When Jacob and I visited his family in Washington for a week recently, they took me to Goodwill. Goodwill trips are always a blast for me; a single trip to Goodwill is a journey, a hunt for hidden treasure. Sometimes, I am fortunate enough to find the treasure, sometimes, I leave without the treasure, but with knowledge that I tried my hardest. On this particular Goodwill trip, God helped me to find the treasure: a lovely, mint-condition hardcover copy of Meditations Before Mass, by Msgr. Romano Guardini, a great Catholic thinker and inspiration to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
I am reading sections of this book to grow in my love of God and reverence for the Sacred Liturgy. Seriously, going to Mass can make all of us saints easily, if we cooperate with God and fully participate prayerfully. Understandably, with young children, distractions, and busy lives, it can be extremely difficult to prayerfully focus at Mass. Still, all of the distractions in the world should not keep us--or them--from holiness. We must all continue to strive and seek deeper holiness with all that we have! (Msgr. Guardini's book came out of several talks that he would give to his congregation before Mass each week, to help deepen their devotion, which I find AWESOME!)
Here are sections from the first chapter of the book:
"Stillness is the tranquility of the inner life, the quiet at the depths of its hidden stream. It is a collected, total presence, a being all there, receptive, alert, ready.
Attentiveness--that is the clue to the stillness in question, the stillness before God.
What then is a church?...When we say that Holy Mass is celebrated "in church," we are including something more: the congregation...true congregation comes into being which, along with the building that is its architectural expression, forms the vital church in which the sacred act is accomplished. All this takes place only in stillness, out of stillness grows the real sanctuary...
If someone were to ask me what the liturgical life begins with, I should answer: with learning stillness."
~Msgr. Romano Guardini, "Meditations before Mass" Chapter 1.
Guardini provides some practical tips in achieving profound stillness, especially during the Mass:
1. Arrive to Mass early in order to genuinely prepare yourself for the Sacrifice.
""They [these minutes] are not a time for gazing or day-dreaming or for unnecessary thumbing of pages, but for inwardly collecting and calming ourselves." (so maybe put down that bulletin--I know it's a preferred pre-Mass activity, which I admittedly have done before, but really...we need to put it down)
2. Go even further, and prepare for Mass on the way to Church!
"It would be still better to begin on our way to church. After all, we are going to a sacred celebration. Why not let the way there be an exercise in composure, an overture for what is to come?
3. Prepare for Sunday Mass the day before!
"Liturgically, Saturday evening already belongs to the Sunday. If--for instance, after suitable reading--we were to collect ourselves for a brief period of composure, its effects the next day would be evident."
In our busy, noisy culture, we must shut our mouths and let God speak!
“Be still and know that I am God!" (Ps 46:11)