On leaving Mass early…

leaving early


I think I’ve heard all the excuses. “I don’t want to stand in line, I want to get out of the parking lot first, I want to get a seat at the restaurant (really), I have other things I have to do, I don’t sing, I don’t like the last song, I, I, I….” My personal favorite: “I already got Jesus, so why do I need to stick around?” (Sure, but you might have missed the point…)

Maybe we’ve all offered one of these excuses at some point. There are so many reasons this is wrong, but first let’s look on the bright side. Here are 5 reasons for staying until the end of the Mass:

1)   Show Jesus how important he is to you. You just received Holy Communion. You’ve received Jesus’ entire life, death and resurrection for the salvation of the world. Spend a couple minutes thanking him for this incredible gift he suffered for you. Show him this is the most important part of your day and week. He hung on the cross for 3 hours, you can wait with him for 3 minutes.

2) You have just been united in Christ with the entire Church, here on earth, in purgatory and in heaven by participating in this Sacrament. Yes, the Eucharist is a Sacrament every time. Show your unity and respect to the members of the Church that have gone before you.

3) You have united yourself in Christ with your parish community. To leave before everyone else is a sign of your disunity with your community. Even our responses to prayer and the dismissal are signs of our unity. Unite yourself with your community.

4) We pray together.  The prayers at the end of Mass are great. Don’t believe me? The entire Mass is based on Sacred Scripture, up to the very end. The words of Scripture, the words of Mass are sacramental, that is, they make present the reality of Christ. Why would you walk out on the Word of God?

5) We sing together. The hymn can be a prayer, if your parish sings a thanksgiving hymn after communion or a recessional hymn. If you skip out when there is half a verse left, or just before the hymn, you miss praying together with one voice. If you don’t sing or don’t think you know the song, look at it at least. Pray the words. Unite your heart to the prayer of the whole Church.

There are a million more reasons I could give you. Remember who the very first person to leave Mass early was…there is a reason they call this the “Judas shuffle.”

If you’re confused about whether it is a sin or not: no, it is not seriously sinful, but it is extremely disrespectful, even more so if it is habitual. Are you only concerned about the bare minimum?

Besides, if you cut out early, you’ll miss important things happening in the parish community, and also the goodies when we have them after Mass…


The Path to Heaven

Ghent altarpieceIn my last entry, I briefly described purgatory.  Here is a quick review: It is a purification on the way to heaven, if we are not prepared to go immediately to heaven.  This is due to the effects of sin throughout our lifetime.  As long as we are not in the state of mortal sin (so go to confession) when our time on this earth comes to an end, we either go straight to heaven, or spend a bit of time getting ready for heaven, being conformed more to Christ to be truly prepared to enter the kingdom.  It is said that the souls in purgatory sing the Gloria, because they know for sure they will be united with God in heaven someday. (So, again, go to confession!!!)

So…what is heaven like?  I mean, we all want to go there, don’t we?

Often, people believe heaven to be like one big party, with everyone doing their own self-expressive dance and having a great time doing whatever they want.  Sorry to tell you, that’s not what heaven is like!  Heaven is not chaos, with everyone doing whatever they feel like!  Heaven is the ordered praise of God, all creation united as one in a song of joy.

The Catechism teaches: “Those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ.” (CCC 1023).  It continues, “This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity – this communion of like and love with Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed – is called ‘heaven’.  Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness.” (1024)

This perfect state is often described in Scripture as the heavenly banquet, the wedding feast, the heavenly Jerusalem.  When we participate in the Sacraments, especially the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, it is said that the veil between heaven and earth is lifted and we catch a brief glimpse of heaven.  The manner of our participation will affect how closely we can represent the heavenly banquet, and therefore how clearly the symbols speak – remember that to be truly symbolic, sacramental, means to make present invisible heavenly realities.

Here are a couple of questions (courtesy an exercise one of my professors often does in presentations) to reflect on what heaven is like:

Is heaven radiant or dull?  Light or dark?  Living or dead?  Earthly or detached from earthly things?  “Modern” or transcending beyond all ages?  Empty or populated?  (With whom?) Is heaven ordered or chaotic?

Purgatory and Indulgences

purgatoryWhat on earth are indulgences?? And does purgatory STILL exist??

This topic came up for me recently during the sede vacante period. In preparing a special Holy Hour for the Pope, I was asked if the papal intentions persist (yes), and if so, if you may still gain an indulgence under the usual conditions (yes). I thought to myself how awesome it was that someone was thinking about this!

Really, though, I do not think many Catholics today have any idea about indulgences. Among the things I have heard are: “oh Vatican 2 did away with that” or “the Church used to sell those but not anymore”.

“An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven…” (Catechism 1471)

This means it is taking away the punishment that we might have after death due to sins we committed in our lives.  I do not mean hell (that is a different topic), I mean purgatory.  Purgatory is  basically the state after death of a soul that will eventually go to heaven, but must be purified first (and that purification is not easy or pleasant).

Sin has consequences.  We may think, well, I confessed my sin, that’s it.  The consequences of sin are twofold: first,  grave sin deprives us of communion with God and makes us incapable of eternal life (damnation), and second, all sin involves an unhealthy attachment that must be purified to free us from the “temporal punishment of sin”(purgatory).  We can overcome the first consequence easily: go to confession.  The second consequence is overcome by conforming ourselves more to Christ, by works of mercy and charity, as well as by works of prayer and penance.

Think of it like this: you were playing ball, and you broke your neighbors’ window (maybe just through carelessness), and it is your fault.  You go and ask your neighbor for forgiveness, and they are really nice and forgiving type of people, so they say, you know what, it’s okay, thanks for saying you are sorry.  So you are forgiven!  But you still have to pay for the window.

“Indulgences” through works of prayer basically involve a whole-hearted prayer stipulated by the Church, and you usually must have gone to confession and received the Eucharist in a state of grace in a short period of time before or after.  Indulgences may be partial (some amount of time) or plenary (this gets rid of all your time in purgatory).  One might think this is not needed, but I’m pretty sure most of us want to get to heaven as quickly as possible.  This prayer may be applied to yourself, or it may be applied to anyone who has died.

There are plenty of souls in purgatory that do not have someone to pray for them… and they could get to heaven sooner if you helped them!  Do you include them in your prayers?  I sure hope that people pray for me when I die.


As a note: This is just a quick primer on purgatory and indulgences. I’d encourage everyone to find out some of the opportunities for indulgences. Here is a great one on the official Year of Faith website: http://www.annusfidei.va/content/novaevangelizatio/en/annus-fidei/indulgentia.html. Check it out!