I feel closer to God when I am outside, in nature. Why do I need to go to Mass to worship Him?
April 5, 2020, 12:00 PM
You may indeed feel a deeper peace in the mountains than at Mass, and you may feel more inspired looking at the ocean than at a stain-glass window. That’s fine, and even understandable. God created these things. They are distant “icons” (i.e., images) of Him that give us a glimpse of His beauty, vastness, and power.

If spending time outdoors nourishes your soul, then do it. Many of the saints did so. For example, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frasatti was an avid mountain climber, and St. Francis of Assisi probably perceived God in nature more than anyone else in Christian history. St. John Paul II loved to ski, hike, and kayak. He would even take religious retreats and spend a good part of the day skiing! But these holy men and women all spent much of their time in church, at daily Mass and praying before the Blessed Sacrament. They would be the first to agree that, while one may or may not have a grace-filled moment in nature, every Mass is guaranteed to be filled with the presence of God, even if we don’t “feel” it.

God is present in four specific ways in the Mass:

1. In His people. God dwells in our hearts through baptism. With our ability to know (intellect) and love (free will), we image God in a profound way.
2. In His priest. Jesus Christ is present to us in a sacramental way through the person of the priest who, by virtue of the sacrament of holy orders, stands in persona Christi (“in the person of Christ”).
3. In the Scriptures. Every time Sacred Scripture is proclaimed, God pours His life-changing grace upon His people so that they can put this word into action. As the Second Vatican Council (1962- 1965) proclaimed, “For in the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them” (Dei Verbum, no. 21).
4. In the Eucharist. This is where we most fully and intensely encounter Jesus, who is truly present under the appearance of bread and wine – body, blood, soul, and divinity.
God may be spiritually present with you as you walk through the woods, but He is both spiritually and physically present during the Mass and in the tabernacle. So, if nature nourishes you spiritually, then by all means, spend some time praying there. But if you want to experience God in the deepest way possible in this life, go to Mass.