I love being Catholic, and the Holy Mass is one of the main reasons why. It is the most miraculous events of the week. To meditate on what is actually happening at every Mass could leave my head spinning for days. Think about it: God Himself enters our space and time. He comes to dwell among us—and within us. He becomes just as present to us on the altar in the form of bread and wine as He was in the stable at Bethlehem, at the wedding feast at Cana, on the Cross on Calvary, at the empty tomb on Easter Sunday. That is incredible! That is mind blowing.
And yet, so often at Mass, my mind isn’t blown away. It becomes distracted, worried, anxious. With the swirl of life’s busyness, to-do lists, and family happenings clamoring for space in my brain, it is hard to push it all aside in order to focus on the most awesome part of my week. In a way, it is embarrassing to admit this, but it is true. I mean, if Jesus came down in His glorified body and stood in my midst, would I even care about my to-do list? Of course not. Then, why can’t I have that same focus at Holy Mass when He comes down in this mysteriously awesome way to be as close to me as possible?
Staying attentive at Mass is something I work on all the time. And over the years, I have discovered little tricks that really work, not only in keeping focused but also in helping me to be a more active participant. As a result, God has created in me a greater longing for the liturgies of the Word and Eucharist.
Here are five simple ideas for staying focused during Mass:
Pray Before Mass. The few minutes before Mass begins are quite important. This time allows me to settle my racing thoughts. I breathe in the church-y aroma of lingering incense, and I fix my gaze on the Tabernacle, Jesus’ little house. I greet the Lord and tell Him that I love Him. I let His presence wash over me. During this time, I also offer up my Mass for any special intentions I may have, and I ask God to open my mind and heart to receive His Word, His grace, and Himself fully. Often, I pray the Prayer Before Mass by St. Thomas Aquinas.
Take Notes. As the readings are proclaimed during the Liturgy of the Word, I follow along in my Magnificat prayer book. With pen in hand, I highlight any phrases that stand out to me (similar to what I do when I pray Morning Prayer or practice Lectio Divina). During the homily, I take notes right in my Magnificat. I have always retained information better through writing, so this helps the message stick. Later, I can go back and reread my highlights and notes and take them to prayer or apply them to some life situation.
Keep Our Eyes on Jesus. During the Liturgy of the Eucharist, I also follow along in my Magnificat, except during the prayers of Consecration. During this time, I take special care to fix my eyes on the miracle taking place before my very eyes. I am attentive to the priest’s posture and words. As he raises the Eucharistic Host, my eyes follow Jesus. Sometimes they glance up a little further to the crucifix that hangs just above the altar. I ponder how the Eucharistic Body and the Crucified Body are one in the same. I imagine that I am at the foot of the Cross with Mary and Magdalene. When the priest places Jesus on the patent and genuflects, I bow my head. I do this again for the Precious Blood of Christ. And during those words, “Through Him, and with Him, and in Him,” I offer everything I can with the most perfect offering of Jesus to our Heavenly Father.
In his book 33 Days to Merciful Love, Fr. Michael Gaitley says that the Mass “provides us the opportunity … to love God as he loves us, to actually love him perfectly. Specifically, it happenes during what I call the ‘supercharged’ moment of the Mass. That’s the moment when the priest at the altar takes the Body and Blood of Christ into his hands and offers it up to God the Father with these words: ‘Through him, and with him, and in him …'”
Gaitley goes on, “That moment is supercharged because, at the Mass, Jesus is giving himself … into our hands: literally, in the hands of the priest, and spiritually, in the hands of all the lay faithful who unite their own sacrifices to the offering of the priest at the altar. Then, together, each in his own way, we offer Jesus’ infinite sacrifice of love to the Father and ourselves along with it.”
Learning this was a huge lightbulb moment for me, and it has helped me enter more fully into the Mass and specifically this moment.
Rest in Him. After receiving Holy Communion, I return to my pew and simply try to rest in the Lord. I close my eyes and focus on His presence dwelling within me. Sometimes, I feel a tangible warmth or peace. Sometimes, I don’t. But this has become a very special time of simply being with Jesus. No words; simply being.
Give Thanks. Taking a few minutes after Mass allows me to thank God for the gift I just received. I whisper prayers of praise for His generous sacramental grace, and I beg Him to allow it to remain in me and change me. Often, I conclude with the Prayer After Mass by Aquinas.
Jesus has given me so much—His unconditional love, His unfathomable mercy, His extraordinary patience. My prayer is that I can love Him in return, and one way I can do that is by giving Him my full attention (to the best of my ability) at Holy Mass.
This blog post is part of the Catholic Women Blog Network’s monthly blog hop. To learn more and to read how other women stay focused during Mass, please click HERE.