One of the most common refrains I hear from young people is ‘Mass is boring. Homilies are boring. I don’t know why I have to come Sunday after Sunday.’ Some of my youth in the rear pews would be distracted on their phones during Mass. When I asked them once what they were doing, one of them retorted with a straight face that he was Instagramming pictures of Mass and tweeting quotes from my homily! Cheeky little fellow (lol) but he got me there.
I googled what advice other writers had to give for this problem. But I was met with advice that bordered more on the spiritual. Well, that’s beautiful and brings out the spiritual and salvific meaning of the Eucharist. Most young people I know sincerely want to participate in the Mass more meaningfully, they understand that the Eucharist is rich and meaningful but yet find it difficult to focus and concentrate. Hence, I am tempted to mention some practical steps that one could undertake to get more absorbed into the Mass.
So what do I do?
Getting to the church at least 10 minutes before Mass makes a huge difference. It gives your mind some time to dial down from the fast-paced activities that you came from. Having all your general preoccupations at the back of your head quite often distracts heavily, and since the readings (Liturgy of the Word) happen close to the beginning, you are bound to lose out and pay less attention. Use the time before Mass to kneel and speak to God from your heart. Offer to him all your joys and the challenges that you are facing, and you will find God speaking to you during the Eucharist.
I’ve had young people telling me that they feel more involved in the Eucharist when they play some role at Mass. There are a number of options available – choir, lectors, ushers, greeters, altar servers or church decoration. Becoming a member of one of these groups will focus your attention on what’s happening and make you more attentive. Being a member of one of these groups has many other positive side effects as well for your personal life.
Avoid looking for a place in the last pews of the Church right at the back, especially when there is plenty of space up front. They say that the front pews receive more grace! Sitting up front will help you avoid distractions. Why is it that everyone wants front row seats at a musical concert or at a game, but the last seats in Church? More importantly, excuse yourself from your friends and peers and sit separately for the duration of Mass, especially if your friends tend to be a distraction. You can always rejoin them later. Your friends may tease you initially, but they will respect you eventually. Pray for your friends!
Take the hymn book and sing along. Understand the words you are singing. Don’t worry if you have no talent for singing; most people don’t. The ones who do are usually in the choir. Can you imagine how bored you would be if you went to a concert and didn’t know any of the songs? Exactly! Taking part in the proceedings, even if you don’t get much out of it initially, goes a long way. Don’t expect quick results.
“Homilies are so boring!” How often have I heard that. Turns out, most times they are not; in fact they are usually pretty interesting and the priest has probably put in a lot of effort preparing it. If you get bored during lectures in school or college or watching the evening news or scrolling through your Facebook feed, chances are that the problem is with you! Give yourself an exercise. Listen to the homily and try to capture the essence of it in 140 characters or less. Then, after Mass, tweet it. It’s harder than you think.
Remember that the Eucharist is Thanksgiving and if you are just a Sunday Church-goer, then you are giving God your full attention for 1 hour only or less. The rest of the 167 hours each week, God gives you as a gift and doesn’t step in your way. Ask yourself how many good things you have received from the Lord. Isn’t it right and just that we spend one hour each week worshiping the Creator with all our hearts?
The final word belongs to Mary, Queen of heaven and earth and our Mother. Ask Mary to intercede for you during Mass. Pray to her for guidance and strength. She was always by Our Lord’s side and she will remain by yours as well. No human being understands you better than Mary does.
Follow these 7 steps and you will slowly find the beauty of the Eucharist opening up before you. As with any other activity, this too will take time. Don’t expect to be charged up on the first Sunday itself. All great tastes develop in time and with patience. You cannot make great music on the first day. Neither was Rome built in a day.
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