It’s good for your soul. The true being of the Risen Christ is present in the liturgy in four ways. Every time we attend Mass, we meet Jesus in the presider, in the Word, in the Eucharist and in the community. An encounter with Christ changes and transforms us. When we receive the Eucharist, we become the “living” body of Christ sent forth to be the face of Christ in the world.
Church is the original “social media.” We practice our faith as a community. Book clubs, support groups and happy hours are great, but being a practicing Catholic is different. When we are baptized, we become a part of one body in Christ. We become part of the Communion of Saints (sort of like being part of the VFW, only with fewer silly hats). At Mass, the Communion of Saints is made manifest. We break bread together, we care for each other and build each other up. In a modern culture that stresses individualism and greed, there’s great comfort in knowing that an entire faith community has your back.
It’s good for your heart. Recent studies show that people who attend Mass and practice the rituals of the Catholic faith (such as praying the Rosary or reading the Scriptures) have overall lower blood pressure and stress levels than people who practice no faith at all. Duke University conducted one such study of more than 4,000 people and showed that people who prayed regularly had lower rates of cardiovascular disease.
It marks the moments of your life. The sacraments are the Church’s way of marking transformative experiences throughout our lives. Think about the important times in our lives, where we celebrate them and with whom. Baptism. First holy Communion. From marriage to receiving the anointing of the sick, being a practicing Catholic means celebrating God’s actual presence in our lives. There’s no Harry-Potter-David-Blaine magic to it — God is present. These sacraments are visible signs of God’s invisible grace.
It helps us to pay it forward. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of how we can attain eternal life: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (25:35). The Church’s social teachings call us to put Jesus’ words into practice and care for the least of our brothers and sisters (even when we think they may not deserve it). This is a profound teaching because the day usually comes when we are hungry or thirsty, when we need help … and we don’t deserve it, either.
Cory Busse writes from Minnesota.