Preparation for Mass and Thanksgiving after Mass
There has been an increasing problem in our parish of people arriving late to Mass and leaving
before Mass is over. While there can be exceptional reasons for such, it should by no means be
the norm. To help understand why we should arrive early and stay after, here are some
paragraphs from Bishop Wall’s apostolic exhortation Sacra Mysteria Venerari.
Anything that is worthwhile involves some degree of preparation. Sports fans know this:
not only does one have to purchase tickets, often well in advance, but he must also know the
details of the game and players if he is to enjoy the sport. This is to say nothing of those avid
fans that travel great distances to see their favorite team, and even arrive hours early so as to
throw a tailgate party.
Now, if this is true for mere sporting events, how much more is it true for participating in
the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ? We cannot simply wander in with no
preparation and expect to “get something out of Mass.” Venerable Fulton Sheen used to say
“Do you know the reason why you don’t get anything out of Mass? It is because you don’t bring
anything to it.” The question, then, is how do we prepare for Mass, and what do we bring in our
One way to prepare for Mass over time is to read some book that helps you to
understand what is happening. This can be a commentary on the Mass or the readings, some
devotional book, or an explanation of Catholic liturgy.
More immediately, preparation can be a simple and prayerful reading of the Mass texts
and readings for a given day, perhaps the night before. The old custom of having a personal
hand missal can be very helpful for this. The Daily Roman Missal from Midwest Theological
Forum, the Saint Joseph Weekday/Sunday Missal, and the Magnificat publication are all good
resources in this regard.
As we prepare we should ask the Lord for particular graces, either for ourselves of for
others, so that we have an intentionality in our liturgical prayer.
We must remember in this regard the required one-hour fast before receiving Holy
Communion. While one hour is not long, even such a small sacrifice of self-denial helps us to
prepare, both mentally and physically, to come into the Presence of God.
I would also urge everyone to arrive at Mass early, at least by fifteen minutes. When
we show up right as Mass begins, or worse, late, we show that God is not a priority in our lives,
and we have difficulty shrugging off the weight of the world as we try to enter into prayer.
Arriving early allows us time to calm down and pray with more piety, attention, and devotion.
Finally, preparation for Mass also necessarily includes regular confession, especially for
mortal sins. Confession is the primary sacramental way in which are souls are prepared to meet
the Lord. I recommend to all a monthly confession, if not more frequently.
Just as we should have a proper preparation for Mass, we would do well to foster proper
acts of thanksgiving afterwards. Consider for a moment the important events in life: birthdays,
weddings, anniversaries, etc. In each case, gifts are given as a sign of love for those celebrating
a special day. There is in these situations an unwritten and proper expectation that the person
receiving the gift express gratitude, either by word of mouth or by a written thank-you note. This
is simply part of having manners and virtue.
Again, if this applies for the important moments of our lives, why would it not apply to the
most important thing we can possibly do at Mass? God Himself is choosing to gift Himself to
us—there is no greater gift than Him. We ought, in justice, to thank Him for this. This can take
place after Mass, either by means of spontaneous personal prayers, particular devotions like the
Rosary, or specific prayers of Thanksgiving.
This of course means we should stay after Mass, for at least a few minutes, to pray
instead of rushing out at the first chance. If I may harken again to sports: some games last four
to five hours, and the fans willingly stay through the whole of it. Our Lord asks us today, just as
He did His disciples, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?” (Mt. 26:40). It is rare for Mass
to go longer than this on a Sunday, and even if it does, this is not wasted time. Keep that time
with Jesus, and let nothing rob you of that precious time with Him.