Even the most devout Catholics have to drag themselves to mass on some days. What should we do when attending mass seems more like a chore than the spiritual delight it should be?
The short answer: go anyway. The supernatural graces we receive from the mass have nothing to do with the euphoria (or lack of it) that we feel while attending. Attending mass when we’d rather be doing something else is a doable, but great way to show our love for God.
At the same time, it would help to ask ourselves why we find the mass tedious. One reason could be that we do not understand it, in the same way that watching a game is tedious when one is unfamiliar with the sport.
During my year in Spain, I could not, at first, share the Spaniards’ passion for soccer. But once I’ve acquired a basic familiarity with the rules, I had fun watching the games, joining the others cheer whenever our team scored goals.
Similarly, understanding what the mass is all about can get us engaged with what goes on at the altar. There are plenty of resources — books, pamphlets, and recorded talks — that could help us understand what the mass is all about. One example is Understanding the Mass by Charles Belmonte, downloadable here and available in html format here (scroll down).
However, sometimes attending mass can still be tedious even if we understand what it is all about. This is usually the case when the sublimity of what occurs at the altar is obscured by the uninspired church architecture and music, the distracting behavior of the other mass-goers, the superficiality of the homily, the weird liturgical innovations introduced in well-meaning attempts to make the mass more “relevant”.
What does one do in this situation? First, one must check if there are ways to be part of the solution. For example, here is an article on how to organize one’s own schola that can volunteer to sing chant and sacred polyphony at mass, and here is an excellent resource for learning to sing sacred music.
Second, it helps to remember that the mass is the same sacrifice as that of Calvary. There, at the first mass, the atmosphere was hardly conducive to a spiritual high either. There were jeering and gambling in the presence of the crucified Lord, as well as demands that He perform a spectacle. But amidst all the public maltreatment of Christ were a handful of people accompanying Him with compassion and solidarity: His mother, John, the holy women. There were people, such as the repentant thief and the Roman soldier who pierced Christ with a lance, who allowed the graces of the event to move them.
Perhaps those of us for whom attending mass is a struggle because of irreverence in many of today’s masses are called to be among those people whose mere presence at Calvary consoled Christ in His sufferings.
Reasons not to go to mass will always be abundant. But none of these reasons weigh more than the one reason to go to Mass: because we will encounter Christ there.