On a recent Saturday morning my 11-year-old son said, “Dad, I’m bored. What are we going to do for fun today?” Like many kids in our age of digital innovation, my youngest son was looking for something new and exciting. Not a bad thing in itself, but his question got me thinking: Do we adults also crave excessive change and entertainment in our lives, and does this desire spill over into how we view our Catholic faith?
I often hear complaints that the “Mass is boring,” “the priest is difficult to understand,” or “he didn’t wow us with an exciting homily.” Still more complaints center on the lack of exciting music during Mass, the “inconvenience” of having to go weekly as well as on Holy Days of Obligation, or a local Protestant church that has better music and entertaining preachers.
With these and other complaints, I wonder if we suffer from spiritual ADD – Attention Deficit Disorder. Many studies cite kids’ overstimulation from video games as a contributor to the problem, yet we adults also struggle with our own addiction to smart phones and information overload from computers and TV. Does this problem affect our spiritual lives? Do we go from parish to parish looking for some sort of “Catholic buzz”? Do we flirt with heresy by attending non-Catholic churches? Are our brains, craving stimulation, incapable of finding peace?
Yet we need to tune out the “noise” to achieve the quiet and focus required at Mass.
Do you ever notice that a church before Mass often resembles a movie theater prior to the promos, with noise and chit-chat filling the building right up to the beginning of Mass? Where is the reverence? The respect? The humility? Time spent preparing to enter into the mysteries? We are about to receive Holy Communion, the body and blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we sometimes treat this sacred time like a family reunion instead of a holy celebration. Maybe one of the reasons people feel bored with the Mass is that they have forgotten the center of the Mass, Jesus Christ in the eucharistic sacrifice. Jesus is the reason we are there.
If we are in the “complainer camp,” how can we change course? A thorough and honest examination of conscience provides an excellent way to identify our sinful behavior before having those sins forgiven by a priest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. With more self-awareness and a contrite heart, it is only logical that we can then focus on what is really important about the Mass and better understand the critical role the Church plays in our lives. We can’t be bored if we are sincerely seeking God.
Boredom is a side effect of our fast-paced, materialistic culture. We feel bored because we are constantly being over-stimulated and sold on the idea that we can have it all now and that something better is always around the corner. Yet if we are sincerely seeking Christ, we will find him through the Church he founded.
The world offers celebrities to idolize – the Church offers saints to follow.
The world offers noise – the Church offers Peace.
The world offers false dreams – the Church offers the Truth.
The world celebrates vice – the Church calls us to virtue.
The world offers earthly pleasures – the Church offers heaven eternally.
How do we change? To sum up, here are the key points you have read, summarized into “6 Steps to Cure Catholic Boredom”:
1) We have to turn off at least some of the noise. Our spiritual ADD is fed by our addiction to too much input from various sources. Don’t listen to the radio in the car. Eliminate most, if not all, TV time. Read more books. Get outside more often. Find time for quiet reflection and prayer every day.
2) Show more respect for our priests and quit looking to them for entertainment. They are not here to make Mass “exciting.” We are at Mass to offer worship and receive the Eucharist; not to hear an emotional homily or loud music.
3) Remember the Mass is about the Eucharist. Have we prayed to be worthy to receive Jesus? Have we thanked God for this gift? Have we prayed to let others see Christ in us? Reverence, gratitude, humility, worship, these are the key words to remember about the Mass.
4) Go to Confession as often as possible. Do a thorough and honest examination of conscience. Where have we fallen short? Confess these sins to a priest and be forgiven. We will be less critical and eliminate boredom if we are acutely aware of our thinking and behaviors that lead to these avoidable sins.
5) Get involved and make a difference. Sitting on the outside and complaining is boring. Why not join a parish ministry and contribute time and talent in a more productive way?
6) Quit trying to please both the world and God. “You cannot please both God and the world at the same time. They are utterly opposed to each other in their thoughts, their desires, and their actions,” said St. John Vianney.
Feeling bored about our Catholic faith is subtle and dangerous – it sort of creeps up on you. When we are bored we tend to be critical and seek more excitement. This is the wrong path. The world offers us false gods and tries to paint a negative picture of Catholicism. We have to fight through these lies. Perceived boredom may lead some to leave the Church for other faiths. They are drawn to the excitement and buzz, but will learn in time that they had everything they needed in the Church Jesus founded.
Let’s reflect on how we feel right now about the Mass, priests, Church, etc. If we feel bored or critical, let’s follow a clear road map to bring us back from this dangerous territory. We have so much to be thankful for as Catholics if we will only take the time to appreciate it. The choice is ours, and I humbly pray that we will make the right one.
Randy Hain, Senior Editor and co-founder of The Integrated Catholic Life™, is the author of three books by Liguori Press: The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work, Along the Way: Lessons for an Authentic Journey of Faith and Something More: A Professional’s Pursuit of a Meaningful Life.