Q. I realize that the Mass is supposed to be the prayer of a community and not individual or private prayer time. That being said, is it wrong for me to also try and personally enter into prayer during Mass? How can I do that if I find some of the gestures or styles of prayer of the people around me to be very distracting?
A. The principle end of the Holy Mass is the worship of God and the re-presentation of Jesus’ sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins and our sanctification. It is important that we always keep that in mind. This reality is not meant to be to the detriment of other accomplishments of the Mass, for instance, the opportunity of the Mystical Body of Christ (you and me) to gather in prayer. Without a doubt, this is meant to be a communal experience. However, we must defend the Holy Mass from becoming nothing more than a friendly sharing circle. Mass is about God, not us – it’s not about our feelings or our contributions. In fact, what makes it possible for us to come together in unity is the very fact that we share in the Eucharist. It is for this reason that those who, by their state of life, are outside of the Catholic Church, cannot partake of Holy Communion.
Our focus during Mass should be on directing our souls toward our Lord, who comes to us in the sacrament, and, thanksgiving for all He does for us in unison with our gathered sisters and brothers. When we try extra hard to demonstrate this unity by holding hands, greeting every person we can possibly reach at the sign of peace, or visiting with one another the very instant the priest has left, we do great harm to a proper appreciation of Who the Mass is about. The faithful should never feel discouraged from keeping their eyes closed, their hands reverently folded, or desiring to pray in silence before and after the Mass. If we become frustrated by everything else that is going on around us, we ourselves have also turned the focus away from God and toward others. Before each Mass, we should pray to our guardian angel to help us be focused throughout the incredible celebration of the Mystery of Faith.