While the Mass is central to the Catholic faith, it can be challenging to keep it central in our lives. I’ll admit that my mind wanders while sitting in the pew! There always seems to be distractions pulling my attention from the altar — to-do lists waiting at home or the crying baby in the back of the church.
Christie Peters and Kassie Manning, creators of the widely successful Mass journal Every Sacred Sunday, found themselves facing similar struggles when it came to the Mass. That’s what motivated them to create the journal, which includes the day’s readings as well as designated sections for taking notes.
Peters, a grade school art teacher, and Manning, a molecular biologist, had no experience creating and publishing a Mass journal. They shared the idea for the journal on a crowdfunding website in order to gauge interest and raise money to create and publish the journal. They anticipated it would take 30 days to reach their fundraising goal, but met it in just 12 hours! At the end of the 30 days, they had accomplished it seven times over.
“Whatever that little thing is that is pulling on your heart — you don’t have to be qualified to do it if God is calling you to it,” Manning expresses. We must trust in our own abilities and God’s will, she says.
During the process of creating the journal they gained some valuable insights on finding meaning in the Mass.
What is the value of engaging with the Mass?
“When Mass feels routine, I remind myself that we don’t go to Mass to get something out of it; rather, it’s a space to encounter Christ and to be fully with Him,” Manning says.
She adds, “Taking that perspective has helped me remove the pressure of needing to get something out of Mass. Every homily is not going to be profound, and every reading is not going to hit me right in the heart.” For Manning, the Mass held more meaning when she thought of it less as a space for answers, and more as a time to be with Christ.
Another reason to engage with the Mass, Peters shares, is that it acts as a solace from the fast-paced world in which we live. “You have to find a way to root yourself,” says Peters. In the midst of the madness, she emphasized that the Mass can tell us who God made us to be as human beings, rather than letting the world decide. “The Mass taps into who you are as a person,” Peters expresses. “It helps us live according to our design.”
It is not only a matter of rooting ourselves though — we need to make sure that we stay rooted. “If you don’t charge your cell phone, it’s not going to work,” Peters shares. “It’s the same with our faith. If we don’t charge it, it’s not going to go anywhere, and it’s not going to feed us.”
What were important aspects to consider when you were forming the journal?
Though Peters and Manning went back and forth on who they should design the journal for (adults, young women, teens, etc.), in the end, they decided to make the journal as universal as possible.
Since Catholics of all ages and walks of life go to Mass, Peters says, “we wanted it to be something that fit everyone.” She shares that they “designed it with the hope that people will be able to use it the way they want to use it.” The intent is to “meet people where they’re at,” she adds.
Another aspect that played into the design of the journal was a recognition of differences. “Christie and I have really different journaling styles, and that was helpful,” Manning shares. While Peters likes having blank pages to journal on, Manning needs a little more structure to her journaling to help her stay focused. In formatting the journal, they made sure to include both styles of note-taking so as to cater to the different styles.
What did your success on the crowd-funding site tell you about the significance of your mission?
Both Peters and Manning express that a common theme emerged from the feedback they received. “The world is hungry for something bigger. [News] spread really organically because our vision was shared with others,” Peters expresses.
Manning, too, was struck by the excitement about the journal shared by people they didn’t even know. “It really shows how people want to build a community that’s not only at their parish level but that’s also with the greater community of Catholics,” she says. “This proved to us how vibrant the Catholic community is and how people have the desire to be growing closer to God.”
The women point out that community plays such an important role in our faith, and Mass functions as the very hub of the Catholic community. By not only attending but engaging in the Mass, we activate that community and open the door for interaction both with Christ and those around us.
What are your best tips for staying engaged with the Mass?
“Find one thing that you can connect with during Mass,” Peters says.
Depending on the readings for the week or the priest leading the Mass, this can vary from Sunday to Sunday. Whether it’s the responsorial psalm or a certain line from the homily, find one thing that stands out, and keep it tucked in your mind as you leave.
Manning suggests, “Read the readings before Mass.” Looking them over beforehand is a small way to prepare for Mass that makes a big difference in our engagement with it. When we hear the words for a second time, it allows us to pull from the scripture things that we may not have noticed in our first reading.
While it can be easy to zone out on early Sunday mornings, when we engage with the Mass we find something that we cannot get anywhere else: union with the true presence of Christ, both in the Eucharist and the Catholic community around us. The connection that we form can both root us and fuel us during times of stress or doubt. When we stop pressuring ourselves to find answers, we find Christ.