“The issue is now quite clear. It is between light and darkness and every one must choose his side.” G. K. Chesterton

Sunday, July 15, 2012

“Give us this day our daily bread”: Reasons for Daily Mass

Over the last few weeks, Susan and I have been attending 6:30 am Daily Mass at a church near us.  We’ve both benefited from adopting the discipline, and can recommend it highly.  The practice of attending daily mass has revitalized my personal spiritual life and has given it focus—the reception of my Lord in the Eucharist, “the source and summit of the Christian Life”.  If you do not currently attend mass daily—or at least at times other than the Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation required by the Church—here are several reasons for attending you may want to consider.

It is recommended by the Church and the great saints of the spiritual life.

The Catechism says the following:

The Church obliges the faithful to take part in the Divine Liturgy on Sundays and feast days and, prepared by the sacrament of Reconciliation, to receive the Eucharist at least once a year, if possible during the Easter season. But the Church strongly encourages the faithful to receive the holy Eucharist on Sundays and feast days, or more often still, even daily. (CCC, 1389).

Pope Pius X, in his Decree On Frequent and Daily Reception of Holy Communion,  wrote:

Frequent and daily Communion, as a practice most earnestly desired by Christ our Lord and by the Catholic Church, should be open to all the faithful, of whatever rank and condition of life; so that no one who is in the state of grace, and who approaches the Holy Table with a right and devout intention (recta piaque mente) can be prohibited there from.

Pope Paul VI also recommended daily mass:

It is desirable to have the faithful in large numbers take an active part in the sacrifice of the Mass each and every day and receive the nourishment of Holy Communion with a pure and holy mind and offer fitting thanks to Christ the Lord for such a great gift. They should remember these words: "The desire of Jesus Christ and of the Church to see all the faithful approach the sacred banquet each and every day is based on a wish to have them all united to God through the Sacrament and to have them draw from it the strength to master their passions, to wash away the lesser sins that are committed every day and to prevent the serious sins to which human frailty is subject." (Pope Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei, On the Holy Eucharist)

The great saints of the spiritual life, particularly of the last century, have recommended daily mass as a part of the Catholic’s spiritual life.  A prime example is St. Josemaria Escriva, the “Saint of Ordinary Life.”  Daily mass and reception of the Eucharist was an important part of his spirituality of everyday life.

Try to commit yourself to a plan of life and to keep to it: a few minutes of mental prayer, Holy Mass — daily, if you can manage it — and frequent Communion; regular recourse to the Holy Sacrament of Forgiveness — even though your conscience does not accuse you of mortal sin; visiting Jesus in the Tabernacle; praying and contemplating the mysteries of the Holy Rosary, and so many other marvelous devotions you know or can learn. (Friends of God, Number 149)

It will get your day started off right.

This is the most practical benefit I’ve found.  What I’ve found is that daily mass has really given me a since of purpose to my day.  Daily mass allows me to put first things first; rather than worrying about the mound of work waiting for me, or what’s going to happen that day, or wondering about this or that issue with the kids, I spend the first part of my morning with Jesus.  Receiving the body, blood, soul, and divinity of my savior first thing in the morning enables me to remain in the Lord’s presence all day.  When I do get to work, I am able to focus on the tasks before me and perform them in a way that brings glory to God.

St. Peter Julian Eymard summarized the practical benefit well:
 Hear Mass daily; it will prosper the whole day. All your duties will be performed the better for it, and your soul will be stronger to bear its daily cross. 
It is the best thing you can do to improve your spiritual life.

Like everyone, I fall into periodic ruts in my spiritual life.  I’ve done lots of things—daily rosaries, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, various versions of the Daily Office, lectio divina, just to name a few.  While I’ve benefited from each practice, I would eventually tire of one and then pick up another.  There seemed to be no connection between them.  I was always searching for the best daily spiritual practice; but every time I thought I found it, I’d find something else that seemed better.  

I had fallen into a trap that falls many Catholics in America—the individualism trap.  It’s a trap we’ve absorbed from our separated brethren in the Protestant communities; the belief that our individual spiritual growth depends on practices performed by us as individuals.  Evangelicals in particular, while they do place great importance on hearing the Word of God being preached, emphasize practices such as personal prayer and bible study—usually described by the term “quiet time”—as essential to growing spiritually.  While laudable practices and certainly important, they emphasis on the personal quiet time leads to the sense that Christians are spiritual Lone Rangers, able to rely on themselves alone for their spiritual growth. 

As Catholics, our emphasis should not be on our personal spiritual growth separate from others.  We need to remember that we are part of the Body of Christ; a body is made up of interdependent parts, each with different forms and functions but which together are essential for its function.  We are not a collection of individuals; we are one.  With this in mind, the focus of our spiritual growth should not be disciplines and practices engaged in as individuals, but the thing that draws us together—the Eucharist.  The primary spiritual practice we engage in should be the mass and the reception of the Eucharist.  All other prayers, all spiritual practices, all flow from the Eucharist, which is “the source and summit of our life.”

Since I have started attending daily mass, my entire spiritual life is better.  When I pray the rosary, I see it as continuing a connection with the Lord that is renewed every day.  When I read the scriptures, it’s preparing me to hear the word proclaimed in the mass or is an extension of what I’ve heard that morning.  When I say the Daily Office, it’s an extension liturgically of the mass.  These aren’t disconnected practices, but are all part of one spiritual life that has the mass as its center.

How to do it

Attending daily mass does require some planning.  Look at your schedule and figure out when would be the best time for you to attend.  There is probably a church near where you live or work that has a time that will fit your schedule.  The Church Susan and I attend has mass at 6:30 and 8:00; there is one nearer our house that has an 8:30 mass; and one near my office that has mass at 12:00 noon.  If you are not sure what is available, the website masstimes.org allows you to search the mass times for churches anywhere in the world; entering your zip code will give you a list of churches near you, from closest to furthest, with their mass times.  You should be able to find one near you.

But maybe you are a mother with small children and find the idea of wrestling them into a pew every day (when it wears you out once a week) daunting; or you are a shut-in who cannot get out every day; or your work schedule just will not permit you to attend mass.  What to do then?  Don’t worry—technology has come to your rescue.  The Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) broadcasts the Daily Mass every day at 8:00 am, 12:00 pm, and 7:30 pm; in addition, they broadcast it over the internet at EWTN.com, both live streaming video and audio for EWTN radio; or maybe you’re lucky enough to have a local Catholic radio station that carries the broadcast.  Attentively watching the mass and partaking of a spiritual communion, while not the same as the actual experience of receiving the Eucharist, can still provide the practical and spiritual benefits I’ve mentioned.

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