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By Sean O'Leary

During our synodal conversations, some of us raised concerns about loved ones who no longer attend Mass regularly or see any real need to do so. This is a sensitive topic because there is no easy or straightforward solution to such concerns. For Mass-goers, it seems obvious that we want to experience the joyful beauty of the liturgy, the wisdom of Scripture, the sense of community that grows from gathering as well as the grace of the Eucharist.

In today’s world, there are some who may have been hurt by their experiences of Catholicism, some who may have doubts about God, some who disagree with cultural interpretations of Church teachings or specific teachings themselves, some who may have simply fallen out of the practice of going to Mass and some who may be influenced by the promise of a progressive secularism.

In personal situations, the first step is always to listen to try to understand the other’s perspectives and feelings. This is not about argument or judgement or imposing one’s own beliefs on another. Rather, it is about sharing a sense of conversation and well-being. At a much deeper level, it is about love. It is best to ask questions that help the person to give voice to whatever it is that concerns them.

Another important part of such conversations is to be able to share our own personal testimony and experience of the liturgy. We can do this by answering questions, such as: How does participating at Mass give me strength and hope? How does it bring me closer to the Church and to God? How did it change my life? There are some good examples from Scripture (e.g. the prodigal son) and from the lives of the Saints (e.g. St. Teresa of Calcutta) to help us answer such questions.

The true beauty of Church teaching lies in its explanation of the significance and meaning of the Eucharist, a spiritual treasure that we can never exhaust. This is the sacrament of our innermost union with God instituted by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper that makes present Christ’s total sacrifice of himself for us. We unite with Christ in his suffering and resurrection at the altar of our local Church. We offer everything we are for the good of all humankind in the Eucharist through, with and in Christ. There is no other experience in the world that so beautifully brings together the mysticism of heaven and earth. To encounter our Lord Jesus is to be transformed by his love and peace.

Asking people to attend Mass with you, speak with a priest or catechist, participate in charitable activities and/or attend a retreat is a good way to share the joy of the Gospels. This helps us all to learn more about the tradition of gathering to hear the Word of God, the importance of witness and the joy at the heart of a Christian gathering. Nobody can be forced to attend Mass or accept God’s grace. We do not impose; we simply propose and leave God to do the rest.

The most important point is to keep loving the people in our lives and praying for them unconditionally whether they attend Mass or not. There are many ways that we can show that we care for them, support them, and value them. We can be patient, gentle, kind and loving. We can also be faithful, humble, prayerful, and joyful. This is the path that strengthens us for the mission of dialogue and communion between those we love and God.

God’s love for us is the most wonderful reality that we can ever experience. It is the source of our life and happiness and the reason for our hope and faith. When we open our hearts to the truth of God’s love, we experience Mass as a blessing and a joy.

It is blessing to belong to a community that celebrates the deep wonder of Christmas and the aching beauty of Easter. It is a blessing to journey together along a path that illuminates true freedom. It is a blessing to lift our souls towards divine union with God. It is pure joy to participate in sacraments that draw us closer to God’s boundless and unending community life.

May our hearts remain open to our heavenly Father, to his Son Jesus Christ and to the Holy Spirt who empowers us. And may each one of us be truly called, together with Jesus, to be bread broken for the life of the world.


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