Author: Father Michael Sliney, LC | Source: Regnum Christi Live
Rain or shine, sleet or snow, my family would find a way to make it to 8:30 am Sunday Mass at St. Hugo of the Hills Parish in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. I actually remember putting on my snow boots, gloves, scarf and ski hat and slogging through nearly two feet of snow after a rough Michigan blizzard the night before…and yes, the priest was surprised to see us show up on time, covered with snow and maybe a little frost bitten. Even though missing Mass was never an option, my parent’s deep Faith in the Eucharist and love for Christ made it seem like less of an obligation and more of an opportunity and a gift.
My mom was a second grade teacher for over 40 years, and her first conscious act of the day was to attend 615 am daily Mass. I can still see the brake lights flashing on and off as she carefully backed out of our garage, and her beaming face when she returned home, showing that Christ had deeply touched her heart. I often tell moms that I much preferred to have a cold bowl of cereal and a happy mom greet me just for a few minutes before going to school, than have a hot breakfast but a mom who maybe did not warm my heart with her love.
Perhaps given my dad’s military background, we almost always arrived a few minutes before Mass started. What struck me about this first moment of walking in the Church, was that the conversation stopped and mom and dad became totally focused on Christ. They would make a fervent genuflection and then knelt down to pray in silence for several minutes. As a little kid, I would watch my dad tightly fold his hands, close his eyes and wonder what type of conversation he was having with God. Clearly this remote preparation of arriving beforehand and silently praying, was helpful for us to prepare for the sacredness of Holy Mass.
My older brothers and I were altar boys, so for most of our childhood, I had “front row seats” close to the priest on the altar. This clearly helped my focus and fervor, and allowed me to discover first-hand the sublime mystery of the priesthood through the example of our holy pastor, Fr. Esper. He always had a peaceful and cheerful glow in his face and his reverence for the Eucharist was inspiring. He was patient with our mistakes and “giggles”, and without a doubt, his example had a big impact on my priestly discernment. I would recommend all parents to strongly encourage their children to serve, at least for a few years…it is pretty hard not to value the Mass after having this unique and privileged experience, so close to the priest and so close to Christ.
Another practical tip that helps in living the Mass well, is to read the readings ahead of time and perhaps even discuss them as a family, so as to be better prepared to grasp the full message of the homily. Too many tune out during the readings and wait for the priest to share his words of wisdom. The Holy Spirit may have a personal message just for you, but he will not be able to share those insights if you are not proactively engaged and listening to the readings. It helps as well, to have the daily missal or a Magnificat in hand to follow along, as we all know how easy it is to get distracted or lose focus.
During the offering of gifts, it might help to think of a little sacrifice that you can offer to Christ, and place that on the altar next to the bread and wine. During the moment of consecration, unite your heart with Christ, so that like him, you may do whatever God may want from you, with total docility and trust in his plan. During holy communion, thank Jesus for the tremendous gift of him coming into your heart, ask him for those favors which are most dear to you, and listen, especially listen to see if there is anything he might be concerned about or may want to share with you.
My dad would often ask us in the car after Mass what the homily was about, so this helped us to keep focus as well. Sunday morning was blocked out as family time, so after Mass, we would go back to the house for a big omelette and bacon breakfast and spend quality time together to discuss issues and concerns. Mass mattered to my family and this shared experience set the tone for the week ahead. I hope all of you can create this same environment, where Mass is seen more as a gift and a tremendous opportunity to grow in love for Christ.