January 15, 2010

5 Ways to Prepare for Sunday Mass

I recently blogged about how sad it is to see people at Mass devoid of all enthusiasm and life. I thought about it some more and noted down five things you can do to prepare yourself for the Eucharist which is "source and summit" of all we do, and which deserves attentive preparation (cf. Lumen Gentium, 11).

Easter Vigil Blessing of the Fire

1. Read the readings ahead of time.
Subscribe to the Sunday Mass readings and reflections email from Good News Ministries. Terry Modica provides both a daily email and a weekly email option, which have been blessings to me for years now. The daily email contains the list of Mass readings for the day as well as a reflection on them. Knowing and reading the readings beforehand prepares you for what you will hear.

If you want a simple listing of the readings, the entire Liturgical calendar is laid out over at the Prepare For Mass blog.

And the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has a calendar on the left side of its page with the Mass Readings for the Day. The calendar tells you what readings are on which day:

2. Bring your Bible!
I find it very useful to bring a Bible (or your very own Missal) with the readings already bookmarked beforehand. This is useful as reading material before the Mass begins and also for when you have a hard time comprehending the speech of a lector or celebrant. Note that it is better to listen attentively to the readings during the Liturgy of the Word, than read them. Although there are also those one-in-a-million emergencies where a lector or celebrant can't seem to find the reading in the book and may need to borrow your missal (it's actually happened to me before).

3. Abstain from food and unnecessary speech.
Accompany the Eucharistic fast (no food an hour before Mass begins, in order to receive Holy Communion) with a peaceful, quiet attitude. Avoid frenzy and distractions for a period of time before the Mass begins. Silence and stillness opens your heart up to God's voice.

4. Prepare your clothes, transportation and other temporal things.
Have your attire planned out beforehand to avoid rushing and fretting over what to wear. Leave for church well ahead of the time that Mass starts -- this assures you of a good seat, ample parking (or time to commute), and enough time for you to settle down at your pew.

5. Purify yourself: receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation!
Receiving the sacrament of reconciliation allows you to repair the relationship with God that you've harmed due to mortal sin. There is no better preparation to receive Christ through the Blessed Eucharist than confessing your sins and coming clean with the Lord. After all, as adopted children of God, we are called to be holy as He is holy.

There are also more tips to preparing for the Mass at Catholic Answers forums.


  1. Anonymous1:07 PM

    In preparation for Mass one may also remember that our King Jesus Christ is Alive and present with us even before we get to the sanctuary.Lets keep Love as a focus on the roadways to the church and also in the parking lot!! Our Lord will provide the best parking spot for each one of us!! some of us may need to walk a few x-tra steps in penance for our attitude of selfishness!! hahaha!! Not to sound
    ridiculous but this is a reality for some to think about!!!

  2. Thanks for that timely reminder! Very good point. Especially with anger roaming the city streets like a lion seeking a Catholic (on his/her way to Mass) to devour.

  3. Anonymous4:30 PM

    Excellent article.

    As a diocese lector development workshop leader I wrote [excerpts] the following for Homiletic and Pastoral Review, Ignatius Press, August/September 2008.

    "WAKE UP MASS IS OVER!" (by Charles Callaci)
    Teenagers complain,"Mass is boring." Baby Boomers grumble, "I get nothing out of Mass." The older generation laments, "My grandchildren go to Protestant Evangelical services."

    The rejection of Catholic Eucharistic Celebrations for other forms of Christian worship is frowned upon by priests, bishops and the hierarchy, as if they themselves are not culpable for the "exodus." As is typical of human nature, unknowingly they assuage their responsibility by rebuking those who leave the Church or those who remain and continue griping; blaming the protester for "lack of interest or participation." Out of hand, the "critics” are discredited with comments such as, "They're supposed to give, not "get." "They don't involve themselves." "They need more religious education."

    As reasonable as those statements might appear, they reveal the bias common to our human condition; to see and judge everything through our own eyes. Many clergy use the same excuse as those whose livelihood also depends upon communication skills: teachers who chastise failing students for their own teaching inadequacies, or lawyers faulting jurors for losing their cases, and don’t overlook sales persons who blame customers for lost sales. What an unfair privilege these specialized fields have to exempt themselves by shifting their own deficiencies to others. Those involved in any communication endeavor, from celebrating the Eucharist to selling soap, must turn the "spotlight" from themselves to those to be "served." They must focus "outward!"

    Being sensitive to and keenly aware of people's reactions must be a primary goal, "picking up vibes" as the saying goes. While preaching, skilled evangelical preachers depend upon this ability by watching for any sign of distraction, restlessness or fidgeting, and then altering voice, delivery style or physical manner to recapture and hold attention.

    Why must those in the assembly be subjected to delays, interruptions or uncoordinated actions? Why, from introductory rites to dismissal, no semblance of pacing, cadence, rhythm? Why hospitality ministers' escorting late-comers to pews, disrespecting the Liturgy of the Word? Why delays, presider having to cue altar servers, music director, presenters of gifts, readers of General Intercessions, and so on? Why barely discernable "signs," the psychological nuances, messages, perceptive to the senses which communicate without words? Why unfamiliar, difficult music to sing? Why long musical introductions to the Acclamations which are continuations of prayer as in the Great Amen? Why "intermission" for parish announcements after Gospel readings? Why announcements at the Ambo instead of a separate reading stand? Why no reflection time silence at conclusion of the readings, homily, and so on? Why handing out consecrated hosts as though they were jelly beans rather than raising them reverently and then distributed? Why lack of choreographed movements such as Gospel book held high during the Alleluia? Why altar servers blocking the presider when holding the book? Why lectors hesitant to "take charge?" reading words as though a vocabulary list, talking vs proclaiming? Harsh criticisms and high expectations, to be sure, but Vatican Documents insist that the People of God are entitled to excellence in all aspects of the "Source and Summit of Catholic Worship," the Supreme Liturgy, the Mass.

  4. Thanks for that article. Is it online somewhere so I can read the full piece? Love that list of "Whys."

    While it's true that a lot can be improved upon from the perspective of the celebrant and those aiding in the celebration (ministers, ushers, musical directors) ... there is also a lot more improvement that is needed from the side of the participant.

    Preparation is key, but also, the knowledge that you aren't at Mass to receive but more to give: to give praise to God, to give adoration to Christ in the Word and Eucharist, to give your attention to the Word proclaimed, to give your money and food offerings to the needy of the church, and so much more.

    We grumble and complain (myself included) when we go there expecting to receive, but unwilling to give.