller than the chance of our being in a car accident, or having an accident around the house.

Perhaps part of the solution here is to limit your exposure to the news media.

Let’s face it, the news can be depressing. And Jesus doesn’t want us to go through life depressed.

We are supposed to be apostles of hope to the world around us. This isn’t to say that we cut ourselves off totally from the world; as citizens we should try to keep informed about what is happening around us. But don’t let the media dominate your worldview. Media specializes in bad news, not good news. So perhaps you want to limit yourself to 10 or 15 minutes of news during the day, be it by radio, TV, or print media. And then focus on more positive things the rest of the day: prayer and good works, for instance.

Another consideration is your daily social life. Do you have a network of family and friends to support you? Are you involved in any kind of volunteer work that will help you channel your energies?

Dedication to those in need is a good way to keep our own lives in perspective. It helps us appreciate all the positive things God has given us, and it reminds us that we can make a contribution to others. All this can help get our minds off the relentless bad news out there.

Another factor, of course, is that you don’t want anything to come between you and the Mass. Jesus is waiting for you.

Perhaps an online retreat about trust could help you. I hope some of this helps.

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