Going to Mass

Going to Mass is a habit I treasure.  But that habit was not always the case.

Oftentimes cited as the richest man in the world, Warren Buffet, said “the chains of habit are too light to be felt, until they are too heavy to be broken.”

When I read this quote today, it stopped me in my tracks.  Enough for me to think immediately about:

  • what habits I have,
  • what habits I want… and more importantly,
  • what habits I have which I no longer want.

Buffet is correct, habits are tough to break.  I’m not sure why I made the connection, but while reading Buffet’s quote, the idea of going to Mass on Sunday popped into my head.

Today, going to Mass is a habit.  And it’s a habit I treasure, as I wrote about here.  But for a long period of time, I had “quite the opposite” habit.  Sunday mornings were for running out, buying bagels and the Sunday paper.  Or, just sleeping late after a Saturday night.  Then, sitting around doing nothing the rest of Sunday morning until football came on, or some other distraction.

Once the lads got a little older, soccer games were scheduled – sometimes starting at 9:30 or 10am in the morning.  Who could go to Sunday Mass then, right?  I had my built-in excuse (thanks guys!).  As the years went by, travel baseball and travel soccer filled up much of our Sundays.  Pack up the car and off we went.

Going to MassWhy did we let the habit of going to Mass on Sunday slip away?  And I write “we” because I know I’m not alone.  It’s a national epidemic.  There’s probably twenty potential blog posts alone needed just to begin exploring that topic.

And yes, yes, we’re all aware we can attend other parishes with different schedules and there is a Mass on Saturday evenings (we have our built-in excuses for not attending then, too).

So why are we not going to Mass?

Our parish ran a survey two years back and this was one of the questions we posed was “why aren’t you going to Mass on a regular weekly interval?”  Keep in mind, the survey was posted in the Church bulletin, and emailed to our list of regular contributors, so we were asking the “right question, to the wrong crowd.”

Some of the responses included:

  • the music is terrible,
  • the homilies are too long,
  • I don’t understand what is happening,
  • Someone didn’t shake hands with me,
  • The homilies don’t have any kind of message,
  • It’s just a money shakedown,

Not a single reply came back stating, “I don’t understand why we have to go each week.”  Even among our regular contributors, we found (through check deposits) they do not attend each week, but are sporadic in their attendance too.

So we know there are plenty of reasons/excuses why we are not going to Mass on Sunday (or Saturday evening).

How did “not attending” or “not going to Mass” become a habit?

The answers may not be as important as the realization of the current habit.  Yes, examining the potential reasons why we are not going to Mass may be enlightening, but becoming aware of a habit (not going to Mass) may be more important.

The next step would be “how can I create a new habit of going to Mass on Sunday?”

Dr. Thomas Lickona (@tomlickona) wrote a wonderful article about going to Mass, which I found over at Catholic Education, Eight Reasons to go to Mass.

Incidentally, I discovered that Warren Buffet quote while reading one of my favorite blogs, Farnam Street.  If you are interested whatsoever in learning about how your brain works, how our thoughts control our direction, check it out.  And tell Shane (@farnamstreet) you learned about his site through us!

What are your thoughts about this habit, and how do you feel we can start to change that habit (in ourselves, and in others around us)?  Leave your thoughts in the comments, or reach out to me on Twitter at @catholicblogger.




“…thinking not as God does, but as human beings do…”

From the Twenty-fourth Sunday (Mark 8), we learn that Jesus is (in one moment), happy to hear Peter speak up and recognize Jesus is the Christ. But Jesus soon rebukes Peter. Because as Jesus explains what is to happen to him soon, Peter tries to rebuke Jesus — Peter simply does not want to hear it or believe it.

Jesus told Peter, “…you are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

God has a plan.
We may not understand it.
We may not like it.
But God has a plan.
And in the “Our Father” we pray, “thy will be done… on earth, as it is in heaven.”

Speaking of “thy will be done” I want to share a story with you.

A woman in our parish, a Eucharistic Minister, distributed holy communion with me just three weeks ago at a local rehabilitation center. Then, last Sunday, I visited with her, as she was now a patient in the very same facility! This very healthy person was stricken with a rare illness, out of the blue.

This woman dedicated her life to her parish, to her faith and her family.
On Wednesday, she passed away. She was just 57 years old.

As the Gospel from Sunday continued, Jesus reminds the disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”

Defining Vigilance: What Does It Mean to You?

Have you ever stayed up into the night to care for someone in your family who was ill? Or, if you are a parent, have you stayed up late, waiting for a child to arrive home safely?

Vigilance is defined as the action or state of keeping careful watch for possible danger or difficulties. Defining vigilance personally can lead us to different meanings of the word.

What’s that over-riding feeling you have at those moments? When your parent’s fever spikes to 101, or your baby won’t stop coughing? I just want my loved one to be safe, I don’t want them to be harmed in any way.

I know, personally, as a parent, I’ve actually stood by the window waiting to see that pair of headlights to come down our street, late at night. You just want your children to get home safely, even if it is a half-hour beyond the time you wanted them home from a party.

It’s a nervous emotion, this feeling of vigilance. You need to be prepared.
And that’s what Jesus meant in the message today from Luke:

“Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.”

Jesus then goes on to add that the master will then wait on THEM, those who are vigilant. Indeed, even if the Master arrives in the second or third watch (meaning, later in the night), those who are vigilant, ready and prepared, will be rewarded.

What is the meaning behind the message? Is it to prepare for the end of the world? No. My understanding is first, there is no timetable for His return (it could be in the second or third watch — later than you want!). Regardless, you must remain prepared every day to ward off temptation. You must be ready and prepared to avoid the evil that exists in the world, to continue to persevere in your belief in God and the Holy Family. When personally defining vigilance, that is my definition.

How would you define vigilance, in your words?

The Age For First Communion in the Catholic Church

For Catholics, the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation are two equally important stages that everybody goes through during their life. A discussion has emerged about whether or not these Sacraments should be given earlier to members of the Catholic faith. The age for First Communion in the Catholic Church is currently seven. Originally, it was Pope Pius who said that

“The age of discretion, both for Confession and for Holy Communion, is the time when a child begins to reason, that is about the seventh year, more or less. From that time on begins the obligation of fulfilling the precept of both Confession and Communion.”

According to Confession And The Age Of The First Communion:

“The desire to protect the Eucharist from profanation is admirable; but the way to do so is not to deprive children of the graces that they would receive from the Sacrament of Communion, but to insist that parents and pastors help those children avail themselves of the graces they would receive from the Sacrament of Confession. Delaying the age of First Communion because all too few Catholics avail themselves of the Sacrament of Confession would not solve the underlying problem; it would only make it worse.”

Personally I agree with this assertion. The main problem is that these children celebrate the Sacraments of First Communion and Confession, but then they don’t celebrate them again frequently enough. Most of the time they aren’t receiving Communion or Confession frequently enough because their parents do not bring them to Mass. Children are less capable of making their own decision to attend Mass, so that responsibility falls on their parents. I agree that we are not talking so much about a question of the “age of reason” in the Catholic Church being the problem, but more a cultural issue pertaining to parents. The age for First Communion in the Catholic Church is somewhat arbitrary in my opinion. Whether a child is seven years old, four years old, or ten years old they are going to require some help from a parent or guardian to attend Mass each week.

What Does “Peace Be With You” Mean in Catholic Mass?

Reading, “At Mass, what does it mean to exchange “the peace of Christ”?” from Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction inspired me to put together a little something to explain what “the sign of the peace” or saying “peace be with you” at Mass means. While I understand that most Catholics know the meaning behind this rite of the Communion, I believe that there are also a few who might still be wondering what does “Peace be with you” mean in Catholic Mass.

The salutation, “peace be with you,” was actually inspired by Jesus Christ’s words upon seeing his disciples during his resurrection. (You can read the story in Luke 24:35-48.)

I read a very wonderful and concise explanation of this rite from a book titled, “How to Understand the Liturgy” by Jean Lebo, it said: “The Sign of Peace is a point where one sees whether the liturgy holds together. If the congregation has not really been welded together during the course of the Mass, then it is useless and inappropriate to perform this action.”

So what does “peace be with you” mean in Catholic Mass? Simply put, I would say that the “sign of the peace” is meant to remind us that we cannot become one with the Lord unless we we recognize him in the people around us.

Are You Really Living A Life Like Christ?

I believe that within the heart of every Christian is a strong yearning to live a life like Christ. Most of us are well aware of what Jesus did–the miracles that Jesus performed and all his great accomplishments–during his time here on earth, not many take the time to contemplate on what Jesus did not do. Doing things that Jesus did are just as important as not doing things Jesus didn’t do. So are you really living a life like Christ?

Yes, we are well aware that Jesus prayed ceaselessly, he loved being with the poor, he lived each day in obedience to his Father’s will. Do we actually pay attention to the things that Jesus never did though? The acts that he never committed?

If you want to delve deeper into this topic, read this wonderful piece about what a true follower of Christ should not be doing: “10 Things You Can’t Do While Following Jesus.” Check out the post, and then ask yourself again if you are really living a life like Christ.

Are You Ready To Let Jesus In?

Have you seen that photo of Jesus Christ standing on a doorstep and knocking on the door? I seem to be seeing a lot of it lately. Every time I do, it calls me to contemplate the longing of Jesus to come into our lives and create an intimate communion with us. While I have been privately reflecting on this matter for some time now, a post I read today titled, “Jesus At The Door” made me decide to share my thoughts.

It is so inspiring to know that the God of the universe who so selflessly came down to Earth to be crucified, just to save all of us from the bondage of sin, is still knocking at our hearts’ door. He is offering us an invitation to salvation–pleading for us to let him into our lives. So are you ready to let Jesus in?

“Behold, I stand at the door and Knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and dine with him, and he with me.” Revelations 3:20

Remember that Jesus is always knocking at the door of our hearts, waiting for our response. He is there to offer us the priceless gift of life eternal, but in exchange we must throw away all the worthless, dangerous toys of this world.

I will ask you again, are you ready to let Jesus in?

Is It Really Wrong To Judge Others?

If there is one Bible verse that is known by both Christians and non-Christians alike, it is Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” These words from Jesus Christ himself are often used by people against anyone who they perceive is being critical of their words or behavior. Often the people using this text are those who are terrified at the idea of someone preaching against or pointing out any form of error in themselves.

But did Jesus really gave this commandment for this purpose? Are Christians really not supposed to judge others? To see for yourself, read the entire text of Matthew 7:1-5, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

As I see it the text is not a call not to judge, but a call to be careful and judge properly–which means to look at ourselves and examine our own sins first. Jesus certainly did not mean that we let others continue sinning. As a matter of fact, He gave us a good guide on how to help others realize their sins in Matthew 18:15-17, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

For more interesting thoughts on this subject, read this post: “A Pure Heart Create For Me, O God.”

How Beautiful Is Your Speech?

How do you usually speak to other people? Does your speech bring inspiration and joy to others? Or do they cause discouragement and pain?

A lot of us love to express ourselves, and although there are many forms of self-expression like art and music, most of us prefer to let our thoughts be known through the spoken word. Although there is no problem with talking, a lot of us are not aware that with the gift of speech comes a great responsibility. As simple as they seem, our words have so much power that the Bible is bridled with advice on how we should speak.

One of my favorite passages in the Bible about the power of words is found in Proverbs 25:11, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”

You can read one wonderful example of the power of “words fitly spoken” in this post: “Apples of Gold.”

Catholic Questions: Why Go To Confession?

The post, Catholicism Through My Eyes: Confession, reminded me of my college years when a lot of my non-Catholic peers used to ask me why Catholics go to confession. They would often say, “Is it not that God is omnipresent and hears our supplications anywhere we are? So why is it not enough that I confess our sins to Him directly in our private prayers?” Young and unversed in the church doctrine as I was, I would just often shrug my shoulders in silence. However, despite the fact that I really did not know the reason why I go to confession on a regular basis, I still do it. Not because it was an obligation or duty, but because it made me feel better about myself.

As I learned more about my faith, I was made to realize that the sacrament of confession is indeed something that is done not for the favor of God but for the favor of the confessing sinner. God knows all of our sins and when we are sorry for them, we actually do not need to tell Him anything. The practice of confession strengthens our spiritual well-being as it provides us with a tangible experience of God’s forgiveness and our reconciliation with the church. There may be a lot of other spiritual implications of confession, but at its very heart  is the joyful celebration of God’s forgiving and merciful love for us.