Monday, June 8, 2009

How Protestants Helped Me Understand the Mass

There have already been some good thoughts on why some people can't wait to get to Mass and others can't wait to get out of Mass.  I would have to agree that it has a lot to do with how well you understand the Mass and how well you have prepared for the Mass that day.  

I remember a time when this became a really important question to me.  A friend of mine was telling me that she no longer went to Mass and had switched to an E-free church.  She had several reasons for this, but seemingly her biggest part of this was the fact that she wanted to continue to grow in her relationship with Jesus and she had "gotten all she could out of the Mass."  She still thought it was good, but she needed something more.  I was speechless.  I knew that she had been having a lot of questions, but all I could think was how monumentally I had failed her if she thought there was ever a point that you can plateau on "what you can get out of Mass."  

Her background is that she went to Catholic school for 12 years, but didn't start to really grow in her relationship with Christ until later in high school and into college.  She has an enormous hunger for God, and when she was in college, she had professors and fellow students challenging her Catholic faith right and left.  She tried to find some of the answers, but by her senior year had left the Catholic Church.  She didn't have animosity towards the Church, she just wanted a place to grow deeper in her faith and didn't feel the Mass was that place.

Oh, sweet girl.  Don't give up so fast.  I praise God for your deep hunger for Him. He will bless that desire to grow in Him wherever you go to church, but don't give up on the Mass so fast!

For me, I owe a large part of my love for the Mass to my Protestant friends and family.  I know, right?  It's a little confusing.  Here's the thing.  I think that in order to have any understanding and love of the Mass, you have to have a personal relationship with Jesus.  Further, the Mass means little to nothing without knowing your Bible.  The Protestant friends and family in my life have been an enormous influence in deepening my relationship with Christ and whetting my appetite for the Bible.  Further, I owe a huge debt of gratitude for former Protestants who have become Catholic and have shared their testimonies of what the Mass means to them.

Here's my advice, for what it's worth.  

Grow your relationship with Jesus.  It's easy, all you have to do is ask.  Maybe you've been going to Mass for decades, but feel that you know about God, but you don't know Him.  Maybe you feel that you have a relationship with Him, but it's stuck in a rut and doesn't seem to grow.  Just ask Him to help you.

"Jesus, I don't know You, but I want to. Please help me."
"Jesus, help me to know You more."

He never ignores those prayers.  By the way, here's a prayer I remember praying when being confused by the Mass:

"I don't get it."  (He understood the implication that I wanted to know more.)

My point is that you don't have to be eloquent, just honest.  All the studying in the world won't get you the answers you crave if you don't have a relationship with Christ.

Then crack open that Bible that's been sitting on your shelf since you got it for Confirmation and start reading it.  If you're not familiar or comfortable with it, I suggest starting with the Gospels, and remember that footnotes are your friends.  You won't understand it all the first time, but that's okay.  You won't understand it all the 2nd or the 40th time, either.  You will understand more each time you read it, and if you've just asked God to help you know Him better, be prepared to learn some great things and grow closer to God.

I would love to tell you more about what the Mass means to me, and what I have learned about the Mass, but that would take post after post after post....oh, wait.  That probably won't be an issue for me! :)  So I think that there will be regular posts about the Mass for a while, maybe a long while.  Not every post, but definitely a recurring theme.

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