Which of these phrases describes your usual approach
to Sunday Mass?
1) You're totally turned off to Mass and almost
2) You go now and then, usually for some reason other than really
wanting to worship (e.g., parental threats).
3) You go fairly regularly, and it's a vague, average experience.
4) You go regularly and usually enjoy it.
5) You really enjoy it and wouldn't even think of missing Mass
without an extremely good reason.
Wherever you arebetween one and fiveyou
may occasionally find yourself looking for further reasons
for going to Mass, with or without your parents' urging.
They're not all mega-spiritual motivations. But
this author and the population at large don't live in a mega-spiritual
universe, it seems. So these are incentives that function
in the arena in which most of us live.
10. The Big Idea
Challenge yourself to find One Genuinely
Maybe the homiIy and some of the prayers leave you
feeling like a stranger in a foreign culture. That's going
to happen in many of life's situations, including Mass. But
even a ton of apparently dull, common pebbles has at least
one that's worth a second look. The same is true of ideas.
Challenge yourself to find at least one idea within
the Mass that makes sense and seems possible, practical, intriguing,
mysterious, interesting, cool or worth thinking about in relation
to your life in some way. There are many places to look and
listen: in the Scripture readings, the responsorial psalm,
the homily, the hymns, the eucharistic prayer and liturgical
actions or gestures.
The one genuinely worthwhile idea won't jump out
and nail you with a hymnal; it takes persistent, active attention.
But it is considerably more fun than passing the time with
When you find what you are looking foran idea
that can help steer your lifeit gives you and God something
concrete to talk about, and that provides the answer to what
many people say they wish would happen at Mass: "If I could
just get something out of it."
9. Home Improvement
An hour's investment can result in a week's worth
of better relationships at home. It's no secret that, in some
households, attending Mass is anything from an outright battle
to a silent tension between parents and teens. Acceptingrather
than resisting or battlingparents' requests to attend
Mass stands an excellent chance of smoothing relationships
for far longer than the brief amount of time spent in church.
Besides, it's fun to shock people in a good way.
Imagine the impact when a parent says, 'We'll have to go to
Mass at nine tomorrow instead of later, or we won't be able
to leave for the reunion in time," and this statement is met
with an upbeat, cheerful "O.K." (If Mom comes running
with the thermometer, pretend you can't imagine why she's
worried and say, "Mom, I'm fine! Do I look pale or something?")
Imagine the impact if a parent has become alienated
from the Church for whatever reason but sees his or her teenager
going to Mass for the fifth or sixth Sunday in a row.
"I think it's great, but what brought this on?"
the parent might ask.
"I don't knowI just want to go, that's all."
The parent is probably thinking: WowI've got
a really great kid.
8. Time-Space Travel
You can reach across time and space to help those
you care about. Most of us know people we would like to contact
and help in some way, but we can't take action at the moment
because something stands in the way. Perhaps the person has
died, lives in a different city or just isn't tuned in to
the fact that we want to help.
Distances and barriers like these disappear at Mass,
which is far more than a prayer meeting. When Jesus becomes
present in the Eucharist, the entire Body of Christ is present.
That includes grandparents who have died, relatives and friends
who live far away and people you don't even know. This invisible
cosmic reality is called the communion of saints. The priest
speaks of it during the eucharistic prayer.
During the prayer, bring to mind anyone and everyone
you would like to make contact with and help or support in
some way. They're all there in the Body of Christ, brought
together in Jesus at the eucharistic table. Send a message.
Tuck in a request for God to help, heal, guide and support
those people who are important to you.
You won't hear bumps on the pew, see lights flicker
or hear ghostly voices. But, unless you simply don't believe
in the Body of Christ, you'll know that you succeeded in getting
7. Rebel With A Cause
It's a great way to be alternative/counter-cultural.
In some youth circles, not going to Mass (or at least complaining
heavily about it) is almost written on the membership card.
You're supposed to be just like your peers and think just
like them: Church is dumb; it's so boring. It's part
of the expected, "normal" behavior of teens.
If you really think that way, have a high-level
conversation about it. Don't just complain to your parents
or friendstalk to God. Actually put your thoughts and
feelings into words; God can handle that without growling,
scowling and getting disgusted. Reserve a chunk of time for
doing this, including plenty of time for listening.
But what if you don't agree that church is a waste
of time? What if you think that it's at least O.K.? If you
pretend to agree with peers' negative opinions about attending
Mass just to live up to their expectations and retain your
"coolness" rating, you have caved in to peer pressure. Be
6. Take the Stand
You can feel good about actually doing some of
those noble-sounding phrases the religion books talk about.
If you've been in religious education for more than a year
or so, you've read or heard phrases like "witnessing" and
"being a missionary" and "spreading the gospel." They sound
very official, correct, noble and sometimes far away from
real life. Maybe you wonder or doubt if you ever really do
that or if you even can do that.
Of course you can. Celebrating Mass is an important
way to do just that. Your presence in church (unless, of course,
you're slouched against the back wall of the church rolling
your eyes) is a sign to others that you consider your faith
important. That's what we call Christian witnessing or spreading
5. Gabbing With God
You get to tell God all kinds of great stuff and
feel pretty good about it. Most of the words of the Mass address
God. Since someone else, usually the priest, is actually saying
them out loud, it's easy to let them roll over and off you
like water drops in a shower. But when you do that, you come
away with the feeling that you went there to talk to somebody
(God) but didn't really do so. That reinforces the feeling
that going to Mass was a waste.
It takes effort, but if you tune in to the words,
especially those of the eucharistic prayer, you can make them
your own. Actually say them in your mind to God as you hear
them. Mean them yourself, as you say them along with the rest
of the community.
Maybe the words aren't exactly the way you'd talk,
the way you'd express the same ideas. You can still believe
in the ideas. In fact, if you're a Christian believer at all,
you do believe the ideas. Knowing that this time you really
did voice honor and praise to Godas we all say we shouldis
a good feeling.
4. Better Dates
It's a great place for the start of a date. You
have to be a deeply romantic person to carry this out. O.K.,
you at least have to be dating someone. Go to Mass with him
This idea most often gets two very different reactions:
1) "You have to be kiddingshould we drive there in a
space shuttle while we're at it?" or 2) "That's not so weirdI
know people who do that."
It isn't strange at all for many teens and young
adults to begin a date by going to Mass. In some parishes,
it's actually common. If you're both Mass-attending people,
why not go together? The idea is strange only if we believe
the falsehood that God and our social/dating life have nothing
to do with one another.
Faith can be fun to share. It's also rewarding because
you're sharing something that runs deeper than most topics.
Going to Mass together is one of the best ways to get the
feeling that you are building and strengthening a relationship,
not simply skimming its surface. Knowing that your relationship
is grounded in God who is relationships and who created
them is a good feeling.
3. Come As You Are
If you feel that you're not worthy and won't be
missed, think of some of the other people who hung out with
Jesus. Sometimes we think that people who actually knew Jesus
had it easy. For instance, all the shepherds had to do was
show up in Bethlehem. They didn't have to change their behavior
or even their clothes.
There's no need to envy the shepherds; the privilege
of visiting Jesus didn't end with them. In the Sacrament of
the Eucharist, we also meet the real Jesus. Like the shepherds,
all we have to do is bring ourselves.
Did the shepherds fully understand everything about
Jesus? Did they have time to get rid of all their faults and
turn into award-winning role models of believers? Definitely
In fact, shepherds at the time of Jesus were not
always the simple, gentle, religious people we think them
to be when we see a manger scene. But, obviously, they were
welcome (in fact, they were specifically invited!) anyway.
The same is true for us. Sometimes we think Mass
is for those who A) understand their faith just about perfectly
and have no problems with it, and B) hold a really great,
glittering Christian track record. We need to remember the
shepherds and bring ourselves, faults and all, to meet Jesus
2. Cosmic Connection
Mass brings you into a world- and life-wide web,
linking everything to Jesus and turning it to gold. Even when
Mass goes well, we tend to leave it and enter an "ordinary,
regular" world where things are just things, many of them
a little boring, many of them not working out right. Even
though we'd like to believe otherwise, we tend to feel that
God is perhaps pleased and interested in the prayers we say,
but that the rest of our lives are pretty much dead space
as far God is concerned.
At the presentation of gifts at Mass, when two or
three people bring the bread and wine up the aisle to the
priest at the altar, you have the chance to dye the coming
week a beautiful spiritual color. Put your week-to-come among
the gifts to be transformed into Jesus and offered to our
Creator. You're a baptized Christian; you have the right and
the power to do so.
What does that mean? It means that everything
that happens in your life other than sin is now part of the
great cosmic connection we have with our God through Jesus.
No matter how ordinary life sometimes looks and seems on the
outside, it isn't ordinary at all.
1. He Said So
It's what Jesus asked us to do. In the Bible,
Jesus' apostle Paul writes: "I received from the Lord what
I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night
he was handed over, took bread, and after he had given thanks,
broke it and said, 'This is my body that is for you. Do this
in remembrance of me.' In the same way also the cup, after
supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me'"
(1 Corinthians 11:23-25).
We owe Jesus everything, and he asked us to celebrate
Mass. In the end, it is just that simple.
When our community, the Church, stresses gathering
at Mass for worship, it is doing what Paul did long ago in
the passage from First Corinthians above: handing on the final
request of our Savior.
In the end, going to Mass is not a law that some
old people made up. It's a "deathbed" request from the person
who died so that we might live. He certainly didn't intend
it to be boring. If we're bored, there's something that needs
fixing. But ignoring the request of our Savior and simply
staying away from Mass won't fix anything.
Which one of these top 10 reasons (or any others
you might add) is the best? It's the one which makes Mass
most meaningful to you and brings you closest to Jesus. Jesus
welcomes you to the Eucharist for any reason.
A final bit of good news is that the more effort
you put into your presence at Mass, the more reasons for being
there you'll discover.
Robert Gorgol (17), Matt Lindeman (16),
Suzi Lyons (16), John McCoy (18), Nick Rojowski (15) and Christie
Sego (15) met at Holy Spirit Parish in Indianapolis, Indiana,
to review and critique this issue. Joe Connelly, parish youth
minister, and his assistant John Boucher, also sat in on the