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  • Writer's pictureThe OCD Catholic

On going back to Mass

I went to my first Mass in three months a few days ago. Our diocese is still at half capacity in most places (a large portion of my diocese is densely populated), and because of that, we still have a dispensation from our Sunday Mass obligation in place. This wasn’t a Sunday Mass though, it was a Mass for the young adult group at my parish for the priest in charge of the young adults group. You see, he’s being reassigned.


So, on a random Thursday, the night before the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, I went to Mass. I’m going to be honest y’all. I had seen tweets and Instagram posts and all sorts of other things about how people went to Mass and cried because they were so overwhelmed with gratitude to be able to receive Jesus again. I wanted that experience, but did not think that it would happen for me. I didn’t think that it would be a “mountain top” experience (think story of the Transfiguration and Peter wants to stay on the mountain forever) that changes my life and my prayer and would be a milestone I would look back on forever. I thought I knew God. I don’t. Not as well as I thought.


I’m going to be honest; I was underwhelmed about going back to Mass. I was excited and happy, sure, but not bouncing off walls. I feel guilty about that. I don’t have to, but I do. I’m still in the mindset of “riding the dispensation” as long as possible. It’s not that I don’t love God. I don’t know how to explain it.


Anyway, I went into the church for Mass and picked a pew with my boyfriend to sit in. It was close to the front, but not front row. We sat there for a minute or two while we waited for Father to begin. And the peace of being in front of the Eucharist again… Not through a computer or phone screen. Not just driving by my parish as I run other errands. It was so good. Just so good. I used to visit my parish nightly for prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament before the pandemic hit. And sitting there last week, I knew I had to start doing that again.


I could rest in front of the Lord again. I felt like I could finally pray. I don’t pray well at home. I need to be in a church. It’s a bit of an OCD thing for me, but also just a small house, big family, limited space kind of thing.


Father began Mass and it was so nice. It wasn’t overwhelmingly joyful or anything like that, but it was nice. Seeing a priest in person, in a chasuble, did I mention IN PERSON, again was delightful. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the readings because I was pre-occupied with worrying about if I needed to go to Confession before receiving the Eucharist. Father preached the homily about the Gospel for the day and talked about how what we think of ourselves doesn’t matter, because we are children of God. Beloved children of God.


And then the Liturgy of the Eucharist began. I don’t remember a lot about the Mass that night, but I remember crying a bit because I was so happy to be back. I remembered a thought I had had a while back about how if God is Living in the Eucharist, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, then His Sacred Heart is beating in the Eucharist, and that that then meant that His Sacred Heart beat inside my body. Then I got to receive. I was nervous, and scrupulous, and nervous some more, but the grace that God gave me as I walked down that aisle felt like peace and normalcy. Not that receiving God in His Entirety is “normal”; it is beyond and above that, but it right, and like things normally do- back to normal. And that was a great grace in and of itself. I cried a little bit more after receiving for the first time, and Mass ended shortly after. I fidgeted a bit with a Divine Mercy coin a friend had given me to calm my anxieties a bit as that was happening, and my boyfriend and I left the church shortly after Mass ended to go to the little farewell reception that was happening.


As I walked out of the church to the parish hall, I remember thinking something along the lines of “Wow. God surprised me. He brought me joy, and a remarkable experience, but it wasn’t what I thought.”


You see, God is personal. You probably knew that. But He is. He’s not a “one-size-fits-all-God”. He is in the sense that He is The One and Only God, but in terms of how He loves us, that is custom-made. He knows what we need. He knows what our little hearts can handle. He knows that we are fragile and delicate and easily overwhelmed sometimes. So He makes adjustments accordingly.


God knew that day what I needed. He knew that a big episode of crying for hours and an intense emotional experience was not what I needed at that time. It would be too much for me. It would have overwhelmed me. He knew that I am in a rough place right now. And so He gave me what He knew I needed. Not what I thought I wanted or needed, but what I actually did. He met me on my level, as He always does, while at the same time bringing me up to His. That’s what God does.


I cannot overstate this. It makes for bad writing to repeat it so much, but I don’t care. The One and Only Living God knows what we need and meets us there, gives us whatever it is, and brings us up to meet Him. St. Therese uses the metaphor of an elevator. She was right.

So as you go back to Mass, wherever you are, keep that in mind. Don’t compare yourselves to others you see who are having these intense experiences of God in the Mass. That may or may not be what He knows you need.


A phrase that has been on my heart lately is the "extraordinary ordinary". And while I’m still playing with that in my mind and my prayer, I know that this idea is both what we are called to be as Catholics, and how God loves us most of the time- in the extraordinary ordinary ways. In the little things. In the things we simply open our eyes to see. We are loved.


And as Masses slowly begin to re-open, I encourage you to go. Let God surprise you and love you in the most loving thing He has given us- the Eucharist. It will be well worth any anxiety you may feel. I promise.


I am praying for you all.

St. Therese, pray for us.

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