Just Going Through the Motions

A mother is overheard saying of her adult child, “I’d rather my child not go to Mass than to just go through the motions.”

Is there virtue in just going through the motions?

Is just going through the motions always bad?

Can just going through the motions be a willing submission of sorts which then leads to a deeper conversion?

I’m hearing varied responses touching on aspects such as: empty works, dark night of the soul, Pelagianism, grace, merit, Paschal, etc. . .


Well, this is just my personal opinion, but I think that even if one if just “going through the motions,” we are opening a door for the Holy Spirit to work within us, and, evenutally, help us to live a deeper life with the Lord.

I agree, for me as a child Mass often consisted of “going through the motions” but if I had not done that I would not have the knowledge of what happens in Mass to use as a foundation for a deeper understanding of my Catholic faith.

Seriously, how else is a child supposed to learn the faith? You start with the basics and go from there, just like anything else. The grace to have faith comes from God alone, but He expects parents to uphold their end of things and actually teach their children through exposure and example.

You recieve Graces from mass even if you are just going through the motions, you do not if you don’t go to Mass.

I think you know the answer. Try substitutions:

I would rather my child not go to the hospital than to go through the motions of getting treated for serious injuries.

I would rather my child not go to the team practice than to go through the motions of running, kicking, dribbling, and practice plays.

I would rather my child not go to school than to go through the motions of memorizing arithmetic tables.

I hear the mother saying that there has to be something beyond “going through the motions.” C.S. Lewis discusses, I think in Surprised by Joy, the trap we can get into of making sure our prayers are sincere. Did I really mean that? Was I fully paying attention? If not, should I pray again? What if I prayed and because I wasn’t fully concentrating, God didn’t hear me? Suddenly we become the focus, not God. I wonder if the mother isn’t putting the emphasis on the participant instead of on God. In a lot of ways, we are passive recipients of God’s grace, not active achievers. I would rather be where Jesus shows up than anywhere else. I wonder where does the mother prefer her son be instead of at Mass - a cemetery, a den of iniquity, or playing video games? Hmmm?

I used to just “go through the motions” as a kid. I knew a fair bit about the bible and I knew exactly what to do when during the Mass. I was a server and had lectored before and that was all good and fine, but it was more something I just did because that’s the way things were and that’s how I was raised. I did this until I went to a teaching mass before my freshman year of highschool where the priest explained what the meanings of those motions were in a manner which hit me pretty directly. That was when I really took my faith to heart for the first time.

I would say that going through the motions for a kid is like putting down the foundation of a house. It does not mean the house will ever be built, nor does it do the child much good unless the house is built, but if and when a house is built upon that foundation it will be so much stronger and more stable than it would’ve been without the foundation.

We all just “go through the motions” when we suffer extreme dryness at prayer. It is not necessarily controlled by us. A quick read of the “Fire Within” with the readings of St. Teresa of Avila and St. Johnof the Cross will convey how at least she suffered severely from just “going through the motions” and why it exists. And she became a saint and doctor of the Church. She described herself as a phony at one point since her prayer was so dry. The trick is to realize it is there for a reason, to make a person stronger. It is easy to be faithful when we are filled with faith- it is a lot harder to be faithful when it appears that absolutely nothing is happening, or nothing exists or one has been abandoned.

Oh, YES!!! Lewis, St. John of the Cross, and St. Teresa of Avila are GREAT points for consideration. . .

Now, what about issues dealing with opposing “just going through the motions” at Mass versus soaking in the Spirit at, say for instance, Christ’s Grace and Spirit Soaking Church of Greater New Foundland?

This from the lips of the lady who first uttered the phrase the “both-and of Catholicism” in my hearing…:stuck_out_tongue:

Well, one can soak in the Spirit (whatever the heck that means), or one can worship in the Real Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist, and then eat His flesh and drink His blood as He commanded us to do in the 6th chapter of St. John’s gospel. I don’t remember Him saying anything about Spirit-soaking. I think I’ll do as the Lord commands, thanks.

Everytime my wife calls me at work, she really wants to hear me say, “I love you,” just before we hang up.

I’m not always focused on everything she’s called to tell me if I have a bunch of work on my desk. I’m not always happy to hear what she called to tell me. I’m not always feeling very loving by the time we reach the end of the conversation.

But she is very happy that I “go through the motions” of telling her I love her.

Love is not an act of the heart; it is an act of the will.

You mistake my inquiry. . .not from my lips. . .no worries! The both/and is instrumental to the argument, but as in the case of my friend Fencesitter, I am keenly aware that such an argument is not wholly sufficient. :rolleyes:

Forgive me. The soaking was my dismal attempt at imagery.

My point, more pointedly, has to do with the time and again assertion that one is better off worshipping in ways that they perceive as fulfilling than in those ways that they perceive as “just going through the motions.”

To be clear, I am not trying to ignite an argument opposing Protestant worship (aka, Spirit soaking) with the Eucharistic worship of the Church. My question is trying to delve into the nuances of “just going through the motions.” The extensions regarding Spirit soaking are tangental to the question at hand. Let’s not get bogged down there. No riots, please, it’s Christmas!!! :wink:

I think that is more than just your personal opinion, and I profoundly agree. It’s a peculiarly American thing, this notion that every individual re-invents the wheel and if it has no meaning for him or her then why bother? Ritual means exactly that, going through the motions. If there is a problem in the modern Church, it is that they don’t give us very pretty motions to go through. If I must be a cog in the wheel of a ritual, it would be nice if it were a beautiful ritual to be a cog in the wheel of, so to speak.

Say what and Huh? What in the world are you talking about? And why in the world would anyone rather consider “Spirit soaking” whatever it is rather than St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila?
We are called to endure going through the motions and dryness of prayer. And from the Doctor and Mother herself, Teresa, anyone feeling “soaked” should probably go to the confessional at once. :thumbsup:

I’m talking about those who would prefer to worship in an environment void of Sacrament in favor of experience. I’m talking about those who would opt to avoid Liturgy and Sacrifice because, in their estimation–and maybe in their life–they are “just going through the motions.” This is a common refrain among many fallen-away Catholics who seek greener pastures on the other side of the Tiber.

The question orginally posed was meant to initiate discussion about the virtues of “going through the motions,” not to gather critique of my feeble metaphor. :o

And why in the world would anyone rather consider “Spirit soaking” whatever it is rather than St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila?

This is my wonder. I’m trying to flesh out the scenario. Help is appreciated. If the soaking bugs you, ignore it. It means, in less metaphorical terms, the appeal of which many Protestant churches boast contrasting a common perception that the Mass is dry (dry being the opposite of soaked).

We are called to endure going through the motions and dryness of prayer.

I agree. Hopefully, obviously. My hope is that, at some point in this thread, we can move beyond the :eek: and explore the nuances of WHY dryness is grace-filled, profitable, holy, or virtuous.

And from the Doctor and Mother herself, Teresa, anyone feeling “soaked” should probably go to the confessional at once. :thumbsup:

Understood. This would probably be my route, especially as a devotee of St. Teresa. However I was hoping through this thread, I could better understand how others, less inclined to read Doctors of the Church, more inclined to rely their human sensitivities, and content with “where they are” in this contemporary landscape of Christianity, find a path that would bring them to the same conclusion.

As in, how does one go from feeling “soaked” to feeling dry, and still feeling they have ascended in Faith and relationship with God? And, more specifically, what are the most effective ways that one can realize that “going through the motions” is not necessarily a vain endeavor?

By the way. . .I am pleased by the responses so far. Thank you!

When i was younger and would attend protestant services with my mother, i felt like i wasn’t “good” at religion because i didn’t always “feel” God.
As an adult, i almost never get to tune in at mass. We have two babies and are constantly in the narthex while they cry or run or feed. However, i cannot imagine not going to Sunday mass, even if it is just “going through the motions”. One hour a week where my body is devoted to God, even if my brain is not fully engaged, is so important to me that i would feel hollow and depressed without it. It’s a habit i’ve no desire to break because i know God wills it, and when i do have the wherewithall to focus more, it is so worth it, the beauty of praying the mass with my brethren. I know heaven itself opens up and reveals the representation of Christ’s sacrifice before the father. It’s tragic enough that i can’t always appreciate this absolute miracle of heaven on earth, but to not even bother to be in the same room is a crime. As a matter of fact, maybe i should start going to daily mass.
Bottom line: Christ died for you. If you can’t even give Him one hour a week of going through the motions, you got problems.

LOL. . .I don’t even know what a narthex is, but I have a sneaking suspicion that if we attended Mass at the same church, we’d be in spitting distance of one another! :wink:

As a matter of fact, maybe i should start going to daily mass.

Ditto. That could be revolutionary!

Bottom line: Christ died for you. If you can’t even give Him one hour a week of going through the motions, you got problems.

Amen. BUT, my OP is geared more towards how does one get to the place where they realize they “got problems”?

In m y RCIA classes,. I find that most adult converts have not read the saints classics such as Teresa and St. John of the Cross. Many left the Church because basically they were bored, found this to mean that God was not really with the Church, joined other more exciting churches, ones with dancing, or praise, or tongues etc. burned out, spun their wheels doing nothing and eventually come home again. One gets to where they know they have problems when they suddenly develop a need for God. God does this, not us.

From some oddball corner of my mind, source unknown:

There’s something to be said for making life as dull as possible
so that the really bright will shine. There’s something to denial, to renunciation, to a life of prayer and quiet, to decreasing our own signifcance, so we will have proportion, to renouncing excitement and glamour in favor of the real and the holy, to withdrawing from the party for prayer, to contemplation, to the simple life. Meaningless ritual is only meaningless when the ritual is meaningless.

I think, at some point, I read a poem with some of this in it, much better put, and with more meaning.

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