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Why Attend Mass?

With a holy day of obligation coming up on Wednesday for the Feast of the Assumption, the topic of why Catholics are obliged to attend Mass may come up. In fact, the whole subject of why attend Mass at all may rear its head. Here is a recent article about one of those surveys that asks “why do you” or “why don’t you” attend Mass or other religious services. The reasons for not attending seem familiar enough:

  • No time
  • Practice their faith in other ways
  • Haven’t found a church they like
  • Don’t feel welcome
  • Don’t believe

But frankly, I found several of the positive responses given for attending religious services to be self-serving or even narcissistic:

  • To make me a better person
  • For comfort in times of trouble or sorrow
  • Finding the sermons/homilies valuable
  • Meeting new people/socializing

There were no responses like, “Because I love God” or “Because it’s God’s will” or “For the proper worship of God”; meaning we should worship God the way He wants as opposed to the way we want.

Perhaps you know someone that rarely attends Mass, but attends at Christmas, Easter and some other events. Perhaps you asked, or at least thought, “Why you don’t come next week and the week after?” If you were so bold as to invite them back, you may have received a polite, “we’ll see” in response, which is often translated as “of course not”.

If you persist, you’ll eventually enter a realm the separates man from beast; the realm of the intellect; the desire to know “why”. A Catholic that “believes” to some extent will eventually ask why, even if only asking the question internally. Attending Mass is nice, but why necessary? God is everywhere, so why can’t I be left alone to worship in my own way? Replying back that it is an obligation or a precept of the Church tends not to satisfy. Mentioning the violation of the first and third commandments may get more attention, but can still be seen as finger-wagging.

Another tactic came about for my wife and me as we became involved with the marriage ministry at our parish. We have the opportunity to meet with engaged couples at our home to review the results of their FOCUS questionnaire. There are practical topics dealing with finances, parenting and careers. The subjects of marriage covenant and religion can be awkward when speaking with interfaith couples or catholic couples in which one or both are nominal in their faith. It’s not uncommon for us to dialog with couples in which one or both rarely attend Mass (if ever), and yet they still see it as important to be married in the Catholic Church (thankfully).

The following three areas of reasoning help to satisfy some “whys”. Since what people know informs what they do, these thoughts just might help you tip the scales in getting someone to Mass.

In Terms of Relationship:

It’s especially easy to draw this analogy when dealing with couples in love. Imagine you were married and you spent about one hour at Christmas and one hour at Easter with your spouse with no other interaction throughout the year. What kind of relationship would that be? Suppose it was one hour per month? That’s better, but still lacking. Even if it were once per week for about one hour, we might consider it a working relationship, albeit a weak one.

God desires a close relationship with us and all close relationships require time, commitment, communication and “presence”. How would you feel if your beloved thought that one hour per week with you is too much trouble and unnecessary?

In Terms of Reality:

The above might be easily refuted by saying, “I pray in my own way all the time. No need to sit in a church building. The man upstairs and I have an understanding.” This is when a person’s imagination must be put in its place with a reality check.

We can think of reality as being made up of two parts; physical realities and spiritual realities. Think of your physical life. To be a physically functioning human being there are times when you must function alone, like getting dressed for the day, or perhaps you sometimes work alone or maybe you live alone. There are also times when you must function with others, like with family, co-workers, community members, etc. We’re social beings; it’s how God made us.

This parallels our spiritual life. To be a spiritually functioning human being there are times when you must function alone, like personal prayer and spiritual study. There are also times when you must function with others, like community worship (Catholics call this Mass). Once again, we’re social beings; it’s how God made us.

Last, but certainly not least…In Terms of the Eucharist:

This goes beyond community worship; it’s the source and summit of the faith. If the body and blood of Christ is given to us a spiritual food, it stands to reason that this is the most intimate thing God can possibly give to a human still living on Earth.

So, the most high God of the universe wants this extreme level of intimacy with us and our response is…

    • Too busy
    • No time
    • No need
    • Don’t feel like it
    • I have better things to do

Think of how offensive this apathetic attitude must be to God? In this context, it seems more than appropriate to refer to skipping Mass as “grave matter”.

Click here to read the rest.

Thou shalt NOT have better things to do.

If the truth about relationships, the social & spiritual nature of man and the Eucharist really sink in, one’s perspective about attending Mass can change from a pessimistic, “I have to do this???” to an enthusiastic, “I get to do this!!!” and it may even turn out that once per week is simply not enough!

“If we attend Mass well, surely we are likely to think about our Lord during the rest of the day, wanting to be always in his presence, ready to work as he worked and love as he loved”1

 

  1. Josemaria Escriva, Christ is Passing by (New York: Scepter Publishing, 2002), p. 154.
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Ben Butera

Ben Butera is a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology and currently a Solutions Development Manager for a global 500 company. In 2010 he was certified as an instructor and Program Leader for his company’s initiative in analytical problem solving and decision making. In 2016 his book was published entitled "Faith with Good Reason: Finding Truth Through an Analytical Lens". Ben is also co-author of “Two Catholic Men and a Blog”; a blog about Catholic faith and reason. He is a religious education catechist, a husband, a father and lives with his loving wife and three children in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.

8 Comments

  1. I brought my children to Mass. They have abstract thought off the charts. The metaphysical is not a stranger to them. Abstract thought is necessary to invent, to plan, to imagine, from WHOM but the Creator.
    I go to Mass to visit and receive Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Is there a better way to petition God for Wisdom, Grace, logic and blessings as our Founding Fathers petitioned God for Divine Providence in The Declaration of Independence.

  2. On the subject of Holidays of Obligation, I once remarked to some of my French friends that I thought it a pity that Corpus Christi (which the French call simply the « Fête-Dieu » or “Festival of God”) is nowadays transferred to the nearest Sunday.

    They explained to me that the government would allow the Church only one public holiday that always fell on a Thursday, as people would, inevitably, make it an excuse for a long weekend – « faire le pont » or “make a bridge,” as they say and so the bishops settled for Ascension Day.

    The notion that there could be a Holiday of Obligation that was not also a public holiday was quite beyond their comprehension.

  3. “…these thoughts just might help you tip the scales in getting someone to Mass.”

    Thanks Ben. I appreciate your lesson. I do have a dear close friend of mine that is a cafeteria Catholic (two fer). Easter and Christmas. We have had the confession before reception talk. Angry camper after that. Father mentions it “twice” during those two Holy days, and for good reason. The mantra is; I have a great relationship with God in my own way. It doesn’t have to be in any organized setting to have this relationship.

    ( Sigh )

    Thanks for your insight.

  4. The notion that there could be a Holiday of Obligation that was not also a public holiday was quite beyond their comprehension.
    Good for them. Holydays should be public holidays (as they all formerly were). Shoehorning in a 35 minute Mass without any music or solemnity between leaving work and picking up a bucket of chicken since there is no time to make dinner for the kids with Mass added in is so worthless the obligation may as well be dispensed with.

    A full, solemn Mass (no less than Sunday), a day off from servile labor, and a holyday family banquet is what a proper holyday is. Compromise on any of this and, well– you’ve compromised.

  5. Some people “shoehorn in” daily Mass and get their jobs done. You rather rigidly define your idea, your opinion of a Holy Day. Our obligations to children and other persons in need do mitigate our absence from Mass on a Holy Day. Families can offer assistance in this matter. Saint Faustina and her sister had only one dress, so they took turns wearing the dress to Mass on alternate Sundays. It is the desire to attend Mass that draws God’s love. Avoiding Mass for no apparent reason fails to inspire God’s love.

  6. Some people “shoehorn in” daily Mass and get their jobs done.

    The fact some people do so does not make such religious minimalism a virtue.

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