Combating boredom by embracing boredom at Catholic Mass
HUNTINGTON, Indiana, February 27, 2017 -- Timothy P. O’Malley, author and theology professor at Notre Dame, has heard the cries from thousands of his students, youth ministers, campus ministers and undergraduates: Catholic Mass is boring. He agrees that sometimes the Mass can be boring. And that’s not always a bad thing.
His new book, Bored Again Catholic: How the Mass Could Save Your Life (Our Sunday Visitor, 2017), shows readers how to embrace and experience a type of “good boredom” that will allow them to participate more fully in the Mass.
No one likes to be bored in our modern, fast-paced world. The need to be constantly occupied makes it difficult for Catholics to understand how to handle feelings of boredom during Mass. As a result, many Catholics seek out a more “entertaining” Sunday service. But, as O’Malley argues, some boredom is actually necessary.
“Within the Catholic imagination,” O’Malley states, “boredom is not something that is to be avoided but rather is essential to the spiritual life. John of the Cross’ The Spiritual Canticle was composed as he endured the mind-numbing boredom of being wrongfully locked away in prison.”
“Good boredom” opens us up to receive life-changing spiritual insight. In contrast, the “bad boredom” of indifference, distraction and ignorance drags us away from the true meaning of the Mass, and ultimately keeps us from growing. “We carry out the Mass as obligation and task,” O’Malley writes, “but have forgotten to delight in the offering, to comprehend the glories revealed on the table of the Word and on the altar of sacrifice.”
In Bored Again Catholic O’Malley provides a lay primer for participating in the Liturgy. He looks at each part of the Catholic Mass, from the Entrance to the Concluding Rites, not only explaining the “why and how,” but uncovering opportunities to employ “good boredom” in praying the Mass.
The book takes the reader deeply into every part of the Mass, clearly explaining: why we sing a Psalm in the middle of the readings (it’s not just a musical interlude); the congregation’s role in the homily; why the Gloria is repetitive (and why that’s okay); the real meaning of the offertory; and much more. O’Malley also takes an honest look at some parish practices that may be fighting against our fruitful participation, and what we can do about them. Each chapter includes questions for personal or parish reflection and discussion.
“Boredom at Mass is not something that should be eliminated,” O’Malley insists. “Boredom in the Mass is in fact an invitation toward new spiritual growth for the Christian. It is the way that God calls us toward a deeper participation in the drama of redemption.” This is precisely what many Catholics need to hear as Lent begins.