We all know the drill. We should go to Mass on Sunday. We should go to Mass on Holy Days. And really, in general, we should worship God more in our daily lives.
Now, consider this: Stop “shoulding on yourself.” Fr. Jim Martin, SJ, wrote that if we are too busy focusing on what we “should” do, then we miss out. When we are too busy worrying about whether we should be in the pew — we are actually missing out on engaging in the worship experience. So skip the “shoulds” and get right to worship. Don’t just think you should go to Mass more. Don’t just try to go to Mass more, be more involved in the worship experience. Here are four ways to help you stick to worship:
Find your worship community.
The church that is most convenient to you may not be the best place for you to worship. An ideal worshiping community is a place where you feel welcomed and you feel comfortable. When you leave the church building, you should think to yourself, “I can’t wait to be back next week!” Finding this worship community may not be easy (ok, it can be downright challenging), but don’t be dismayed. Begin with your own personal “Church Search” and explore some of the different churches and Masses in your area. Ask friends for suggestions and maybe to come with you on your visits.
Explore new ways to worship.
If you have already found a great worship home, then look into some other forms of worship in addition to participating in the Mass, like Liturgy of the Hours, or The Divine Office. The Liturgy of the Hours is the official prayer of the Catholic Church. The liturgy consists of a collection of psalms, prayers, and readings prayed throughout the day at specific times (for example Morning and Evening Prayer). This form of worship is very flexible and you can pray individually or in a group.
You can also try Centering Prayer, a form of silent meditation. If you like the phrase, “Be Still and Know that I am God,” then consider exploring the world of centering prayer. This prayer practice can be done both individually and in a group setting. It does require that one be able to sit in meditative silence for some time (without falling asleep!). If you are looking for convenience, you can download mobile Apps for your smartphone or iPad that provide you with all the prayers for the day. Check out Catholic Calendar or iMissal.
Start your own small faith group.
The goal of a small faith group is to get some of your friends together each week to talk about scripture, faith, and life. This could be a women’s group, a men’s group, a young adult group…really it could be any kind of group you would desire. You might go to daily Mass and meet as a community after or, go out for brunch after Sunday Mass and talk about your Mass experience. If you are an active gogetter or like group gatherings and discussion, this kind of prayer and worship is for you.
The Christian Faithful are called to be full, active, and conscious participants in the liturgy. How can we be more active participants? Try following along with the missal during Mass. Also, consider studying the Sunday readings or daily readings ahead of time. If you feel called to participate in a different way, consider joining a liturgical ministry. Liturgical ministries include being a Eucharistic Minister, a lector (or reader), a music minister, an usher, or even bringing up the gifts. In addition to these “in Mass” ministries, you may want to explore the behind-the-scenes aspects of the Mass. Contact your priest or your liturgical director and ask about being involved in the Liturgy Committee, the group that plans and coordinates all the Masses.
Catholics do not celebrate Mass because we should do it; rather we celebrate the Mass because we need to do it. Coming to the table, hearing scripture, and sharing a meal together are a vital part of our faith life. The Mass gives us the energy and nourishment to go out into the world and live the gospel life every other day of the week. So remember, skip the “shoulds” and determine what you need for a worship-filled life.
Julianne E. Wallace is the director of campus ministry at Alvernia University in Reading, Pennsylvania. She is currently working on a D.Min. in Educational Leadership from Virginia Theological Seminary. She earned an M.T.S. in Word and Worship from the Washington Theological Union in Washington, D.C. and a B.A. in Music Performance from the University of Mary Washington in Virginia. Julianne is passionate about sharing the joy of liturgy with others and helping everyone to worship well.