Let me say first off that there are many times when I find Mass routine and less than exciting. It’s not like going to a movie or reading a book. It’s not an entertainment. It’s more like……well, like playing in a baseball game.
In a baseball game, there’s a lot of standing around, on the field and in the dugout, waiting. Every once in a while, there’s something to do, such as fielding a grounder or taking a turn at bat. If you don’t know the game, it’s pretty boring.
But the more you understand the strategy of how the fielders arrange themselves for each batter, and what a batter has to take into consideration in terms of the pitch count, the number of outs and the score, and how a pitcher and catcher work together to figure out how to deal with each batter, and how a manager decides when to pinch hit or bring in a reliever — the more you know, the richer the experience.
For me, Mass is like that. There are times when it feels like I’m a right fielder, just standing out there daydreaming. But the more I put myself into the experience of the Mass, the more I get out of it.
What does that mean? For one thing, the more people I know and see and say hi to and talk to and share stories with, the more I feel part of the church community. Then, it’s not just me there in the pew, but it’s all of us together, sharing our faith with each other and with God.
And the more I pay attention to the readings and study the different parts of the Mass and think about their meaning and symbolism, the more I sing with the choir and congregation, the more I ponder the mystery of the bread and wine — well, then, the more I feel a part of, and alive in, the ritual. It isn’t just the priest up there and the lector and the servers who are doing the Mass. It’s me, riding along through the ritual on all the different meanings and metaphors.
There are other things as well. The beauty of the church: I can get into that the same way, as a ball player, I can get into the beauty of a baseball field. The layers of history and heritage that the ritual represents: In taking part in the Mass, I’m joining myself to generations of believers who have come before me, just as, as a ball player, I ‘m connecting up with the Babe Ruths and Bob Gibsons who have preceded me.
The big difference is that, when the Mass ends, it doesn’t really end. There’s no winner or loser.
It reaches out beyond to touch and enrich the rest of my life. But only to the extent that I’m willing to pay attention and immerse myself in the experience.
And try to stop daydreaming.
Patrick T. Reardon