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Attending Church: Reflections on the Mass

Photo by Sonny Carter, used with permission
The Minor Basilica of the
Immaculate Conception
Natchitoches, LA
Photo by Sonny Carter
As we approach Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season, consider this question: Where are you with attending church today? 

Just like getting up early to exercise physically, it can sometimes be a chore to get up early to exercise spiritually.  Maybe, like many of us, you have a spouse or kids who may not feel so devoted or excited to be pulled out of bed on Sunday morning or told to stop what they’re doing, shower, and get ready on Sat or Sun afternoon for church. What would their response be if you said to go to the movies?  To go out to eat at your favorite restaurant?   Why not church! 

You probably know the arguments.  My faith is between God and myself.  I can be close to God anywhere; my faith is not about a building or other people.  Yes, your faith is your personal relationship with God  - and to grow in that relationship you need to spend time with Him, in His house, surrounded by your brothers and sisters in Christ. When your dad invites you to come over to the house for dinner with your family, do you accept his invitation or do you tell him you’ll only meet him on your terms, your needs? 

God Speaks to You
Have you ever had a moment when you’re struggling with something? Maybe finances, maybe something going on at work or school that is preventing you from feeling close to God. You come to church because you have to and the first song strikes you right in the heart.  Or one of the readings, or the Homily, just “speaks” to you, as if God Himself is saying I know what you need to hear right now. Maybe last Sunday you were sitting, disconnected, mulling over your latest worry, when suddenly the lector began the second reading saying, “Brothers and sisters: I should like you to be free of anxieties.”    

Do you have a Parish Home? 
For 11 years St. Bernadette served as our home parish. It’s where my children received their sacraments. Where I taught my first CCE, served on committees, and felt embraced by an extended family community. Even after we moved away 2 ½ years ago, we visit every year for Epiphany. We still recognize the same families and are warmly greeted. It still feels like home. Changing Parishes was difficult and requires an open heart and a willingness to serve.  When we moved across town, I purposefully volunteered at our new parish, in order to get to know the people and make a new home.  In some respects it’s been different from our former parish, but after two years it’s starting to feel comfortable.

Catholic Calisthenics
Catholics often catch a lot of flak for moving around so much in Mass.  When speaking to our teens, the Pastor called this posturing “Catholic Calisthenics.” Stand up - sit down -  kneel.  It’s often confusing for non-Catholic Christians visiting a church, yet Fr. John explained it very simply. When you sit you are receptive. When you stand you are active.  When you kneel you are reverent. We sit when we listen to the readings, to the homily; we are open and receptive to God’s word. We stand when we are actively hearing the Gospel, praying, participating. We kneel in reverence for the blessing and in the presence of the Eucharist.

Participating with Music
There are often debates about what type of music should be offered during Mass and it varies from parish to parish. Some churches stick with traditional, some are more contemporary. I love them all. From the Latin chant (which is underused today in my opinion), to the post-Vatican II songs of my childhood, to the Praise & Worship contemporary Christian music used during the “Life Teen” Mass on Sunday night. There is a time and a place for each type of music to praise God and make you feel at home. St. Augustine of Hippo is often (falsely) credited with saying, “When we sing, we pray twice.”  What a beautiful way to praise God with our voices.

So, how do you feel about attending church today? Do you have a parish home that offers you a prayerful opportunity to hear God speaking in your heart? As Lent approaches next week, consider visiting God in His house this season. 

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