…is a complaint we too often hear.

But why is that and what’s to be done about it? Part of the problem is that we live in a high energy entertainment culture. People go and sit down together and they shift into an audience/consumer mindset. Subconsciously it’s like they have settled down to watch TV, attend a sports event or go to a movie. They want to be stimulated and entertained. Their involvement level is very low.

Worship is a different dynamic and many people don’t know what to do so they’re bored.

It’s been put in a different way in a good question from a reader:

What are we, the faithful (read: not clergy) supposed to do during the Mass? I understand that the post-Vatican II era severely mis-understood what Vatican II was all about and tried to tell us that to participate in the mass we had be involved in a ministry or three. The reading ministry, singing ministry, greeting ministry, gift-bearing ministry, altar serving ministry, dancing ministry, extraordinary Eucharistic ministry, you name it. I’m pretty sure that’s not what was meant. And regardless, what is an average lay faithful man (or woman) supposed to do during the mass?…

…I understand that we are supposed to have a prayerful attitude. And that we should listen to the readings and the homily, to learn what we can. And of course we should focus on the consecration when it happens. But I seem to remember being told something about bringing up one’s struggles or sorrows or something when receiving communion. As a layman, I know I am supposed to prepare myself before receiving the body and blood, but apart from not thinking on how fast I can get back home to watch my sports team, I’m at a loss as to what I am supposed to be preparing for. Receiving Jesus into myself obviously, but what does that mean in real life? I guess what I’m searching for is some kind of concrete, step-by-step explanation on what I am supposed to do. Something low on poetic language and high on basic, everyday language instructions. Or at least guidelines. Obviously one is often distracted, but it would be good to learn what I should be trying to do.

My problem with Catholic literature, online or offline, is that (to my view anyway) everyone is always writing in very beautiful, poetic metaphors how great the mass is, and how we should be so happy to be there (all very true of course, and I do enjoy such treatises) but so very rarely on what one does while there.Just what am I supposed to do while I’m there? Primarily, what am I supposed to in conjunction with receiving communion? I know Vatican II emphasised the laity’s need to participate, but what does that entail? Any knowledge you have on the matter would be most appreciated

First of all, you’re right. The documents of the Second Vatican Council called for “full participation” in the Mass and many people  assumed that “full participation” meant “everybody has to do something.”  Sancrosanctum Concilium teaches,

Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else; for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit; and therefore pastors of souls must zealously strive to achieve it, by means of the necessary instruction, in all their pastoral work. (SC 14)

With zeal and patience, pastors of souls must promote the liturgical instruction of the faithful, and also their active participation in the liturgy both internally and externally, taking into account their age and condition, their way of life, and standard of religious culture. By so doing, pastors will be fulfilling one of the chief duties of a faithful dispenser of the mysteries of God; and in this matter they must lead their flock not only in word but also by example. (SC 19)

This certainly means that there should be a proper level of involvement of the lay faithful in appropriate roles as altar servers, lectors, ushers, extraordinary ministers of holy communion, music ministers etc. It also mean that the lay faithful should come prepared properly for Mass. This means arriving ten or fifteen minutes before Mass starts–not ten or fifteen minutes after it starts. The lay faithful should join in with the words of the liturgy and join in singing the hymns–engaging their hearts and minds.

When you compare the Catholic liturgy to most Protestant churches–Catholics are far more involved and participate far more than other Christian groups who pretty much just sit there, sing a few hymns and listen to long sermons.

However, I think part of the question posed by the reader reveals an underlying misunderstanding of what Mass if for. Read More