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Musical Musings: Liturgy

Give 'Sheer Faith' a Try during Sunday Mass

by Fr. Paul Schmidt

Part I: Dryness

Father Paul Schmidt has served as the priest personnel director for the Diocese of Oakland, California, and also as diocesan director of religious education and as pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Concord. He holds a master's of divinity degree from St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park and a master's degree in English from California State University, Hayward. He was a columnist for The Catholic Voice, the Oakland diocesan newspaper, for many years. Father Schmidt is author of the book Buried Treasures: A Guide to the Catechism of the Catholic Church

This article, which has appeared in The Voice (Oakland), is reprinted from The Catholic Herald, the newspaper for the Diocese of Sacramento, with the kind permission of Julie Sly, Editor.

One of the most common excuses one hears for not going to Mass is: "I don't get anything out of it." This is a favorite of children and teenagers. It is also often heard on the lips of adults.

There are reasons outside ourselves which make it difficult to "get anything" out of Mass. The Eucharist is designed as an adult experience. It often goes over the head of children and does not speak the language of youth. Various imperfections in the priest or other liturgical ministers can get in the way of adult prayer. But there are also obstacles within ourselves.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that "our battle has to confront what we experience as failure in prayer" (par. 2278). Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, and no matter how well the liturgical ministers carry out their ministries, we feel nothing.

The Catechism says: "Dryness belongs to contemplative prayer when the heart is separated from God, with no taste for thoughts, memories, and feelings, even spiritual ones" (par. 2731). Many have the same experience at liturgical prayer. St. Teresa of Avila tells of "getting nothing" at Mass for years. In her day, when most Masses were said silently by the priest in Latin, this was more an individual than a communal experience. Today, with the communal dimensions of the Eucharist fully expressed, people can still remain unmoved.

We do not need to try to fix blame for this fact. It may be no one's fault. It is simply dryness. This condition can be sporadic or it can last for a long time. Perhaps we can find someone--another or ourselves--to blame. The end result is the same: dryness. We fail to be able to pray--or to feel that we are praying.

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Part II: Sheer Faith 

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