God created us to give Him glory, which we do by sharing in His own happiness. The Catechism describes this reality in its opening line: “God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life.” The Baltimore Catechism captured the question “why did God make me?” even more poignantly: “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven.”

The Mass has the same end as human life, though it is the most direct and intense expression of it on earth. We go to Mass for God, to give Him the glory, thanks, and honor He deserves as our Creator and Redeemer. We don’t go to Mass primarily for ourselves, though we do benefit by going, because through the Mass God draws us into His life, which is the goal of our lives.

The traditional prayer before Mass captures the purpose of Mass quite well.

Eternal Father, I unite myself with the intentions and affections of our Lady of Sorrows on Calvary, and I offer Thee the sacrifice which Thy beloved Son Jesus made of Himself on the Cross, and now renews on this holy altar:
To adore Thee and give Thee the honor which is due to Thee, confessing Thy supreme dominion over all things, and the absolute dependence of everything upon Thee, Who art our one and last end.
To thank Thee for innumerable benefits received.
To appease Thy justice, irritated against us by so many sins, and to make satisfaction for them.
To implore grace and mercy for myself, for [any special intentions], for all afflicted and sorrowing, for poor sinners, for all the world, and for the holy souls in purgatory.

During the Mass we unite ourselves with the offering of that Christ made of Himself to the Father. It becomes our offering as we offer ourselves and all of our intentions along with Christ to the Father.

I’ve often heard people say that the purpose of the Mass is catechesis, the instruction of the faithful. The Mass does, of course, have some catechetical aspects, in a broad sense, particularly the homily (although it might be better to describe it as mystagogical – the deepening of our initiation and faith). In general, however, the Mass is not meant for us, but for God. It is about worship, not catechesis. When we pray, we are talking to the Father and He does not need instruction!

We do need instruction, as we are living in a catechetical crisis. Therefore, it can be tempting to say the Mass should be more focused on evangelization. However, the more we focus on “us,” the more we make the Mass horizontal, which will not be compelling to people. The more we make things accessible (the music, the architecture, the preaching), the more blasé and mundane they become. Dumbing things down does not communicate the transcendent reality at the heart of the Mass: our encounter with the living God.

We have to stay God-centered, not self-centered! When we put God first, everything else will be added unto us. If we truly give glory to God at the Mass and keep the focus on the supernatural, then the Mass will communicate its true purpose to us more clearly and we will be drawn in naturally. The Mass is for our good, but it’s a good we receive only when we worship God “in spirt and in truth.”

  • jonnybeeski3

    Sounds like someone is ready to go to the EF!

  • Bob Sullivan

    This is an excellent article. Some people may criticize it, claiming that we need to meet people where they are and that we need to include contemporary music and other aspects of a parish need to be less traditional in nature in order to reach people who are put off by orthodoxy and tradition. While it is true that everyone is at a different point of the walk of faith and that some are not even walking on the path yet, but without offering the pure truth, beauty and goodness of the faith, which is most perfectly found in the Mass, we would miss the opportunity to offer the one thing people cannot get anywhere else in the world. We can meet people where they are in ways other than the Mass. Let’s throw all of our welcoming and invitational efforts into those areas and celebrate every Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as though it is the last Mass we will ever celebrate. If we take the Mass as seriously as we should, they will come.

  • Vincent Phelan

    It’s very unfortunate that a lot of parishes have moved our Lord in His Tabernacle off the altar area to a chapel in the corner of their sanctuaries.
    For me, kneeling in prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament has made my relationship with our Lord so much closer than it had been before.The fact is, most churchgoers don’t even go into the Eucharistic Adoration chapel. If the Tabernacle is front and center when God’s people come into church, and kneel down in prayer before Mass, I believe parishes, homes and hearts will be revitalized!

  • Joe B

    Hi Dr. Staudt, I like that you say, “During the Mass we unite ourselves with the offering (of) that Christ made of Himself to the Father.”

    Fr. Jeremy Driscoll writes about our transformation in Christ’s divinity in his book, “What happens at Mass”. Not only the bread and wine, but the entire faithful assembly is being transformed into Christ during the Mass. We go into Heaven in the presence of the Father when the priest invites us to “lift up your hearts”.

    What happens in the Mass is that we are offering ourselves to the Father; like Jesus
    did then, we do now in the risen Christ. You and I are being transformed by the
    Holy Spirit into divine children of God at every Mass.

    Jesus gives us a share in His divine Sonship so that we may have a share in the love of His Father. God loves us now with the love He has for His only begotten Son Jesus. What happens in Mass every Sunday (everyday too) is what should happen for us when we die. We are made worthy to worship the Father Almighty who made Heavens and the Earth in all its glory, and Jesus Christ who sits at His right hand in power. The power of His Holy Spirit is what motivates us to come to Mass and to be transformed into Sons and daughters of God; to become One Family in Christ. Heaven literally begins now for those who understand the transformation that happens in the Mass.

    Where did this teaching come from that we’ve never heard before? From Fr. Jeremy Driscoll, Abbot of Mount Angel Abbey monastery in Oregon. He gave this parish mission in 3 one hour talks in February 2018. He delivered this mission to Our Lady of Good Council parish whose Pastor is Fr. John Riccardo. Here is the video: https://youtu.be/Ca4bwbVXUXQ. Here is the audio: http://stanastasia.libsyn.com/webpage/category/Parish%20Mission%202018

    Mass will never be the same. All our families will want to know about this. Praised be Jesus Christ now and forever. Peace, Joe B