When long liturgies keep family from attending Mass

| Father Michael Schmitz | November 8, 2017 | 4 Comments

Q. My family refuses to go to Mass because there are too many “extras” (like baptisms), too much singing and too many announcements. Why can’t we have a “low Mass” without all of that stuff? Isn’t the Church supposed to adapt and keep up with all the people?

A. There are a couple of elements in your question that I would like to address individually.

If you are asking whether or not it is possible to celebrate a beautiful and reverent Mass without music, announcements and other sacraments, then the answer is very straightforward: Yes. A number of parishes I am familiar with offer a more “simple” Mass like you described. Sometimes this is the Saturday evening Mass or the early Sunday morning Mass.

Of course, not all parishes are able to offer this, since there is an increasing number of situations where a pastor is responsible for more than one parish. Because of this, there are sometimes fewer Masses offered on the weekend. In those cases, it would make sense that, due to the reduced number of liturgies, a parish would want to celebrate as full and as beautiful a Mass as possible for the Lord and for the people.

But the simple answer is: Yes, it is possible to have Mass without the elements you described.

If you are asking why we occasionally have baptisms as a part of Mass, I would say that it is because a human being becoming an adopted son or daughter of God is something worth celebrating. And not merely with that child’s family, but with the entire community. This is obvious, unless I don’t care about the other people who make up the body of Christ or if I dislike the extra five minutes it takes to witness the miracle of a person becoming a child of God.

I truly understand liking less singing. I prefer less singing as well. I will rarely use chant at Mass because it doesn’t help me pray, and because I think there are other ways to pray the Mass that are just as beautiful. I can find it annoying or excessive.

Yet, I wonder if the issue has less to do with the “extras” and more to do with something deeper. While I don’t know your family members, I would say that the issue has more to do with their minds or hearts than it does with singing or announcements.

As you briefly described it, the issue is one of two deficiencies. Either your family doesn’t care that much about God, or your family doesn’t understand what the Mass is. I write this tentatively, since I know neither the mind nor the heart of your family members. I have been to plenty of Masses where I was annoyed by the homily, the music (why do you insist on singing all of the verses, choirmaster?) or some other element that I found distracting or distasteful. I, too, have found it difficult to focus, to pray, or even to appreciate the efforts of those involved during those times. I think I know where you’re coming from.

But here is the critical piece: That doesn’t lead me to refuse to go to Mass. If a person refuses to go to Mass because they don’t like the style, there is a serious problem. There is a difference between not liking the “extras” and refusing to go because of the “extras.” Your email did not describe the case of people who love God and desire to worship him at the Mass, but who wrestle with certain elements of the liturgy. You said that your family refuses to go to Mass.

If I know that God has commanded that we worship him in the Mass, but I refuse to do it because I don’t like singing, what other conclusion is there? Either I don’t love God much, or I don’t understand what the Mass actually is.

I wonder where the idea that Mass should be “an hour or less” originated. As St. Josemaria Escriva said, “You say the Mass is too long … . I say your love is too short.” He went on to say, “Isn’t it strange how many Christians, who take their time and have leisure enough in their social life (they are in no hurry), in following the sleepy rhythm of their professional affairs, in eating and recreation (no hurry here, either), find themselves rushed and want to rush the priest, in their anxiety to shorten the time devoted to the most holy sacrifice of the altar?”

We all need to be reminded at times that the Mass is not about us. It is worship. And worship must always be directed toward God. But how many times do we hear someone complain that they just “don’t get anything” out of Mass? Now, aside from the fact that we get the word of God proclaimed to us, we get to receive Jesus himself in the Eucharist, and we get the chance to worship God (which is no small privilege!), I always want to stop someone who makes this complaint to highlight the fact that that is literally the point. The point of worship isn’t to get anything; it is to give.

When there are added elements of the worship that Sunday by way of singing or baptisms that are annoying, you get to give God your annoyance and those extra five minutes as another sacrifice of love for the One who died and rose for you.

Father Schmitz is director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Duluth and chaplain of the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Reach him at fathermikeschmitz@gmail.com.

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Category: Ask Father Mike

  • CLQ24

    I once read this article in another Catholic publication that the author did not make the Mass a priority on Sunday because the Catholic Church does not focus on social justice enough. Sad that the person hired to write articles for a Catholic publication does not know what Mass is about.

  • DebraBrunsberg

    Great response Fr. Schmitz! There is no perfect liturgy, no perfect parish, but God Himself is perfect and He is there at every Mass. What more does one need?

  • AB

    “As you briefly described it, the issue is one of two deficiencies. Either your family doesn’t care that much about God, or your family doesn’t understand what the Mass is.”

    Or how about a third possibility: the family has young children and every moment at Mass is extremely difficult. The toddler decides it’s hilarious to run down the center aisle, the baby throws her pacifier a guy three rows ahead, the preschooler has a meltdown because his favorite crayon broke. Meanwhile, the surrounding parishioners are obviously annoyed. I know what the Mass is. I have a graduate degree Catholic theology. I do care about God. But the reality is that Mass with little kids is the most stressful time of my week and I do loath extra music and lengthy announcements.

  • Joy

    Right ON Father Mike. Mass is the MOST important part of our week and the rest of the week follows not the other way around. Anyone who REFUSES to go to Mass has more going on than what bothers them about the Mass. Look at the crucifix and you will see a Mass for ANY length of time is not only worth going to but also requested of us by Our Lord. God first, others 2nd, ourselves last——the ONLY way. God Bless you Father Mike for speaking the TRUTH no matter how uncomfortable it may make someone.