Air Pressure

It is not always easy to achieve the best from our Sunday Mass. Very often we hear people saying, "Mass is boring." Perhaps we struggle to make Mass meaningful because we don't fully understand what is going on and we have not learned the skills which will actually help us develop our understanding. Mass does not work like magic, nor is it there to entertain us. We need to put something into the experience before we start to feel results. Here are some suggestions which might enable us to develop certain skills. If we keep practising these until they become second nature to us we may find that we are maturing in our appreciation and understanding of that great gift of God which we call 'Mass.' 

GETTING THE BEST OUT OF MASS

There are three helpful words to keep in mind: preparation, preparation, preparation. Cooks prepare a meal. Sportsmen and women prepare for their matches. Musicians prepare before playing and singing. Holiday makers prepare before going away. Pupils at school prepare for exams. Preparation for Mass is equally important if it is to become meaningful and above all, relevant.

  • On a Sunday try to prepare for Mass by getting into a prayerful frame of mind before leaving the house. A little bit of quiet is helpful so switch off the  television. Why not use our phones to recite some prayers before Mass or familiarise ourselves with the readings of the day? We are asked to fast for one hour before receiving Holy Communion. Chewing gum before Mass breaks the fast. This means we cannot receive Holy Communion.

  • Try to keep in mind that when we are in our Church we are standing on Holy Ground. The Blessed Sacrament is here and should be held in the highest   esteem as our forefathers held it in esteem. Notice  the red Sanctuary Lamp burning to remind us. Genuflect on entering and leaving Church.  Furthermore, in this holy place the highest points and the lowest points in the lives of our families have been celebrated. We are on Holy Ground. Our appropriate dress sense should   reflect this and the content of our conversations as well. Try to avoid negative talk. It does not come from God. By the time we have returned home may our presence have left a blessing on the Sacred Ground of this church something   people will always remember us for.  

       No smoking outside the Church is part of this!

  • Part of our responsibility as members of the parish is to support the Church financially. Our collection giving has two aspects to it. We acknowledge our responsibility to support the practical running of the parish which has to pay its way. Then we recognise our responsibility to thank God for his blessings and care throughout the years: 'How can I repay the Lord for his goodness to me?' Try dividing your weekly giving by seven and calculate what is your contribution to the daily upkeep of our parish. See if you can run your home on that amount. Our collection money should be part of our preparation before coming to Mass rather than an afterthought during Mass. How much would we consider to be a sensible and reasonable amount to contribute each week? Is five pounds a lot in our present age? 

        Do you support the parish through Gift Aid?

  • Coming to Mass on time is immensely helpful. Good advice suggests we are in our places five to ten minutes before Mass begins. We are on time for work, on time for school, on time for the football, on time for telly programmes. Coming late can be very distracting. Being on time for Mass provides preparation time to quietly settle in Church and begin our prayers. Commending ourselves to our Guardian Angel is good practice before Mass starts. We would want this to be a quality characteristic of the parish and a sign of our respect for each other.

  • Simply being present in Church is not the same as attending Mass. Mass involves active participation and a willingness to join with each other as we seek God's amazing grace. During Mass we develop the skills to listen, to sing, to concentrate, to seek blessing, to beg for forgiveness, to offer thanks, to give encouragement and good example to children. It is a lot to learn and do well. These tips can help us. On entering Church sign ourselves with Holy Water as a reminder of our Baptism and genuflect before entering the bench. Collect a hymn book and a Mass book and a newsletter from the Greeters at the back and encourage the children to do so as well. When we don't take these it might suggest an unwillingness to be involved. There is nothing finer than being present at a parish Mass where everyone is enthusiastically and wholeheartedly joining in the weekly act of worship. It creates a joyful atmosphere, inspires children and young people, encourages those who need encouraging. It proclaims that our parish is a parish which is alive and believes in God.

  • People are sometimes creatures of habit. We like to sit in the same places. While acknowledging this we might keep in mind that sitting as near the back as possible may not always the most advantageous place for us to sit. Once upon a time there was a reason for this. Can you think what it was?  It makes it difficult for the priest to engage with us when we are far away from him.  Furthermore, there can be problems with being able to hear sufficiently well. Those who are poorly are warmly encouraged to sit near the Lord at the front to be near him as the crowds were always near him. Mums and dads are encouraged to bring children to the front so they can see. When children cannot see they become restless. Then the parade to the toilet begins!! Children require us to teach them appropriate skills. They look to their families to observe good practice. This is a wonderful challenge as families encourage their children to learn the Faith in practical ways. Is there anything finer than a whole family coming to Mass together? It used to be the case.

  • A most sacred part of our Mass is the reception of Holy Communion. We are encouraged by the Lord himself to participate in Holy Communion, to be nourished with his Body and Blood. However, sometimes it can become a habit: familiarity breeds contempt. Pope Benedict reminded us not to make  communion time a 'leg stretching exercise.' There is an unfortunate practice in many places for people to receive Holy Communion and walk out. It is wise to keep in mind there is a very serious sin called sacrilege. There is another called bad example to children. The Lord spoke a lot about the latter. We are asked to give the Lord one hour a week. Compare this with the amount of time we are on the phone, watching telly or even attending the Match. 

  • When it comes to leaving church this might be helpful: the last person into church for Mass should be the priest. The first person leaving church at the end of Mass should be the priest. Doors are best left shut until the priest leaves the sanctuary. Priests often stand at the back of Church to greet their parishioners. It also helps when parishioners take the time to greet them. That is part of the art of building up the parish where warmth and friendship prosper. The practice of going to visit the side altars of Our Lady and the Sacred Heart after Mass is highly recommended and encouraged. Try passing the habit on to our children so that they can pass it on to their children. It is worth asking ourselves what are the spiritual practices we have consciously managed to embed in the experience of our children.  

       Rev’d W G Bergin  Parish Priest