The Catholic Mass is truly a celebration, but too many times, the experience is more solemn than celebratory. I realize this can be subjective and is not meant to be a judgment or global perspective as I have visited many par­ishes across our Diocese that exude energy and joy, but I have also been to just as many where it’s lacking.

We have so much to be joyful about during Mass and being in the true presence of Jesus, but I feel there are moments when we are hesitant to show it. I ask you to reflect on your parish’s pre-COVID-19 Mass experience — were the majority of people at your parish smiling and looking joyful? The topic of joy is a recurring theme at many parish meetings that I facilitate. Some parishioners seem to struggle with the concept of balancing joy and reverence. In my opinion, we need “reverent joy.” To me, “reverent joy” is celebrating something that is very special and doing it in a way that shows respect and happiness at the same time.

Yes, we need more reverence, but it doesn’t have to be at the risk of turning a celebration into a somber event. It’s easy to view Mass in a consumerist way. Many things contribute to the overall experience, including the music, the proclamation of the Word, a relevant homily and a welcoming parish culture, but ultimately, we are there for one reason only — to worship and praise our Lord Jesus Christ through the celebration of the Eucharist.

Reverence is an acknowledgement of who God is, what He has done for us, and the joy that He brings. We may have inherited a culture and particular behavior on how to act in church, but change can happen one person at a time once we identify it and decide to take action.

I was once told at a parish meeting that “we don’t have joy here; we are a group of people fulfilling our Sunday obligation.” How many of us have witnessed something similar? With the dispensation from Sunday Mass obligation still in effect due to COVID-19, I am sensing the start of a paradigm shift — more people are attending Mass to personally encounter and praise God rather than to fulfill the obligation or check the proverbial box. I am confident this shift will build in momentum as more people want to attend Mass rather than feel they have to attend.

Father James Mallon, author of the book “Divine Renovation” concluded a presentation I had the opportunity of attending by stating: “Remember, if you have Jesus in your heart, show it on your face — smile!” Let’s start a new habit of smiling under our masks during Mass and when the time comes that we finally shed our protective face coverings, may we see more smiles and joyful faces than ever before in our Catholic Churches.

Please contact me with any questions about boosting evangelization efforts at your parish at or by visiting https://www.rcda.
org/evangelization. Follow me on Instagram: tom_rcda