With the arrival of Lent, a practice that many would not normally consider can become more compelling: daily attendance at Mass.
“Lent offers us a chance to focus on our faithfulness, repent and reflect more deeply,” says Monsignor. Michael Heher, the pastor of St. Anne Church in Seal Beach. And, he says, one of the best opportunities to do this is by attending daily Mass.
Although many Catholics attend Mass on Sunday throughout the year, far fewer attend each day. But attending daily Mass during Lent offers worshipers a chance to take in special readings of the season while devoting time specifically for quiet prayer and reflection — one of the focal points of Lent.
It also can have the effect of forming a beneficial habit: attending daily Mass throughout the remainder of the year. Once a routine is established over the 40 days of Lent, it can be easier to continue after Easter.
Attendance at St. Anne Church in Seal Beach for the 9 a.m. daily Mass typically swells during Lent, attracting the faithful who prefer a Mass at a later hour than some other parishes, Monsignor Heher says.
Stepping away from daily concerns and carving time out of a busy schedule each day allows Catholics to grow spiritually and deepen their relationship with God, he adds.
“In our secular lives, we have so many distractions,” says Monsignor Heher. “Going to daily Mass offers a chance to start the day off spiritually. It grounds your day.
“The Easter season is the Church’s springtime. The readings of Lent nourish our spirit so we can continue growing.”
Christians make a personal commitment during Lent to improve themselves or take on penance, which comes in many forms – like avoiding eating meat on Fridays and giving up sweets and soda or other bad health habits. Some resolve to be more patient at home and in the workplace while others choose to donate their time to a charitable cause.
While the season is, in part, about giving something up, it is also about replacing it with something positive.
In his annual Lenten message, Pope Francis urged the faithful to overcome indifference this season by engaging in a “formation of the heart.”
“A merciful heart does not mean a weak heart,” Francis wrote. “Anyone who wishes to be merciful must have a strong and steadfast heart, closed to the tempter but open to God.”
Because reflection is central to Lenten practices, daily Mass is a chance to reinforce spiritual commitments.
“It’s important to go to Mass during Lent to receive the word of God and receive the strength and grace that comes from receiving the Eucharist,” Monsignor Heher says.
For Monsignor Heher, taking time each day to pray promotes a deeper understanding of his priorities and a greater commitment to prayer and reflection.
“Daily reflection during Lent keeps me focused on the things most important,” he says. “It reminds me of what I’m really about. Lent is a time to go back to basics. It reminds us that we don’t have to have bad habits our whole lives. We can change bad habits.”
Still, he acknowledges that attending daily Mass can be difficult for some. “The world,” he says, “is not designed for daily Mass.”
But there are alternatives for daily reflection and prayer. Opportunities could come in the form of a weekday commute, a wait at the doctor’s office or during a lunch break while at work. Daily services and readings are more accessible than ever and can be viewed on mobile devices through websites such as YouTube.
To establish a routine it’s important to find the same time each day to pray and reflect despite all the distractions that surround us, Monsignor Heher says.
“God doesn’t need a whole lot of time,” he says, “but he needs a lot of attention.”