There’s a lot going on at church and it can be distracting. I imagine that for priests, it takes all of the charity in them to have patience with those that come to church.
Think about it,
• People arrive late
• Phones go off
• No one sits in the front rows
• People read the bulletin during Mass
• People are chewing gum
• And the list goes on and on!
Notice that I didn’t add crying babies to the list- at least they have a good excuse for not paying attention to what’s happening while church is “in session”. The rest of us? Not so much.
From a prayer perspective, church is hard. We feel like we should be able to pray while we are at Mass. We probably want to pray but there are just so many distractions. It’s also hard to simply leave our busy lives at the door and then flip the switch into prayer mode.
As you can imagine, I do have some recommendations for how you can make your next visit to church more prayerful.
1. Leave your phone in the car. Unless it’s the dead of winter (or summer) and you deliver babies for a living, you can probably get away with leaving your phone in the car.
2. Check yourself before walking in the door. Take a breath. Remember that your life is about to take on new meaning. Pause.
3. Make a profound sign of the cross. Don’t rush through this ancient practice of the church. Make a slow sign of the cross.
4. Give yourself permission to close your eyes. Not while you’re walking! Rather, when you are kneeling or sitting in prayer, give yourself permission to listen, to pray and to be focused with your eyes closed.
5. Choose a spot that will minimize distractions. This will, of course, depend on your church. One church I visit has a terrible spot right by the air conditioning floor vents while another is too close to the choir. Find a spot that works for you.
6. At the sign of peace, make someone’s day with a smile. Don’t rush through this moment... make a brief connection through your joyful smile.
7. Listen with eagerness to the readings. Really enter into this moment and use the books in the pew if that is helpful.
8. As you are walking up for communion, develop a prayer mantra. Ask God to make you a better person. Tell Him how you feel about your relationship with Him.
9. After communion, enter into this moment. Close your eyes and just be with the Lord. This is sacred time.
10. 10 minutes after Mass, try to remember that you’ve just received the Lord in communion. I often forget that I’m supposed to live, in faith, as a changed man after I have received communion. Be mindful of this. Speak with charity. Express gratitude. Be patient with yourself and others.
What strategy would you add to this list? How do you minimize distractions at church?