Let's face it, keeping distractions at bay during Mass is a difficult task for just about everyone.
Interior disruptions abound. Humans seem to have an innate desire to plan ahead, and you’d be hard pressed to find people who have never once found themselves making a to-do list, wondering what they’ll have for lunch during mass, or worrying about how the upcoming work week will play out.
External distractions abound just as readily. We suddenly notice the brightness of the outfit of the person in front of us. We get a terrible tickle in our noses and try our best not to blow down the church with the inevitable sneeze. We unwillingly overhear the hard of hearing elderly or the young child loudly “whisper” to the person beside them.
It takes an almost heroic effort to prevent our minds (and senses) from wandering away from the most important thing happening in our world in that moment—Jesus Christ coming to us in the flesh in the Holy Eucharist.
But, even so, it is possible to limit at least some of our distractions at Mass with a little preparation. Check out these simple yet practical tips:
7 Ways to Curb Distractions at Mass:
1. Turn off the car radio on the way to Mass
One of the best ways to mentally prepare for Mass is to begin before you arrive. Start clearing out your distractions in advance by spending your drive time to the parish in silence. Turn off the car radio, shut off your phone, and leave any important conversations with other passengers for after Mass. Consciously start making your transition from secular to sacred.
2. Get to Mass at least ten minutes early
By clearing out your mind on the way to Mass and making room for silence, you have already taken steps to prepare yourself for prayer. Continue that preparation by spending at least a few minutes in quiet prayer before Mass begins. Bring to mind that you are now in the presence of God and that you are about to receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and thank Him for this gift of grace. More time is better, but a few minutes is better than none at all. This may take practice, but over time you can develop the habit.
3. Sit close to the front
Another good reason to get to Mass a bit early is to get a free seat in one of the front pews. If all that is in front of you is the altar, it is much easier to stay focused on what is happening there. You will also be less distracted by what is happening in the pews around you.
4. Fully Participate in the Mass
Mass is not an event for spectators. Participate! Say all the prayers and sing all the songs. If it helps, follow along with each part of the Mass using a Roman Missal. Where does this Sunday fall in the liturgical calendar? How is the Old Testament reading connected to the New Testament reading? How does the Responsorial Psalm connect both? If you are engaging in all of this, it is a rewarding occupation for the mind, and God will undoubtedly assist you to better grasp and understand His sacred truths.
5. Bring back those wandering thoughts
Mass is the place where heaven meets earth. Each time you are distracted, always bring your mind back to where you are, even if you have to do this 100 times from start to finish. As instructed by St. Francis de Sales:
"If the heart wanders or is distracted, bring it back to the point quite gently and replace it tenderly in its Master's presence. And even if you did nothing during the whole of your hour but bring your heart back and place it again in Our Lord's presence, though it went away every time you brought it back, your hour would be very well employed."
6. Intentionally add your intentions and sacrifices to the prayers of the Mass
Two things that you can bring with you to every Mass are the special intentions that you're praying for, and the personal sacrifices that you're uniting to Christ's one great sacrifice. Both come together as you "offer it up" at Mass. At the point before the Consecration when the priest says, "Pray brethren, that my sacrifice AND YOURS may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father," consciously think of what these things are for you.
7. Memorize the Anima Christi Prayer
The Anima Christi is a beautiful Communion prayer dating to the middle ages. Pray these words very slowly as a meditation to keep your mind focused on what Christ is doing in your soul after your reception of every Holy Communion. Do this enough times and you'll soon have it memorized.
Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O Good Jesus, hear me.
Within your wounds hide me.
Permit me not to be separated from you.
From the wicked foe, defend me.
At the hour of my death, call me
and bid me come to you
That with your saints I may praise you
For ever and ever. Amen.
What do you think of this list? Have you tried any of the suggestions? If you have other tips for curbing distractions during Mass, please share in the comments below!
*Parishes may reprint this article in part or in full, solely for use in parish bulletins and websites, with proper attribution. Please include the original article title, author, and a link to the original article at Parish Store (www.parishstore.com/blog/7-tips-to-help-you-stay-focused-during-mass/)
This article has been adapted from “9 Practical Tips to Help You Stay Focused at Mass” by Gretchen Filz, which was originally published at The Catholic Company Magazine blog in September of 2017. All rights reserved.