Reverent or Routine: the Case for Sacred Subtitles and 9 Resolutions

Sacred Subtitles for Mass

I’ve been going to Mass at least once a week for over 44 years. Even with the New Translation of 2011, the text of the Mass is pretty familiar…or is it?

old missalThe truth is, I don’t always hear the beautiful words of the Mass. It’s true I’m a little hearing impaired, but I think it’s quite possible for most of us to glaze over and not listen intently to the words of the priest. Heck, it seems like sometimes the priest can even glaze over a little bit and speed-read the prayers of the Mass, taking for granted the wisdom and the diligence of our Church to carefully choose these beautiful and meaningful words invoking the Holy Spirit, rounding up the Faithful and transubstantiating the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ out of mere bread and wine.

When was the last time you really listened to all the words of the Eucharistic prayer? Even our responses can be kind of rote. We can rattle off the Apostles Creed…the very collection of beliefs we should be able to stake our lives on….as flippantly as we respond “fine thanks, how are you?”

I don’t want to be negative or critical or judgmental…especially knowing how deeply and how quickly I fall short of virtuous or spiritually-disciplined. But I’d feel better if I had some practical tips to put in place to help me and my family participate more deliberately and consciously in Mass.

Sacred Subtitles

These aren’t flakey practical tips. These are resolutions to delve in deeper at Mass…starting with me and my family.

1. Read the readings before Mass. This has been made quite easy since I discovered

2. Take a missal and follow along, not just for the readings! I know that there are a bunch of Eucharistic Prayers and most priests don’t announce which one they’re going to use. I find…even if I bumble along trying to find the right one….the right words end up jumping out at me and help me focus.

I am the member of the family who insists on subtitles on even the most familiar family movies.  I just don’t want to miss a thing and why should that be any different at Mass? I know these words are familiar….but am I the only one who can focus better with the words right in front of me?

3. Study the Mass. This is a great place to start: Teaching the Mass – A Lenten Spiritual Journey Through The Mass

4. Ask questions later. If your kids know that you might ask what the homily …or the first reading or Gospel was about….they may just start to pay attention a little more.

5. Ask questions. Period. Ask a priest about the parts of the Mass, the significance of the gestures of the priest…or why we pray for our brothers and sisters twice, or how do the saints get picked to be in the regular Eucharistic Prayer and not just at the Easter Litany…

6. Read some of the Mass prayers, the words of the priest during your own prayer time. You’re not trying to celebrate your own Mass or anything but you might just grow in your appreciation for these beautiful prayers.

7. Go to a High Mass…bring on the incense!  Recognize that there is so much more happening than we understand and pray to at least be increasingly aware of that.

8. Yearn for greater reverence. Strive to give God the glory and reverence and awe that He deserves….as much as we can possibly be capable of giving Him.


9. Genuflect deliberately and reverently. Pray…as focussed as possible, as often as possible, seeking out Adoration wherever available.

If Jesus were sitting in a chair in front of the Tabernacle…how differently would we behave in church? How eager would we be to attend Mass? How excited and awestruck would we feel every opportunity we had to gaze at Him and feel His Gaze on us?


…with 2 for spare, linked up to 7 Quick Takes at This Ain’t the Lyceum


  1. Hi, I’ve read this post which was linked from your Mass Hack post and the link (in this post) to “Teaching the Mass – A Lenten Spiritual Journey Through The Mass” from is no longer active. You wouldn’t by chance have a copy of what was at that link?

  2. Je ne pouvait pas m’arreter de commenter.
    bien écrit!

  3. What a great set of recommendations! CatholicPhilly is doing a wonderful series of the prayers of the Mass for the Sundays of Lent, which I’m finding is sharpening my ear for the words.

  4. Jeanette Woodley says:

    Brilliant Monica! It’s just where I am right now…trying to be more reverent and observant during Mass and during prayer. Well done!

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