Posted by: Thomas Richard | June 16, 2013

Thoughts Following a Recent Mass: Catholics Need to Learn to Pray

The Catholic Church has a great and beautiful tradition of prayerfulness!  The family of saints in the Church who have written and taught both the art and the science of prayer is a treasure for all Catholics.  The very real – substantially real – Presence of Christ, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, reserved in the Tabernacles of so many of our churches, ought to proclaim to all Catholics that the sanctuary of a church is a holy place.  One would think that Catholics would greatly value the sanctuary of a Catholic church as that: a holy place, a sacred space, where God dwells and waits for us, a place of profound reverence.

It used to be this way.  As a child I well remember the sense of reverence that I had – that I was taught – whenever I entered a Catholic church.  We entered quietly, we entered into prayer, we knew we were in God’s House, all was different here.  A whispered “Hello” might be appropriate to a friend or a relative – more likely was simply a nod or a smile in silence.  Even passing a Catholic church outside, in a car or walking, evoked the sense that there inside was the sacred, the holy, the divine.

It is so very different now.  The power of secularism in this country, in western culture, has done immense damage to that precious religious sense that was so common some decades ago.  A far-reaching “dumbing down” has weakened us, infected us, made less of us.  Not only has the religious sense suffered within us, but our very human dignity has become degraded.  We in the West are not only less religious, we are less human as a culture and a people.  We respect and reverence not only God less, but one another and even ourselves less.  People laugh at, ridicule and mock others as common fare in popular entertainment.  Cruelty grows, where respect diminishes.  All this degradation is the simple consequence of secularism’s fundamental faith, that there is no God or if “it” is, “it” is irrelevant.  And when He is irrelevant, all is irrelevant.  Upon such godlessness, man can find nothing relevant to satisfy his incessant hunger, to fill the void left in his heart when God has been excluded from it.

All the coldness and insensitivity of the secular culture has had its effect on the members of the Catholic Church.  Because we in the Church have not been formed in the Faith adequately, many of us lack the solid foundation of faith adequate to resist the advances of the enemy.  We in the Church have failed to evangelize the Faith in the culture, and now the culture is evangelizing us to their ways.  We have failed to broadcast light, and now darkness grows – and it is invading the Church through her members.

So I finally get to my point: we Catholics need to learn how to pray, so as to develop and live in the habit of prayerfulness.  I am ashamed to say – even among those old enough to remember the prayerfulness that used to characterize us at least while in the House of God – so many Catholics have forgotten.  Many younger Catholics have never learned this!  But many of those who did learn as children the attitude and behavior proper to preparation before Mass, have forgotten.  Catholics awaiting Mass to begin can chat away as carelessly as anyone, apparently as neglectful as an unbeliever of the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle a mere few feet away,  apparently as unconcerned as an unbeliever that the Sacrifice of the Mass is about to begin.  And again, I am ashamed to say, apparently as ignorant as an unbeliever that when that Sacrifice occurs in the Holy Mass, we in the congregation are to offer our own personal lives in self-offering with our Lord Jesus Christ.  We are to unite our lives with His, on the Cross.  Ponder that, in preparation for the Holy Mass, that our presence be one with His, and that our offering may be one with His.

With His perfect Self-offering, we are to offer our works, our sufferings, our praises, our lives in union with Him!  That personal self-offering deserves – He deserves from us – our full, conscious and active participation, our presence with Him in holy worship.  In other words, the Mass deserves our preparation, and our preparation requires time in sincere and authentic prayer.  Jesus deserves our prayerful preparation for what we are about to do with Him.  God the Father deserves our rightful disposition for what we are about to receive: God Himself, in Holy Communion.  Before Mass begins, we need to be in prayer – not chatting away about temporal and worldly concerns.

How can we become more prayerful?  That, my friends, is a question worth considering, and worth answering to ourselves.  It is not so complicated: we can become more prayerful, by praying more.  We need more time of silence, not less.  We need more time in solitude, not less.  We need more time with His revealed Truth in Scripture, not less.  And the more time we squander with unimportant things, the less time we have for the necessary one.  “It is not rocket science,” as the saying goes.


  1. Dear Thomas,

    Since we were both at that “recent Mass” together, I can understand your desire to write this particular message. It is astounding that many older Catholics have either forgotten or never were taught the deep reality of Jesus’ Substantial Presence in the Blessed Sacrament. When entering any Catholic Church and seeing the sanctuary light glowing near the Tabernacle, we know by Faith, Jesus is truly there in His Resurrected Body.

    What an awesome gift is ours, and yet, as you described, there is a grave lack of reverence growing among too many of our brothers and sisters. Have we indeed forgotten how to pray? Forgotten how to adore and thank and ask the Lord hidden in the Tabernacle for all His Heart longs to give us and through us to others? Have we forgotten how He is ignored in so many persons and places in the world and how He looks for one to comfort Him?

    May we re-learn if we have forgotten, and may we renew our efforts if we have been striving to give ourselves to Him more completely. By His Grace, may we begin again to open ourselves to Him, as the woman in today’s Gospel who fell at His feet, weeping. May we hear Him say, “Your Faith has saved you…”

  2. Prayers are very important to me. I start and end my day with a silent, heartfelt prayer and I feel a sense of comfort and security throughout the day. It helps me get through the day and it’s such a wonderful feeling to give a little time to talk to the Lord and thank Him for all the blessings that he’s given me. Thank you for this reminder. May God bless you!

    • Dear Erin,

      Thanks for commenting on this very important part of our lives – our commitment to prayer. We all need “reminders” I think, and encouragement to keep growing in our relationship with God. I read something in the Catechism this morning that I’d like to share with you and others:

      CCC 2656 – “One enters into prayer as one enters the liturgy: by the narrow gate of faith. Through the signs of his presence, it is the face of the Lord that we seek and desire; it is his Word we want to hear and keep.”

      The gift of faith which is given to us “in seed form” at Baptism needs to be nurtured if it is to grow. In our human condition we are so prone to forget Him Who is our Way, our Truth and our Life. It is astonishing: some prefer to “chat” with others, when He is before them in the Blessed Sacrament! What is happening to our faith in the Eucharist?

      Why are more Catholics not paying attention to Him as soon as they enter the Church? Perhaps, it is because we are not aware of Him at other times either. I thank God for the grace He has given you, Erin, to start and end your day with a heartfelt prayer. Those are probably not the only times you think of Him, but they are pivotal.

      I pray that all of us will be more attentive to Him, devoted to Him in prayer, and especially as we enter our Church and prepare for Mass.

  3. […] start my Monday with a compelling reminder from Renew The Church Blog’s post titled “Catholics Need to Learn to Pray.” I know that leading a prayerful life is crucial, but I was especially moved reading these […]

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