Ask a Carmelite: Getting More from Holy Mass

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Dear Sister,

I don’t get much out of Mass. Do you have any suggestions?

Dear Friend,

I suppose you have already heard a couple phrases that have become aphorisms on this ‘issue’:  “Don’t come to get – come to give” and “You will only get out what you are willing to put in”.  While it is true that fundamentally generous attitudes and intentions are necessary to dispose us to benefit from the graces of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, it is also true that the Celebration of the Eucharist was instituted to give us Someone – as well as allowing us to give (ourselves) to Someone.

As you are probably aware, the Mass is divided into 2 main parts: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In different ways, both of these are meant to feed the Christian. I am going to challenge you to prepare for and follow up your weekly Mass attendance in a way that will increase its “nutritional value” for you from both “the table of God’s Word and of Christ’s Body”. (Dei Verbum #21)

At one time the average man or woman had the opportunity to hear the Holy Scriptures only at Mass or another liturgical setting. The slower, quieter “pre-tech” world was no doubt an easier place to learn mental focus and patience. There simply weren’t a lot of voices to listen to. Remember when mom said, “Put that down, and don’t eat that now! You’re going to spoil your appetite!” Most of us are suffering from severely spoiled appetites, especially in regard to audio-visual stimulation.   #1: If you are serious about gaining or regaining your appetite for the table of God’s Word, cut out at least a large proportion of the audio-visual junk food in your life and environment, and replace it with gradually increased periods of silence and with quality spiritual reading, listening or watching. Some of the greatest and holiest minds to ever open a Bible are writing and speaking today – in very straightforward and intelligible ways – no special education necessary.

Some people do not absorb the nutrients they do take in because illness or disorders prevent them from doing so. We can be exposed to great graces and benefit relatively little if some disease or disorder of heart or soul is preventing us from being “absorbent”.  #2: If you are serious about making yourself truly disposed to receive the graces available to you in the Bread of Life, you should make – and continue to make on a regular basis – an honest examination of conscience and sacramental confession. Let’s make sure the spiritual system is adequate and healthy enough to actually utilize what it receives.

If all of this seems like a terribly big answer to a little tiny question, I think I would suspect sheer lack of appetite – spiritual appetite, that is. There is nothing to stimulate appetite and put nutrients into circulation doing what they were made to do, like exercise. No doubt it is common knowledge among Christians that we are meant to conduct ourselves charitably and justly as we go about our business in life.  #3: I am not sure how many of us realize how inadequate an attitude of “being nice and not doing bad things” is, in light of our real purpose: “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (Ephesians 2:10). How many of us would be comfortable describing our own day to day activities as those of “one created for good works as a way of life”?  That kind of life is going to require serious nutrition – and it will also stimulate significant hunger!

Last but not least, your immediate preparation for the meal – your own bearing at Mass. We are a tremendous unity of body and soul – each having real influence over the other.  #4: Attending a Liturgy that is celebrated reverently, and especially taking stock of your own interior and exterior reverence at Mass are often the simplest and most immediate remedy to apply to a malaise, and one that has immediate benefits for our fellow-worshipers as well!

Until next time,

Sister Benedicta Marie, O.C.D


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About the Author

Promoting a Deeper Spiritual Life Among Families through Healthcare, Education and Retreats

The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles strive to give striking witness as a vibrant, thriving community of dedicated women with an all-consuming mission. It is our God-given mission, a mission of the heart, a mission of loving service to the poor, the sick, the needy and the uneducated. Our loving service overflows from each sister’s profound life of prayer. We strive to reflect His life and hope and His promise to all that light has come into our world and darkness has not overcome it.

A look at the history of our community, with its motherhouse in Alhambra, California, reveals how its life-giving presence has come about. During the beginning decades of the 1900s just as the epic Mexican revolution was subsiding, a ruthless religious persecution was gaining momentum in Mexico. This horrible persecution accompanied the birth and humble beginnings of our community, a legacy that Mother Luisita, our foundress, and her two companions brought with them as religious refugees entering the Unites States in 1927.

Those seeds planted by Mother Luisita, now a candidate for sainthood, have taken deep root in the United States since those early days. People and places have changed throughout the years, yet the heart of our mission remains. As an autonomous religious institute since 1983 we continue to carry out our loving service in our healthcare facilities, retreat houses and schools which remain to this day centers of life and hope. Today we are moving forward together “Educating for Life with the Mind and Heart of Christ” in schools, being “At the Service of the Family for Life” through health and eldercare and “Fostering a Deeper Spiritual Life” through individual and group retreats. At the heart of our vocation is a passionate mission of loving service which facilitates our life-giving encounter with the living God.

The heritage of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles is rooted in the spirituality of Carmel, the Gospels, the Church, with our particular charism derived from our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

In His merciful goodness, God has graced our Institute with the Carmelite charism which has its roots in a long history and living tradition. The spirituality of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross is rooted in this tradition. Carmel means enclosed garden in which God Himself dwells. The divine indwelling in the soul is the foundation of Teresa's doctrine. Thus our vocation is a grace by which contemplation and action are blended to become an apostolic service to the Church.

Our ideal finds a living expression in the life and charism of our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament, whose spirit we faithfully preserve and foster.

Our life is characterized by: - A life of prayer and union with God - A deep love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist - Devotion to our Blessed Mother - Steadfast fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church - Praying for priests - Commitment to works of the apostolate in ecclesial service

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2 Comments

  1. Sr. Benedicta Marie, Excellent article, thank you. I do wonder though, why didn’t you add a 5th point? Couldn’t it be that full participation and therefore, benefits of celebrating the Mass lie in doing so as community?Outside the visible sharing of peace before communion,and the community responses, and prayers, we should intentionally all be bound together. As individuals we miss the point if we participate for and by ourselves.

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