When thinking about how Catholics can be more proactive in impacting our Mass experience, here are some starting points that come to mind: prepare, show up, and engage.
prepare: Over the last couple of years especially, I have been blessed with many resources and encouragement coming into my life that have positively impacted my growth as a Catholic and deepening my understanding of the faith. I have come to realize that anytime we invest in our own faith development, we are also investing in the Catholic community.
Alongside prioritizing faith formation in general, many resources have pointed toward preparing for Mass. Redeemed Online and Matthew Kelly from Dynamic Catholic instantly come to mind when thinking about encouragement to read the Sunday readings at some point in the week prior to Mass. Then, we attend Mass already thinking about and processing the readings. As a result, we are better prepared to let the homily have an impact or to have an opportunity to watch for clarification of points from the readings that brought confusion.
show up: Regular Mass attendance with preparation helps to bring all the pieces together. In my adult life I had previously read the daily readings, but up until I started last spring, I had never been able to consistently attend daily Mass. However, I have noticed a marked difference of daily attendance coupled with daily readings and reflections at home alongside resources to invest in my faith formation.
By attending regularly I have a better understanding of how the readings come together, as well as familiarizing myself with the rhythms and routines of the priests' homilies, allowing me to better capture their ideas.
As Catholics, we can show up in different ways at different points in our lives, and it is important to re-evaluate as shifts occur in our lives so that opportunities don't pass us by. When I was teaching in a K-12 context, my schedule would not allow for daily Mass attendance. When I switched to being a university professor, I still felt just as busy with my career. Since the work load felt similar, I didn't pause to think about whether the differences in my physical schedules between the two contexts would have implications for my spiritual life. It took me almost 2 academic years to realize daily Mass attendance was possible now based on the greater level of flexibility in my current context. As a result, this last year I have realized the importance of considering what is really possible in my life at any given point in time, rather than being so caught up in my career demands that I make assumptions about what is or isn't possible without considering the reality of the scenario.
engage: After preparing and showing up, our mindset and active participation while at Mass is critically important. I love resources such as Altaration and Behold the Mystery to have a better understanding of the power of different parts of the Mass. If points of confusion were not clarified within the Mass, priests are available and accessible as resources if we are willing to engage in conversation. There are also a range of Internet based resources or knowledge of other parishioners to help us grow along the way.When thinking about what I can do to invest in my Catholic faith, I know that preparing, showing up, and engaging will continue to be core. Regardless of the priest in front of me with shifts and changes over time, I have confidence that they will be preparing, showing up and engaging. Part of valuing my priest is coming back to these three points to consider what I am doing to reciprocate those actions in order to actively contribute to my Mass experience, rather than a perspective that the priest has the sole responsibility.
What role do preparing, showing up, and engaging play in your life as a Catholic today? What are your current strengths? How might you re-evaluate in order to grow and nurture your faith?