People are generally surprised when I admit to them that I often struggle to pay attention during Mass. And I guess I understand why, even if their logic is faulty. It just seems counter-intuitive. I’m a Director of Religious Education. I graduated with my Bachelor’s and Master’s in Theology. If anyone should be able to pay attention for the entirety of Mass, it should be me, right? Think again.
Anyone who knows me knows that I have a short attention span. I’m not the type of person who needs to get up and walk around, or can’t stay focused on a task for more than ten minutes- I can read or write for hours without difficulty. Most people wouldn’t even realize that I’ve stopped paying attention. The change in my face might be imperceptible, but that doesn’t mean I’m not already miles away.
My ideal homily is short and to the point. There are some priests who can keep my attention for more than five minutes, but they are far and few between. Even a really good homily might not stand the test of my poor attention span if it lasts for more than ten minutes. Don’t get me wrong- when I lose focus, I always try to bring my mind back to the topic at hand. I don’t just let my mind wander. I do not blame priests for failing to keep my attention. It is not the fault of the priest. It is a fault in me.
And it’s a fault that I am fully aware of, and it has caused me grief on more than one occasion. Take marriage prep for instance. Andrew wanted to do the long Eucharistic Prayer because he believed it to be the most beautiful. I wanted to do the shortest not because it is beautiful (it is), but because it is short. I was afraid that I would lose focus and the entire congregation would witness the severity of my short attention span. I was afraid that I would embarrass myself, and by proxy, Andrew.
In the end, it didn’t matter because something incredible happened during our Nuptial Mass. I don’t know if it was the sacramental graces of Holy Matrimony already flowing, or some other unidentified divine help, but I have never focused so well during Mass in my life.
Normally during significant Masses- First Communions, Confirmations, etc.- I am too wound up to focus properly. I’m not even the center of attention, and I’m still too stressed about everything to pray properly. I assumed that my Nuptial Mass would be a thousand times more stressful. I would not be in the background, making sure everything ran smoothly. I would be the center of attention, and if I did anything wrong, everyone would see. I would not be tucked into a corner pew, hidden from view. I would be sitting directly in front of the altar, before the eyes of all gathered. Knowing all that, I assumed that I would be a basket case throughout the entire liturgy. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
My Nuptial Mass was by far the best Mass of my life. And not because Andrew and I got married during it. Not because I was dressed in a beautiful white ball gown. Not because I was surrounded by friends and family who I loved. It was the best Mass of my life because I have never felt so present during a Eucharistic celebration. I have never felt so attuned to the goings-on of the Mass before. I have never prayed and focused so well. I’m not sure anything will ever be able to compare to that day.
Even though I was the center of attention- something I absolutely hate- I completely forgot about my fears. For most of the Mass, it felt like it was just me, Andrew, our Best Man and Matron of Honor, and the priests. They were the only people in my line of vision. No distractions. Nothing to pull my attention from the altar. It was an amazing feeling.
To be completely honest, I haven’t experienced such a feeling since that day. I was not able to focus so well the following morning during Sunday Mass, especially with the added babies and the morning-after excitement. The change was not permanent. But it was real. Even if it was only temporary, it was still the best gift that God could have given me on my wedding day (besides Andrew of course). He gave me the ability to focus, to really enter into the Mass. It’s a memory that I will cherish, just as I will cherish every other moment of that wonderful day. It’s just another reason why Andrew and my wedding day will continue to be the best day of my life so far. But I also know that there are many more wonderful days ahead, and Andrew and I will eagerly await them together. As husband and wife. As bride and groom. I could not be more blessed.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!