Thursday, July 22, 2010

How I'm Learning to Stop Worrying and Love the Eucharist

For awhile I was on track to being one of those people who take the wrong kind of interest in doing Church right. I didn't hit rock bottom with my attitude at Mass. But I fell a bit. I already stunk at paying attention, and in the last few weeks I had been losing my focus on the center of the Mass! Instead I was getting cheap satisfaction through irritation at small things which may not even have been liturgically illicit, when I stunk at paying attention even besides those.

In my later Protestant years this was already a problem, but I think it might have been made worse by a liturgy with rules. Somehow I got the idea that I should take liturgy really, really seriously, all the time, even if I cheated the Eucharist in the process.

My increasing conviction, not at all the result of just my efforts, led to this Q&A: What's happening here? Jesus Christ is becoming Really Present. What should distract me from that? Almost nothing.

My new policy is twofold. (1) Only things that can affect the Eucharist are big enough to distract me. If it's illicit or lesser, I forget it or file it away. (2) I make an effort to explicitly thank Christ for His body at least twice while at Church.

Anyone else have this problem?


Anonymous said...

can you post this on the howler. Aunt Kerry

Dan Lower / KKairos said...


Luke said...

You are definitely not the only one who has this problem. I have been known to get distracted from time to time. I think the key is developing good habits of prayer for the Mass, which, with your list at the bottom, you seem to be doing. I have a couple of prayers I say at the elevation that I always say, and they always bring me back regardless of any distractions I was giving any heed to.

I feel like this is why it's so important that proper liturgical norms be followed. When things are weird, it causes distractions. "If there are no kneelers, should I kneel? I could kneel, I want to kneel, but nobody else will, what should I do?" Or "Should I hold hands during the Our Father? What if I'm next to a girl? This guy's hands are sweaty."

called 2 shepherd said...

I think that's an issue for anyone... in any denomination. When the rules take the place of their purpose for existance the act loses meaning for the individual.
When the rules are most helpful is when they help the individual focus, but I think a true yearning for God and his presence will take care of all the 'rules' on it's own :-)

L-Po said...

I wrote a poem while not paying attention in church. It's on my blog.

Nick said...

I've struggled with that problem and so have many others.

The thing is that one's focus and appreciation for the Eucharist is largely proportional to the Reverence of the Liturgy. The Eucharist can be valid in both situations, but can have a different efficacy depending on the disposition of the individual. The more reverent the Mass, the more graces that flow, and the greater 'conditioning' the individual has to be better disposed in his paying attention and receiving the Sacrament. On the flip side, a Mass full of abuse or even a watered down emphasis on the Faith will have the effect of causing minds to get distracted and turned off and thus not appreciating the Sacrament as fully as they should. This is why proper music is critical for Mass, as is sacred silence, because when these are not done right, the Mass turns more into a concert with our focus tending towards the "choir".

There also comes a point where you have to tell yourself you're going to focus and receive the Eucharist no matter what, since often the Devil is trying to wear out the faithful Catholic by distractions. Distractions ranging from improper music, improperly dressed women (esp in Summer), improper forms of "active participation," etc, etc.

EricBrooks said...

I agree with Nick. It's important to be serious about liturgy in order to be serious about the Eucharist. If we could simply separate them, then there would be no need to have the consecration in the context of a liturgy to begin with. The fact that the Church has always placed the Eucharist in this conext shows very clearly that you cannot artificially separate them, that you cannot simply love the sacrament and be indifferent to how the mass is said.

Luke wrote, "I feel like this is why it's so important that proper liturgical norms be followed." Exactly. This obsessive worrying about liturgical abuse is a common problem, a problem I had before I returned to the ancient rite, and is created by the widespread presence of "weird" things. A lot of people worry unnecessarily about small abuses, but probably very few of them would have ever thought to worry if we still had clear and stable norms.

I think your attitude is a good one. So long as you are not in a parish where your soul will become corrupted by an un-Catholic ambience through inattention, it is much better to participate in the praise of the True Body without thinking much at all about rules. There are other places where it might be a dangerous attitude to become inattentive, but it seems the right thing for your situation right now.

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