From time to time, I volunteer in our parish library. It’s quite a collection and is quite busy on Sunday mornings. One day, as I was placing a book back on the shelf, a yellow sticky note fell from between its pages and fluttered to the ground.
On it, in hastily scrawled writing, was a beautiful quote from one of our priests.
At that moment, three thoughts crossed my mind: 1) what a lovely quote, I love our priests; 2) I realized it was okay to jot a note during Mass; and 3) I wished I kept something in my purse for just this purpose. Obviously, yellow sticky notes didn’t seem to be the answer. They were too prone to being repurposed as bookmarks and then lost to some schlep filing books away on a library shelf.
I had seen this note taking before. As a Protestant, it wasn’t uncommon to glance over at people scribbling away in wire notebooks. But as a Catholic I had never seen anyone take notes; and I was shy to try it out.
So let me tell you: it’s okay to take notes during the homily. In fact, in recent years Matthew Kelly has developed a process and given it a fancy name. Enter, the Mass Journal.
One of the founders of Heart of Mary Women's Fellowship online, Kristina Markford, does just this. She makes a point of bringing a small notebook and a pen to Mass. And when she hears something that speaks to her in a particular way, she notes it in her journal. And this very process “causes a time of reflection.”
Another one of our writer’s uses the Mass Journaling concept from time to time as well. Monique Ocampo recounts a time when she heard a particularly great homily. When she mentioned it to the Deacon, he gave credit to the Holy Spirit. “Mass Journaling makes me aware that the Holy Spirit speaks through the priests and deacons,” she says.
These days, Instagram is full of beautiful images of “Bible Journaling,” and “Bullet Journaling,” and all sorts of fancy pants means to color, paint, and otherwise decorate a page. But your Mass Journal will likely not look like this. Kristina cautions, “I simply come with a book and a pen and I try not to be distracting to anyone.” She admits, “People that sit next to me initially find it a little weird because Catholics aren’t known to bring a journal - or anything- to mass. But it’s not. I don’t have markers all over the pew.”
So how do you get started Mass Journaling? Look around your house and grab one of those darling little notepads/Moleskin notebooks/spiral notebooks you have sitting in a drawer somewhere and shove it in your purse. Find a pen and make sure it works. Shove that in your purse, too. On Sunday, when you go to Mass, listen to the readings and to the homily. When you hear something that particularly speaks to you, take that pen and paper you have conveniently thought to prepare ahead of time for, and jot it down. This might be a note on the reading, or a sentence the priest spoke, or a general idea of the homily. Anything, really, that you want to make a note of. That’s it.
You don’t need to go out and purchase a multitude of pens and paper and stickers. You just need a pad of paper. Matthew Kelly sells his own version of the Mass Journal, if you want to purchase it. But you don’t need to. Of course, you can order a beautiful notepad from May Designs, or any other of a multitude of Notebooks on Etsy. Moleskin notebooks can be purchased on Amazon, or bought locally at several retailers. But a spiral notebook will work just fine.
At your convenience, at another time, you might find yourself flipping through the pages of your journal and find a special word of encouragement, or a reminder of particular way to increase in virtue. Anything really.
Should you Mass Journal? It’s not a requirement. Monique recommends it as a means to pay more attention during mass. And Kristina told me she journals because God gave us these gifts - including the Mass - and, “I want to remember it. And because I’m human, I write it down.”
And me? Well, I kept that yellow sticky note and, in a pinch, used it as a bookmark. Who knows who that note has touched since then? My own notes are scribbled in a little book that I keep tucked away in my purse. Like Monique, I want to pay more attention. And like Kristina, I want to remember.