October 1, 2021

Guest Column / Richard Etienne

Develop rituals to make sure liturgy is always fruitful

Richard EtienneWhat do you focus on when you first arrive for Mass? What patterns or rituals have you developed through the years?

Are you among those who scan the church to see who else has come to celebrate at this liturgy with this community of followers? After all, Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20).

As you settle into your pew, are you temporarily distracted by the outfits others are wearing, specific hairstyles and hair colors, tattoos, body piercings, head coverings, messages on T-shirts and other things? We are, after all, human and subject to curiosity.

Does closing your eyes help to reduce some of these distractions? Are you, in a moment of brief weakness, tempted to ask who in today’s congregation lives the most or least Christian lifestyle outside these parish church walls? Do you recite memorized prayers when you finally kneel and quiet all of the visible distractions?

How do you try to quiet the “busy activity” in your mind once you are able to close your eyes and take a deep breath as you prepare to celebrate the Church’s greatest communal prayer form?

Are you able to finally say, “Thank you Jesus” for all of your blessings, since the word Eucharist best translates to “thanksgiving” in English? Do you call to mind all of the people with whom you have interacted since the last time you participated in Mass that might benefit from your prayers—especially those who could use physical, emotional or spiritual healing?

These are just a few of the issues to ponder regarding those first few precious minutes when preparing for a liturgy.

How will you approach that next opportunity to gather physically with others to break open the word and share a meal—as Jesus commanded his followers to do more than 2,000 years ago—so that it might be a more fruitful experience?

As you prepare for Mass, may those rituals assist you in preparing your “soil” to accept the “seed” so that you can “Go forth to love and serve the Lord.”

(Richard Etienne has a degree in theology from Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad and resides in Newburgh, Ind.)

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