World Cup, the holy Mass, and our shared experiences

3 mins read
watching soccer

Experiences are often the most powerful when they are shared. Sharing a meal or an evening walk with others doesn’t take away from an experience but adds to it! There’s a difference between watching a TV show alone in your house and having friends over to watch the latest episode of “The Rings of Power.” Hosting a watch party expands the experience as you watch the drama unfold together and debate theories about what will happen next. Watching popular shows like “The Rings of Power” also connects you with other viewers in your life. Every Monday, I would go to work and unpack the latest episode with my co-workers and debate whether it was living up to the original trilogy. This shared experience of watching the show was so much more impactful than watching it alone.

Compared to watching a college football game at home, it’s an exhilarating experience to watch with tens of thousands of supporters in a packed stadium cheering and chanting. If you’re a fan of a major sports team, you’re not only connected to those you watch the games with but with fans across the country. Your experience supporting your favorite team is deepened by the connections with fellow fans as you ride the emotional roller coaster of a season together.

Over the past month, much of the world’s population has participated in one of the most dramatic shared human experiences: the FIFA World Cup. Over half of the Earth’s population will have tuned in at some point over the month-long competition. The World Cup is often cited as one of the single most extraordinary “human events” because it is a shared experience enjoyed by billions worldwide. No other sporting event, TV series or man-made institution can compete in its collective appeal.

Many Americans don’t realize just how much the rest of the world comes to a standstill for major soccer tournaments. Last spring, while in Mexico City with my sister, I insisted we arrive early to a bar to watch Spain’s Real Madrid take on England’s Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League semifinals. My sister scoffed at the idea of getting there early and insisted that people in Mexico City couldn’t possibly care about two European soccer clubs playing a game on a random Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. She couldn’t have been more wrong! Every bar we checked was already full an hour before the game started, and my sister was amazed that the entire neighborhood had clearly ground to a halt to watch Real Madrid punch their ticket to the finals.

More than any other sport, soccer has an incredible ability to bring people together across every culture. Over one billion people were projected to watch Argentina and France in this year’s World Cup final. It’s extraordinary to think about that many fellow humans doing the exact same thing, sharing an exhilarating experience together across the globe.

As I’ve thought about how incredible it is to share this World Cup with so many people around the earth, I realized that there’s another experience that eclipses even the World Cup in its ability to bring people together. Every Sunday, Catholics from every culture come together for the shared experience of holy Mass. As we participate in the one sacrifice of Christ, we are intimately connected to every other Catholic around the world who is participating in the same liturgy and Eucharist.


It’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing exclusively on one’s personal experience at Mass and personal relationship with Christ. While these things are important, we can’t overlook our faith’s essential, communal nature. From the calling of His first disciples, Christ intended His Church to be a shared experience. At each Mass, we are connected with every other person across the globe as we worship Christ, present our petitions and consume the one Eucharist together.

At Mass, we are not only sharing the liturgy with the billion other Catholics across the globe, but in a mystical and very real way, we also share each Mass with all of the angels and saints participating in the heavenly liturgy. As the Eucharistic prayer proclaims, “And so, with Angels and Archangels, with Thrones and Dominions, and with all the hosts and Powers of heaven, we sing the hymn of your glory, as without end we acclaim: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts. …”

It’s always wonderful to attend Mass with friends and family, but even if you are sitting alone in a pew, you are intimately connected with every other Catholic on Earth and in heaven. As you attend Advent and Christmas liturgies this winter, spend some time meditating on just how many people you are sharing that experience with. We are never alone when we attend Mass. It is genuinely the greatest shared human experience possible, and unlike the World Cup, Catholics get to experience it each and every day.

David Dry is a convert to the Catholic Church (2016) living in Los Angeles, is a former novice with the Dominican Friars Province of St. Joseph, and has worked for the Archdiocese of Washington, the U.S. House of Representatives, and the Holy See Mission to the United Nations.