Ten Habits That Will Keep You Present at Mass

The Dogmatic Constitution on the Liturgy emphasizes a key point so as to derive the maximum fruit from every Mass with these words: “To participate fully, actively, and consciously in the Mass…” As a further stimulus to live out the Mass to the fullest extent possible, recall the words on the plaque in many of the Sacristies in Religious Communities, as a reminder to the priest-celebrant these words: “Priest, man of God, celebrate this Mass as if it were your first Mass, your last Mass, and your only Mass.” 

This concept and attitude should be applied to all—priests and laity—who are present at any Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We should never take the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for granted, but have the highest love and respect for it. Indeed, in every Mass, heaven comes down to earth and earth is united to heaven.

This reflection will focus primarily on how we should all strive to participate fully, actively and consciously in every Mass. Indeed, the devil never sleeps nor does he go on vacation, especially in trying to keep us away from Mass. But also, if we do go to Mass, the devil will do all in his power to prevent us from participating fully and will try to distract us to the greatest extent possible.

Sacramental theology teaches us the key concept of dispositive grace in the reception of the Sacraments. By this is meant: the graces we receive in the Sacraments are in direct proportion and commensurate with our disposition. In other words, the better the soul is disposed to receive absolution in the Sacrament of Penance or Holy Communion in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, then the more abundant the graces. If you like, if we do not receive abundant graces, the fault is not to be found in the Sacrament itself—because there we encounter Jesus, the Son of the living God—but rather in ourselves, the poor recipients of the Sacrament. We can never blame God, but always ourselves!

This being the case, let us offer some practical action-items to help us to derive the maximum graces from every Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Indeed how grateful we should be for the fact that we are Catholics and have at our disposal the greatest Gift this side of heaven—the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and Holy Communion! As the Psalmist reminds us:  “As the deer yearns for the running waters, so does my soul yearn for you, O Lord my God.”  (Psalm 41:1)

1. Punctuality

Not only should we arrive on time, we should always strive to arrive early for Mass. It takes time to move from active-mode to contemplative-mode and to make this transition smoothly and efficaciously. 

As athletes warm up before arriving on the playing field to commence the game, so in our spiritual exercise we must warm up to God. This takes time, effort and good will on our part. Furthermore, one of the key elements for arriving early for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass can be that we can offer our own many intentions on the altar even before Mass begins.

2. Sacred Silence

The Prophet Isaiah entered the Temple in silence to encounter the thrice holy God. Jesus is truly present in every Tabernacle of the Catholic Church. Isaiah encountered God and received his sublime vocation as Prophet to all the nations in this silent but powerful encounter with God. Before the burning bush, in the silence God spoke to Moses, endowing and empowering him with the vocation to lead the chosen people out from the slavery of Egypt. Finally, Elijah encountered God on the Holy Mountain. Not in the fire, not in thunder, nor in the earthquake did Elijah encounter the Almighty God, but in the silent and gentle breeze. 

As we enter the Church and draw close to our three-times holy God, we must shake the noise of the world from our sandals and enter into the Presence of God, who speaks to those who have quiet and contemplative hearts.

3. Genuflection

When walking in the Presence of Jesus, truly present in the Tabernacle, we should make a reverential gesture of adoration. This we call the genuflection. How? Quite simple! With hands folded in prayer, bow your right knee all the way to the ground, touching the ground with that knee, and then up! Easy, don’t you think? Many have forgotten or never been taught to carry out this gesture of adoration toward the Lord of Lord’s and the King of King’s—Jesus in the Tabernacle! In times past, this gesture was done in the presence of a King. Now we do it before the King of the Universe: Jesus the Lord!

4. Modesty

It must be expressed with great clarity, frankness, and charity—the real importance of modesty in dress, at all times, but most especially in the Presence of Jesus in the Tabernacle and the Holy Mass. We should never forget our obligation to give a good example at all times and places and in all circumstances. 

Never forget our dignity and our eternal destiny. We are created in the image and likeness of God. Through Baptism, we are transformed into living Temples of the Blessed Trinity. Saint Paul points out that we are all called to be Ambassadors of Christ. Never do we want to be a cause of temptation and scandal for anyone, but most especially in the context of the Church and the Mass.

5. Guardian Angel: Ask for Their Help

At the very moment of our conception, God, in His infinite goodness, gave us a friend to help us arrive safely and securely at our eternal destiny. This person is our Guardian Angel. We should beg our Guardian Angel to help us to pay attention and to participate fully, actively and consciously in every Mass. If we beg for their help, they will be most pleased to help us!

6. Pray Fervently

The Priest is the celebrant of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, who acts in the person of Christ. But we must make a sincere effort to pray fervently during the whole entirety of the Mass. The Mass has infinite value, but if we are willfully distracted, then the goldmine of graces that are at our disposal will be lost. Every part, every word, every gesture in Holy Mass offers us unspeakable graces.

7. Listen Attentively

The first part of the Mass has classically been termed “The Liturgy of the Word.” Our attitude during the readings of God’s Word (Really, God is speaking to us…) should be that of very attentive listening. If some person is speaking to us, to be willfully distracted is a sign of rudeness and bad-education. How much more serious to be willfully distracted when God is trying to speak to us through His divinely revealed Word. Our attitude should be that of the young Samuel in the Temple: “Speak, O Lord, for your servant is listening.”

8. Ignore Distractions in the Course of Holy Mass

Despite our goodwill and the goodwill of the priest-celebrant, distractions will come. We are all familiar with the huge litany of distractions. We should do all in our power to not allow these to distract us too much and take away our peace of heart, mind and soul. Once again, ask for your Guardian Angel’s assistance.

9. Missal/Daily Readings

Many derive abundant fruit from following the Mass with the help of a Daily Missal, with both the prayers for the Mass, as well as the Readings. If this is a helpful tool for you to participate more fully, actively and consciously in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, then take advantage! We should do all in our power to engage ourselves as fully as possible in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In fact, it would not be a bad idea to peruse the Readings of the Mass even before arriving at Holy Mass. This would fall into the category of remote preparation for Holy Mass.

10. The Blessed Virgin Mary & Holy Mass

In a later apparition to Sister Lucia of Fatima, she saw the altar of sacrifice. Above could be seen Jesus hanging on the cross with His Heart pierced. From His opened Heart, Blood was flowing into a chalice. Our Lady of Fatima was standing at the foot of the cross. Above the cross could be seen Heaven opened and God the Father contemplating His Son, Jesus sacrificed on the cross. In the form of a dove, the Holy Spirit is seen between the Father and the Son.   

Saint Pope John Paul II comments that in every Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Our Lady is present, as she was on Calvary at the foot of the cross when Jesus poured forth His Blood for love of us. Therefore, if we truly desire to derive the most abundant graces from the Holy Sacrifice of Holy Mass, then we should invite Our Lady to be present with us.  

Nobody was closer to Jesus than His Mother Mary. Indeed, Mary can draw us closer and closer to the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus in every Sacrifice of Holy Mass.

Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

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Father Ed Broom is an Oblate of the Virgin Mary and the author of Total Consecration Through the Mysteries of the Rosary and From Humdrum to Holy. He blogs regularly at Fr. Broom's Blog.

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