Dear Sister,

I don’t get much out of Mass. Do you have any suggestions?

Dear Friend,

I suppose you have already heard a couple phrases that have become aphorisms on this ‘issue’:  “Don’t come to get – come to give” and “You will only get out what you are willing to put in”.  While it is true that fundamentally generous attitudes and intentions are necessary to dispose us to benefit from the graces of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, it is also true that the Celebration of the Eucharist was instituted to give us Someone – as well as allowing us to give (ourselves) to Someone.

As you are probably aware, the Mass is divided into 2 main parts: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In different ways, both of these are meant to feed the Christian. I am going to challenge you to prepare for and follow up your weekly Mass attendance in a way that will increase its “nutritional value” for you from both “the table of God’s Word and of Christ’s Body”. (Dei Verbum #21)

At one time the average man or woman had the opportunity to hear the Holy Scriptures only at Mass or another liturgical setting. The slower, quieter “pre-tech” world was no doubt an easier place to learn mental focus and patience. There simply weren’t a lot of voices to listen to. Remember when mom said, “Put that down, and don’t eat that now! You’re going to spoil your appetite!” Most of us are suffering from severely spoiled appetites, especially in regard to audio-visual stimulation.   #1: If you are serious about gaining or regaining your appetite for the table of God’s Word, cut out at least a large proportion of the audio-visual junk food in your life and environment, and replace it with gradually increased periods of silence and with quality spiritual reading, listening or watching. Some of the greatest and holiest minds to ever open a Bible are writing and speaking today – in very straightforward and intelligible ways – no special education necessary.

Some people do not absorb the nutrients they do take in because illness or disorders prevent them from doing so. We can be exposed to great graces and benefit relatively little if some disease or disorder of heart or soul is preventing us from being “absorbent”.  #2: If you are serious about making yourself truly disposed to receive the graces available to you in the Bread of Life, you should make – and continue to make on a regular basis – an honest examination of conscience and sacramental confession. Let’s make sure the spiritual system is adequate and healthy enough to actually utilize what it receives.

If all of this seems like a terribly big answer to a little tiny question, I think I would suspect sheer lack of appetite – spiritual appetite, that is. There is nothing to stimulate appetite and put nutrients into circulation doing what they were made to do, like exercise. No doubt it is common knowledge among Christians that we are meant to conduct ourselves charitably and justly as we go about our business in life.  #3: I am not sure how many of us realize how inadequate an attitude of “being nice and not doing bad things” is, in light of our real purpose: “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (Ephesians 2:10). How many of us would be comfortable describing our own day to day activities as those of “one created for good works as a way of life”?  That kind of life is going to require serious nutrition – and it will also stimulate significant hunger!

Last but not least, your immediate preparation for the meal – your own bearing at Mass. We are a tremendous unity of body and soul – each having real influence over the other.  #4: Attending a Liturgy that is celebrated reverently, and especially taking stock of your own interior and exterior reverence at Mass are often the simplest and most immediate remedy to apply to a malaise, and one that has immediate benefits for our fellow-worshipers as well!

Until next time,

Sister Benedicta Marie, O.C.D

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