Staying Focused at Mass

Let’s face it: fighting distraction during Mass is a difficult task for just about everyone.

After all, we’re human. We live in a fast-paced world. We have so many things bouncing around in our minds that we bring into Mass, not including the distractions we’re bombarded with after we sit in our pew.

And if we have children with us—multiply the distractions by ten.

It takes almost an heroic effort to prevent our minds from wandering away from the most important thing happening in our world in that moment: Jesus Christ coming to us in the Flesh.

But it IS possible to limit some of our distractions at Mass. All we need is a little thoughtful preparation.

Here are some simple-yet-practical tips.

1. Turn off music streaming and the car radio on the way to Mass.

One of the best ways to mentally prepare for Mass is to begin before you arrive. Start clearing out your distractions in advance by spending your drive-time to the church in silence. Turn off the car radio, silence your phone, and avoid superfluous conversation if you have family or friends in the car with you. Leave any important conversations for after Mass. Consciously make your transition from the secular to the sacred. Let that silence sink in.

2. Get to Mass at least 10 minutes early.

It’s very important to get to Mass a little early—rather than rushing in and looking for a seat while Mass is already beginning.

By clearing out your mind on the way to Mass and making room for silence, you have already taken steps to prepare yourself for prayer. Deepen that preparation by spending at least a few minutes in quiet prayer before Mass begins. Remind yourself that you are now in the presence of God and that you are about to receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and thank Him for this gift of grace. This will help to settle you down and keep you attentive.

More time is better but a few minutes is better than none at all. This may take practice, but over time you can develop the habit.

Getting to Mass early

3. Sit closer to the front.

Another good reason to get to Mass a bit early is to get a free seat in one of the front pews. If all that is in front of you is the altar, it is much easier to stay focused on what is happening there. You will also be less distracted by what is happening in the pews around you.

4. Keep your hands folded in prayer.

Posture is very important to prayer. Let your body remind you of what your heart and mind should be doing by keeping your hands reverently folded.

There is a reason why we teach this to kids! Try it, and you’ll probably find that it helps lessen your distractions.

Catholic School Kid's Mass

5. Fully participate in the Mass.

Mass is not an event for spectators. Participate! Say all the prayers and sing all the songs. If it helps, follow along with each part of the Mass using a Missal.

Where does this Sunday fall in the liturgical calendar? How is the Old Testament reading connected to the New Testament reading? How does the Responsorial Psalm connect both?

If you are engaging in all of this, it is a rewarding occupation for the mind, and God will undoubtedly assist you to better grasp and understand His sacred truths.

6. Bring back those wandering thoughts.

Mass is the place where heaven meets earth. Each time you are distracted, bring your mind back to where you are, even if you have to do this 100 times from start to finish. As instructed by St. Francis de Sales:

“If the heart wanders or is distracted, bring it back to the point quite gently and replace it tenderly in its Master’s presence. And even if you did nothing during the whole of your hour but bring your heart back and place it again in Our Lord’s presence, though it went away every time you brought it back, your hour would be very well employed.”

St. Francis de Sales quote on calling back a wandering heart

7. Intentionally add your intentions and sacrifices to the prayers of the Mass.

Two things that you can bring with you to every Mass are the special intentions that you’re praying for, and the personal sacrifices that you’re uniting to Christ’s one great sacrifice. Both come together as you “offer it up” at Mass. At the point before the Consecration when the priest says, “Pray brethren, that my sacrifice AND YOURS may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father,” consciously think of what these things are for you.

8. Memorize the Anima Christi Prayer.

The Anima Christi is a beautiful Communion prayer dating back to the Middle Ages. Pray these words very slowly as a meditation to keep your mind focused on what Christ is doing in your soul at your reception of every Holy Communion. Do this enough times and you’ll have it memorized.

Anima Christi Prayer

9. Ask for help—from your guardian angel!

If you want help overcoming distractions away at Mass, just ask! Your guardian angel is with you to help you with things like this. Humbly ask your angel—who is adoring Christ along with you—to assist you in staying attentive and praying well.

What do you think of this list? If you have other tips for curbing distractions during Mass, please share in the comments below!

//Good Catholic//

A Thankful Heart Is A Happy Heart

In one of Saint Catherine of Siena’s revelations, God the Father told her that “thanksgiving makes the soul incessantly delight in Him; it frees men from negligence and lukewarmness altogether and makes them anxious to please Him more and more in all things.”

When I am preoccupied with the cares of life and withhold my gratitude, it is reflected in my inner being. I become more anxious. I am prone to envy and to anger. And I am less joyful. It seems to me that thanksgiving is the key to unlocking true gratitude, which in turn unlocks peace and joy.

The Bible shows us that Jesus Himself was distressed at lack of gratitude. When ten lepers lifted up their pitiful voices and cried out, “Jesus, have mercy on us,” they were all cured. Nine went away to show themselves to the priest and only one—an outcast Samaritan—went back to find Jesus and thank Him. Astonished, Jesus said, “Were not ten made clean? Where are the other nine? There is no one found to return and give glory to God but this stranger?” (Luke 17:17-18)

Jesus heals ten lepers

I have heard it said that the more thankful we are, the happier we become, and I witness this whenever I visit the Missionaries of the Poor (M.O.P). It is clear that the brother’s work with the poor and the suffering would be impossible without an intense spirit of prayer. Yet it is from their spirit of thankfulness that they seem to draw constant strength.

We are fortunate to have an M.O.P. monastery near Charlotte NC (it’s in Monroe) and my children and I volunteer there occasionally. I’ve noticed that these missionaries sincerely thank God at every opportunity. One day, on a recent visit, I decided to count the number of times I heard them give thanksgiving to God. After just a few hours with them, I had already heard such thanksgivings twenty-two times.

In the story about Jesus and the ten lepers, we see how Jesus transformed their lives. He transforms us as well, each time we receive Him in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Perhaps this is where we should begin our thanksgiving to God…by remembering to offer Him a prayer of thanksgiving each time we receive Him at Mass. After all, the word “Eucharist” comes from the Greek word eucharistia which means to give thanks!

One of the greatest teachers on thanksgiving after Communion is St. Teresa of Avila. “Let us detain ourselves lovingly with Jesus,” she said, “and not waste the hour that follows Communion.” It  has been said, “If your thanksgivings are poor and wretched, pray to St. Teresa and she will get you straight.”

There are many prayers that can be said in thanksgiving after Communion. The following prayer is attributed to Saint Basil:

O Master Christ our God, King of the Ages, Maker of all things: I thank Thee for all the good things Thou hast given me, especially for the communion with Thy most pure and life-creating Mysteries. I pray Thee, O gracious Lover of Man: preserve me under Thy protection, beneath the shadow of Thy wings. Enable me, even to my last breath, to partake worthily and with a pure conscience of Thy holy things, for the remission of sins and unto life eternal. For Thou art the Bread of Life, the Fountain of Holiness, the Giver of all Good; to Thee we ascribe glory, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

//Good Catholic//

Mass Intentions

As members of the Catholic laity, we often hear about “active participation” at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

We may think that “active” participation means “physical” participation—such as being a cantor, a lector, an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, or even standing and kneeling at the right moments.

However, first and foremost, the active participation of the laity refers to our interior participation at Mass. As discussed in our devotional series School of Prayer, if we do not pray with attention and devotion, we do not pray at all. Our interior participation at Mass is the most important.

What Happens at Each Mass

The reality of what happens at each Holy Mass

Each Mass takes us to the foot of the Cross, where the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to God the Father (made on our behalf two thousand years ago) is made present to us.

In addition to “praying the Mass” with an engaged mind and heart, we also actively participate by joining (offering up) our own sacrifices and intentions.

This is a privilege we have as Catholics because we have been united to Christ through the sacrament of baptism. He is the head of the Church, and we are His Body. This allows us to participate in Jesus’ offices of priest, prophet, and king.

According to the dogmatic constitution Lumen Gentium:

The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated as a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, in order that…they may offer spiritual sacrifices…

The ministerial priest, by the sacred power he enjoys, teaches and rules the priestly people; acting in the person of Christ, he makes present the Eucharistic sacrifice, and offers it to God in the name of all the people.

But the faithful, in virtue of their royal priesthood, join in the offering of the Eucharist. …Taking part in the Eucharistic sacrifice, which is the fount and apex of the whole Christian life, they offer the Divine Victim to God, and offer themselves along with It.

How to Offer Up Your Intention at Mass

The laity exercise their priestly role by offering themselves as a sacrifice to God in union with Jesus Christ.

Just as the priest offers the Holy Sacrifice for a particular intention, we, too, can offer it for a personal intention. To do so is to apply the infinite, redeeming Blood of Jesus Christ to a particular person or cause.

The offering at Holy Mass

The place in the Mass where this happens is the Offertory, which immediately follows the Prayers of the Faithful. The bread and wine are brought to the altar, and the priest begins the preparation and blessing of the gifts. When he uncovers the paten, we can mentally place our intentions on the host.

The priest says: “Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.”

The phrase “and yours” refers to our personal sacrifices and intentions that we unite with the one sacrifice of Christ.

The people reply: “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands, for the praise and glory of His name, for our good and the good of all His holy Church.”

Then the priest prays over the offerings (including ours) after which the people say, “Amen.”

Jesus then presents our sacrifices and intentions to God the Father, who looks on us with favor because we have united ourselves to His Son.

What a gift each Mass is, for this fact alone!

What Intention Should You Make?

Your Mass intention can be anything that you would normally pray for.

For example, your family or friends; those who have asked you to pray for a special intention; help with a personal problem; the salvation of souls; to receive a special grace; to overcome a particular sin; for a particular apostolate or ministry, and so on.

You Can Also Offer Up Your Holy Communion

Although Holy Mass and Holy Communion are united, they can be participated in separately. A Catholic can participate in the Mass without receiving Holy Communion (for example, in fulfilling the Sunday obligation while unable to receive Holy Communion due to sins that need to be confessed), and a Catholic can receive Holy Communion without actually attending Mass (for example, if they are confined to a hospital or nursing home).

This means that if we both attend Mass and receive Holy Communion, there are two moments in which we can insert our personal intentions.

Offering intentions after receiving Holy Communion

Our intention does not have to be the same for both. For example, you could offer Mass out of charity for another person, and offer your Holy Communion for a personal need.

When we receive Jesus in Holy Communion (the most intimate moment with God that we can experience in this life) we can imagine Him asking us, “What can I do for you?” This is the moment when we pour out our hearts to Him.

What If You Forget to Make an Intention?

If you forget to offer an intention at Mass or Holy Communion, one priest has suggested that we settle upon a “default intention.” You can make a resolution (an act of the will before God) that any Mass or Holy Communion for which you forget to make a special intention will be offered for a general intention.

For example, you could make your general intention for the Holy Souls in Purgatory; for the sanctification of the Church; for holy vocations to the priesthood and religious life; for your country; for the grace of a holy death; or simply defer it to the Immaculate Heart of Mary to choose as she knows best.

Don’t Forget to Make an Act of Thanksgiving

There is so much good that a Catholic can bestow on this world through the offering up of Masses and Communions! We must not neglect the gratitude we owe to God for the incredible privilege of being priests, prophets, and kings.

Staying to pray after Mass

It is important to remain a few minutes after Mass to offer God prayers of thanksgiving after having made our intentions. Most Roman Missals include prayers to recite before and after receiving Holy Communion, such as this prayer to the Holy Trinity:

May the tribute of my humble ministry be pleasing to you, Holy Trinity. Grant that the sacrifice which I—unworthy as I am—have offered in the presence of your majesty, may be acceptable to you. Through your mercy may it bring forgiveness to me and to all for whom I have offered it: through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Life is short. We only get a limited number of opportunities to participate in the Mass and to receive Holy Communion in this life. We must make good use of these precious gifts, and not miss out on our chances to apply the infinite merits of Jesus to ourselves and those we love.

The more Masses we attend during the week, the more opportunity we have to receive His graces.

If you are interested in learning more about the incredible graces hidden in the Mass, you will love the series The Holy Mass. Sign up today and discover the wondrous treasures of the sacred liturgy.