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Connecting with Christ and the Church at Mass

Andy Bernard, fictional paper salesman at Dunder Mifflin in Scranton, Pa., once wisely opined: “I’m not insightful enough to be a movie critic. Maybe I could be a food critic — ‘these muffins are bad.’ Or an art critic — ‘that painting is bad.’ ”
Everyone’s a critic, as Andy from “The Office” illustrates. Granted, most critiques and reviews elaborate a little more than “good” or “bad.” Whether it’s thumbs, stars, or tomatoes, our culture is saturated with evaluations on everything from movies and restaurants to doctors and schools.
Before I yelp any further, let me add that I do not aim to critique the critics. In an age when it’s becoming more difficult to be fair and balanced, the objective work of a critic is challenging. Everyone’s a critic and everyone has an opinion.
Recently, though, I’ve caught myself evaluating more than experiencing or engaging. In other words, I’m looking for the avenues to critique or to offer feedback, and not simply experiencing the present moment or engaging in that particular task.
It’s happened to me at restaurants — the waiter leaving the straw wrapper on the table distracted me from good conversation. It’s happened to me at movies — so caught up in looking for the Easter eggs or actors’ performances kept me preoccupied from actually enjoying the movie-going experience.
Unfortunately, it’s also happened to me at Mass. There have been times when I have felt that I have evaluated, not experienced or engaged, the liturgy. I suspect, though, that I may not be alone in this, as I have heard from teens and young adults over the years both positive and negative feedback on retreats, conferences and so on.
Some will say, “The Mass is boring! The music was terrible, the homily was too long and the church was too cold.” Our time of prayer and worship at Mass is a sacred act, a thin space between heaven and earth; Mass is not going to the movies or eating out at a restaurant. We actively participate in the liturgy, engaging our hearts and minds. The Mass is not the time and place for entertainment.
The Vatican II document on the sacred liturgy, “Sacrosanctum Concilium,” comments, “In the liturgy the sanctification of the man is signified by signs perceptible to the senses, and is effected in a way which corresponds with each of these signs; in the liturgy the whole public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and His members.”
Grace is poured out on each of us in the liturgy, and as St. Paul reminds us, God’s grace is sufficient and in our weakness, we are made strong. Young people often struggle connecting with Christ and the Church at Mass because as digital native or “screenager,” they anticipate stimulation and entertainment. Worship engages, not entertains.
Many young people encounter Christ and seek a deeper relationship with Him. Yet, if these encounters happen on a mountaintop experience like a large youth conference, there can often be a disconnect to Mass in the valleys of Catholic schools and parishes. We as Church have an opportunity and obligation to show, to teach, to live the good, true and beautiful of our faith expressed in the liturgy. Do we live our lives animated by God’s grace? Do we act in such a way that strangers on the street know we are Catholic Christian people madly in love with the Lord?
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, a great young saint and whose feast we celebrated on July 4, said, “When you are totally consumed by the Eucharistic fire, then you will be able more consciously to thank God, who has called you to become part of His family. Then you will enjoy the peace that those who are happy in this world have never experienced, because true happiness, oh young people, does not consist in the pleasures of this world, or in earthly things, but in peace of conscience, which we only have if we are pure of heart and mind.”
I am not a food critic, an art critic or a liturgy critic. I am a child of God who loves me unconditionally and whose grace is unearned. Let us pray that we have the courage to fully, consciously and actively participate in the life of the Church. When we enjoy the heavenly banquet, it will be an experience worth more than two thumbs up.
— Adam Ganucheau is the Director of the Office of Youth Ministry for the Archdiocese of Mobile. He may be emailed at aganucheau@mobarch.org
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