Remembering Why I Drive 30 Minutes to Go to Mass on Sunday

Recently, my wife and I got in the car to drive to church for Sunday Mass. We typically make this half-hour journey each week even though we have a half-dozen parishes within 10 minutes of our home! Why? Because we’re liturgical snobs! Seriously though, our experience of the local parishes has been mediocre at best, with liturgy celebrated (I hesitate to even use that word) in a very perfunctory manner. We typically seek 3 things: good music, good presiding and preaching, and a reverent/participating assembly.

On this particular Sunday, we had a very busy day planned. As we were driving by one of the local churches on our way to our usual parish, we saw people heading to the door for the start of Mass. At the last second, we decided to just stay local and gain an extra hour of time for the rest of the day’s activities by not having to drive so far.

Within minutes, we were reminded of why we drive a half hour each Sunday!

No one other than the cantor sang any of the songs and the cantor’s mic didn’t work very well so she could barely be heard (strike one). The organist played as if in a roller rink (strike two). For the homily, the priest did something that drives me crazy: he basically re-told the story that was just proclaimed in the Gospel moments before, as if he thought we weren’t listening (strike three).

Rest assured, this past week, we drove 30 minutes to go to our usual parish!

About Joe Paprocki 2742 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at


    • Dan, it can be a struggle but I like to share my story with young folks especially to show them that there are alternatives to just giving up and not going. Best wishes for your ongoing search!

  1. In my pre Vat2 childhood, there was not much difference between the Liturgy at one parish or another. Everyone belonged to a parish based on geography, but did not chafe at attending another parish’s Mass in a pinch.

    Seems like a long time ago.

    • I’m sure you’re right Christian but I wouldn’t know from my own experience…we almost never ventured out of our neighborhood to go to Mass elsewhere when I was a kid!

      • hi! we go to mass not only it is our obligation but is because of ourlove fot the Lord. who are the members of your local church? YOU!!! you should help your local church.

        • what are you? spectator? audience? remember we must participate in the liturgy because itis the saving act of Christ.

          • Mike, precisely why I drive 30 minutes to Mass, so that I can fully participate and not just be a spectator as too many folks seem to be in my local parish.

        • Mike, it is because of our obligation that I DO go out of my way to drive 30 minutes to participate in a Mass that does honor to the mystery taking place instead of performing it perfunctorily.

  2. Joe:

    Welcome back and I am hopeful that your vacation time off provided you with rest and relaxation to energize you for the coming year. I had one comment regarding this post. In addition to being a catechist, I am also a member of our parish Worship Committee and it is indeed a challenge sometimes to continue to engage the congregation. We are blessed with a wonderful music ministry and good priests who do their best to make our Sunday liturgies come alive. I do feel, however, that the congregation is also part of the equation and it is up to each one of us to take ownership of the Mass to not only make it interesting on Sunday but also to live it the rest of the week.

    Here is something put in our parish bulletin a couple of years ago that I thought I would share:

    “The first sermon preached each Sunday is not by the priest, but by you. You preach a message of good cheer when you say ‘Good Morning’ to those you meet as you are parking or are near the church door. You preach a message of welcome when you slide over in the pew instead of forcing others to squeeze in front of you. You preach a message of hope and joy when you sing the hymns. You preach a message about the power of prayer when you let someone know you are praying for them. You preach a message of love when you smile and say hello to a visitor. You preach a message about the importance of the Scriptures you listen carefully to the readings being proclaimed. You preach a message of faith when you share a prayer request. You preach a message of encouragement when you voice a praise to the Lord. Many messages are preached before the priest stands to share the sermon. If your message is positive, faithful and consistent, then the message from the pulpit will be more effective. Go to church every Sunday, prepared to preach your best sermon.”

    Thank you for everything you do,

    • Bernie, thanks for the welcome back and especially for the wonderful thoughts you share here about your experience with the worship team. I couldn’t agree more that the congregation is part of the equation…I included it as one of the 3 criteria that are so important to me and my wife (along with music and presiding/preaching). One of the biggest problems with liturgy in the area where I live is that the congregation, more than the priest or choir, tend to treat Mass as a perfunctory act. So many people are present but not participating and in some cases, are just blatantly not paying attention. It makes me wonder why they are present. One of the things we like best about the parish where we do attend is that the congregation does all of the things you mention in your bulletin article. Folks there participate in a full, conscious, and active manner and it makes for a palpable difference. I applaud your efforts and those of the worship committee (nice to hear that some parishes actually have one!) in doing all you can to encourage people to embrace their role in the liturgy!

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