A few weeks back I found myself at Sunday mass without my wife and four kids. It worked out better for the family that we go at different Mass times. It was a rare treat to be in the pew without the distraction of kids and I was ready to enter into deep prayer. But that’s not how things worked out.
I ended up distracted by other things.I noticed that the choir was at times out of tune. I saw that the congregation had a glazed look of disinterest during the priest’s homily. I began to think about how the choir and the priest might do things different. Things could be going better. The choir could pick easier songs to sing. Or they could select songs that the congregation is more familiar with. The priest could share a more relevant story or liven things up in the way that he preaches.
These thoughts began to distract me from what was most important. Stop! I told myself. Stop criticizing and be thankful for their willingness to serve our church community. I tried to refocus myself on the Mass and on prayer, but the distractions continued.
I wondered if I could be critical and still be appreciative of the priest’s and choir’s service. Ironically, my answer came through another distraction. I remembered the end of this year’s Super Bowl game.
What happened at the end of the game caused a lot of talk amongst sports fans. Everyone had their opinion of what happened and what should have happened. Sports fans are never short of opinions. When a team wins, fans praise the players. When the team loses, fans are just as quick to criticize. Professional athletes receive both the praise and criticism. The best athletes learn to use it as motivation to get better.
How does this example connect to distraction at Mass? A good friend of mine, who happens to be a priest, told me that he rarely gets good, constructive feedback on his homilies. He thinks people are afraid to hurt his feelings with their criticism. But it’s the honest criticism that he’s looking for because he desires to improve . Like my friend, I believe that good constructive criticism, presented with charity and the right intention, can help priests preach more effectively and choirs sing more beautifully. In fact, all aspects of our church community could benefit from a little feedback!
So now our challenge is to find ways to give constructive criticism in a charitable way, which isn’t easy. Being silent will lead to the same distracting results. How will we be able to help our priests preach more effectively and our choirs sing more beautifully?
Rarely does distraction during Mass pay off, but I think in this case I might have found a silver lining.