Chapter 3 – Practice
As exalted as such theology may seem, we also have to contend with our concrete experience of Mass. Often, we bring many expectations and concerns to our celebration, some of which can lead us to become disappointed or frustrated. In addition, parish celebrations of the Eucharist are a meeting point of different points of view and different tastes in aesthetics, and this can cause the Mass to become a place of conflict and confrontation. I have no intention of “solving” any perceived or real problems with the Mass. However, I would offer a few suggestions that might help to make for a fruitful participation.
I recommend that you not worry about “remembering” everything that happens at Mass. Many well intentioned people tend to think that full, active participation means that you can explain all the readings and the homily with precision. Maybe such people have a greater ability to focus than myself, but I have found this attitude to be an incredible source of anxiety and frustration. Instead of trying to “pay attention” to every detail, I recommend a general attitude of receptivity to what the Holy Spirit wants to speak within us. We should allow the Mass to flow over our consciousness, not seeking to grasp or to hold on to what is coming. As inspirations arise, we can feel free to respond to the inspiration in the silence of our interior dialogue. We can speak to Jesus and the saints and allow them to pray within us.
People often beat themselves up for those times when the concerns of the world seem to flood our imaginations during Mass. Although we do not want the weeds of this world to choke our devotion, I recommend that we not fight so hard against them. Everyone, even saints, will have times when their mind wanders during Mass. The art of entering into the Eucharist is not about having an iron will in which we are able to drown out the concerns that populate our consciousness. Rather, by allowing ourselves to calmly enter the Eucharistic celebration, we experience a gentleness in which we recognize that our prayer is a reality deeper than our limited perspectives. Ultimately, we do not know what is “good” vs. “bad” prayer. We often make such subjective evaluations based on a limited criteria which in no way is infallible or perfect. Thus we also have to learn to let go of our desire to judge and evaluate, and let ourselves simply rest in the reality of what God wants to do in our lives.
Many times the movements/inattentiveness of others leads me to mentally wander during Mass. I combat this by sitting toward the front, and ba closing my eyes.
Thank you for clarifying this for me, because I have often felt badly when my mind wanders due to a poignant line in the sermon, a prayer or a reading…. It is encouraging to know that there could be a spiritual foundation for some of this!