For all who didn't see it, the Archdiocese of Hartford put out a "trailer" for the reintroduction of public masses last week! I'll link the video from their Facebook page below. It was well-made, and it's worth the watch (it's only about a minute and a half). This is something I've been yearning for since this pandemic began. For many of us, few things have been harder during this pandemic than missing mass for such a long time. But mass is finally on the horizon, so what do we do now?
At the end of the video, the Archdiocese announces that guidelines for the reintroduction of public masses will be released this week. We don't have the plans at the time of this writing, but keep checking St. Bridget's Facebook page and reading the bulletin for updates! Either way, the guidelines are coming. That means that we need to prepare. This is more than just being safe once we're back in the building; we need to prepare our souls to receive Christ physically after a long period without the Eucharist.
Right before this pandemic shut everything down, I was trying to prepare myself for mass more. A priest friend of mine had recently told me that the Eucharist "is what gets us through the week, but also what our week builds towards," and I thought that was really cool. I wanted to really make a go at intentionally preparing myself for mass by checking out the readings beforehand, arriving a bit early and sitting in quiet prayer, and getting ready to receive the Lord. Obviously, that got put on hold in March.
We've probably all heard one person or another talk about how we need to find the good in this time away from the world or how we should focus on what we bring back with us from quarantine. Heck, I've spoken about that stuff in this blog many times! Well, here's the best way to do it, hands down. If there is one thing you take away from this quarantine, let it be a renewed dedication to the Eucharist and the mass.
Think of it this way: do you remember the first mass you ever went to? Maybe you converted to Catholicism as a teenager or adult and you know what that feels like. If that's you, I'm jealous! What a tremendous blessing. Most of us "cradle Catholics" probably don't remember our first mass, because we were infants. Imagine what it would be like getting to view the mass through fresh eyes. What would you think? What would you do? How would you act?
While it's not exactly the same, we all have that opportunity due to this pandemic. We haven't been able to go to mass for over 2 months now, so we have the chance to freshen up our approach to it. It's hard for something you haven't done since March to feel routine, right? Before quarantine, I'd guess that many of us struggled with this. No matter how hard we try, we are all human and susceptible to the Devil's tricks. One of his favorites is to tempt us into viewing the mass as just another thing on our to-do list.
So how do we fight that? Well, for starters, show up. Especially as a young person, it can be hard to find the motivation to drag yourself out of bed early on Sunday mornings. Good news! There's also mass on Saturday evenings and later in the day on Sunday. But that's the bare minimum! Catholicism isn't a "butts in seats" religion. It's a living, breathing way of life that asks a lot of us.
Another way to renew our dedication to the mass is to focus once we're actually there. Have you ever found yourself drifting off and not paying proper attention? I'll admit that I have. Some things that help me to stay focused are keeping my eyes on the priest when he's speaking, reading along with the lector during the Liturgy of the Word, and thinking deeply about what I'm saying (i.e. do I really view God as My Father? Do I really believe in One God? Do I believe that what we are doing is right and just?).
These are a couple of small tips, but there's so much we can do to make mass more real for us. I can't give you a secret formula. You've got to figure that out for yourself, because the mass is both an intensely communal and an intensely personal experience. The point is that you try. God won't hang you out to dry. Many members of the NGD youth group have told me they've found themselves missing mass more than they thought they would. If that sounds like you, good! You're already halfway there.
We will be going back to mass at some point (hopefully soon). When that happens, we should be ready. I urge you to take some time to prepare yourself and reorient your view of what the mass is. Remember that it is both "what gets us through the week and what our week builds towards." I'll bet that if you take that to heart, you'll have a deeply spiritual experience, possibly unlike anything you've felt before, when you return to mass.
I hope to see you all in the Eucharist one day soon.