Sunday morning at my house is a zoo. It seems like no matter how early we get going, we are always running late for Mass. Breakfast must be cleared, TV shows interrupted and appropriate outfits located. The good shirt is dirty. I am usually the last one out the door, stuffing extra diapers and a baggie of snacks into my purse.
Through the intercession of St. Christopher, we pray for many green lights. With luck, we find a seat just in time for the opening hymn. All of this, knowing that one of us will spend most of the time in the cry room with a toddler.
Can you relate?
It is worth stopping to ask why. Why go through this weekly hustle? Why come to Mass? I have a perfectly nice Bible, digital prayer apps and comfy pants at home. Would my presence at church really be missed?
The answer is yes. Yes, I would be missed. So would you. Yes, our presence matters, even if we are “only” sitting in the pews.
Last month, The Record featured a video series on the role of the assembly. The assembly is made up of you and me, the people in the pews. The purpose of these short clips is to explain why our presence at the Mass matters so much. They illustrate why praying in community is so vital to our Catholic faith, bringing us to Christ and each other in ways that private prayer simply cannot.
Take, for example, the Collect Prayer, sometimes called the Opening Prayer. This is the part near the beginning of Mass when the priest says, “Let us pray.” The ritual books call for a period of silence after those words. We in the assembly have a job to do during that brief silence. We are invited to offer our prayer intentions together with the priest. In this quiet moment, we become aware of being in God’s presence. We call to mind the things we want to thank God for or ask God for in prayer. We consider how we can respond to God’s grace in our lives.
For me, “Let us pray” is a time to catch my breath and get it together. It is a moment of unity with these other pilgrims to my right and left. I may not know them personally, but in that instant, we gather our prayers as one.
Our preparations for Mass should consist of more than finding the right outfit and arriving on time. We bring little pieces of ourselves, collect them together and make one unified offering to God.
Are you ready for this “Let us pray” moment? My family often uses the car ride to church for this preparation. Who needs our prayers today? Where do we especially need God’s help in our lives? A few simple conversations help us ready our minds for worship and focus our attention on what is most important.
I encourage you to watch, listen and learn about the Collect this week (www.archlou.org/work-people/). Amid the rush of getting to Mass, gather your thoughts and prayers, your praises and needs, so that they might be offered together with the assembly, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Dr. Karen Shadle is the director of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Worship.