Prayer and Reflection

Participating in Mass is true participation in the most central expression of the Church’s entire liturgy. Sometimes people say, “I’m not getting anything out of Mass.” Yet the real question is “What are we putting into Mass? Am I actively and consciously participating, or am I just watching?” It’s not always easy to devote ourselves fully to worship amidst the worries and concerns that we carry into Mass each week. One way to prepare to authentically pray and worship at Mass is to reflect on the following questions, either during the day or week leading up to Mass, or by getting to Mass a little early:

  • Eucharist comes from the Greek word “to give thanks.” What am I giving thanks for…this day, this week, or within my entire life?
  • Near the beginning of Mass, we will ask God’s forgiveness for and receive pardon for our sins, together as a community. There is usually only a few moments to gather one’s thoughts before this. Think ahead, what am I asking God’s forgiveness for? In what ways have I failed to live out my baptismal calling? In what ways have I hurt others, directly or indirectly? More info on examining one’s conscience…
  • Mass is not an individual event! Neither for the priest or any person in the pews. How do you see yourself as part of the People of God? Our English word “church” comes from the Greek ekklesia, meaning “to be called out.” How have you been called into this assembly of chosen people before the Lord? What are the needs of others that you can pray for or attend to?
  • About midway through Mass, we bring an offering of bread, wine, and other gifts to the altar. But, these physical objects are mere signs of a more profound offering–the offering of our very lives to God, to be united in Christ. When we offer ourselves, God takes up all of each of us — our problems, our burdens, our anxiety, our shortcomings–every aspect of our selves is transformed through Christ. In the Eucharistic prayers, we pray that the Holy Spirit would come down on each of us and configure us ever more to Christ, making us more fully the Body of Christ. What aspects of your life are you comfortable offering Christ? What parts do we hold back? What burdens do you need to lay at God’s altar? In what ways do we most need transformation through the Holy Spirit?

Familiarize Yourself with the Scriptures

Reading and praying the Scriptures proclaimed at Mass is an excellent way to prepare for Mass. To find the upcoming Scriptures, use the calendar of readings provided by the USCCB.

Some of the many good resources for reading about the historical background and ways the Church has understood a particular week’s texts are:

Pray the Prayers of the Mass

Slowly reading or praying the prayer texts of the Mass (collected in the Missal) outside of Mass is an opportunity to read through just a small portion and consider what this means for you personally, in your life’s experience and in your relationship with Jesus Christ.

Each week’s collect prayer (the prayer the priest prays after the Gloria and before we sit down to listen to the first Scripture reading) is filled with poetic language and unique images to draw us into a Sunday’s Scripture readings. If you get to Mass a few minutes early, use the Pray Together book in the pew to locate each day’s collect prayer and pray the words slowly before Mass starts. You could also do the same thing after Mass, thinking about how the Scripture readings and your prayers during Mass fit into this theme for the day.