These memories shared by young people will fill you with hope.
Just one verse each day.
Children have more profound experiences of Mass than you might realize.
That’s what I found out when I asked students in my Christianity and Mass Media class at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, about their younger selves.
I told them about how movies can “hijack” your imagination, because your mind believes what it sees implicitly, the phenomenon I wrote about here. But for some people, the liturgy is just as powerful.
I shared with them the words of Martin Scorsese, who remembers being overwhelmed by the sense of the sacred while serving Mass as a child. Leaving the church, he wondered “How can life just be going on? Why hasn’t anything changed?”
“Have you had that kind of experience?” I asked them. I was deeply moved by their answers and wanted to share them here.
One student wrote about the power of receiving First Communion and Confirmation.
“I distinctly remember on my First Communion day, at the age of 7, being completely overcome by the sense of the sacredness of the Mass and the Eucharist,” said a student from Wisconsin.
The Mass of Confirmation had the same effect. “I received beautiful graces to see the liturgy for what it was,” she said, and “I was so directly affected by the Holy Spirit.”
The Triduum powerfully impressed a student from California, especially when he served at altar.
“The first time I attended Easter Vigil was an awesome experience for me,” he said. “The darkness, the candles, the fire, the Exsultet …. Everything seemed very noble and much higher and important.”
Serving the Triduum “was also a transcendent experience for me,” he said. Everything had its intended effect: “The contrast between the ringing of the bells during the Gloria followed by the use of the wooden clapper during the consecration always made an impression on me of the transition from a great celebration of the first Mass to the betrayal of Christ. The emptying of the tabernacle, followed by a Eucharistic procession and an hour of adoration were also quite powerful.”
The Eucharist didn’t just change my students, it made them notice the needs of the world.
“I remember being little and coming out of the church, the world seemed a little bigger and a little more empty because Christ was dead,” said a student from Michigan. “I used to watch people driving by in their cars on the way home and think to myself: ‘Do they even know what day it is? Do they know that God died today?’”
“I still get the feeling of incredulity after the Good Friday services now,” she said.
Another student said that experience comes often after a Holy Hour. “I have felt after adoration while coming out of the church the sense like I am leaving the most sacred, holy place on earth where Jesus dwells in a world that has forgotten him.”
If you teach your children that Jesus is near in the Mass, they understand.
A student from Texas said a book her dad gave her as a child impressed her.
“It said, ‘If Jesus were preaching in your town, would you not do anything to be there?’ This realization stopped me in my tracks,” she said. “Why don’t more people realize that Christ is nearby every single day? We take Mass for granted.”
A student from Missouri experienced the same thing, but in a small chapel at a Mass organized for a friend’s mother who had passed away.
“Never had I felt so strongly the presence of Christ in the Eucharist and his immense love,” he said. “In the simplicity of this small, private Mass, I encountered the grandeur and splendor of Christ in the Eucharist.”
It all gave me such hope, I wanted to share it. And learn from it.
I take three lessons from it: First, we all need to see the Mass with the simplicity and acceptance of children.
Second, we shouldn’t short-change the expectations we have for our own children.
Third, we should see the world like thy do: a place that Christ fills with his presence, and with people who don’t yet know him. He’s counting on us to introduce him.