As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Why I Go to Daily Mass (Even When I'm Late)

A few years ago I was so inspired by a fellow homeschooling Mom who took her kids to daily Mass every single day.  She was quick to point out that this was because in this particular season of life it was what worked for them, and to emphasize how important it is to pay attention to seasons where things like that will work (and seasons when they most likely will not).  That was some of the greatest advice ever given to me because it helped me to get daily Mass on our radar, and also gave me the comfort I needed when I couldn't make it happen - if I just acknowledge that in this particular season it is not working, I don't need to feel guilty about not going (nothing sucks the grace out of devotion quite like guilt.)

As I listened to my schedule and started being attentive to the days when daily Mass actually could be a possibility, we began to attend more frequently - once a week, and sometimes twice, which I was quite satisfied with.  But part of this new devotion was also embracing the chaos that comes with getting a family of our size out to Mass without Dad's help, and that learning curve has been both huge and humbling.  I have had meltdowns the morning before Mass.  I have had meltdowns on the way to Mass.  I have had meltdowns during Mass.  Moments I'm not proud of, but so very much a part of our learning curve, the kids and me.

I knew there must be a middle ground.  I didn't want to give up on daily Mass all together, because I could see the beauty that comes with making time through the week to get to Mass.  There is something so very special about attending Mass at a time when you're not obligated to do so, and with a much smaller and more intimate crowd of people. I wanted my kids to value this, and to understand what a privilege it is, but I knew they would not feel that way if I was a raging lunatic every time I tried to take them to daily Mass.  When my sixth child was born and I was basking in the post-partum grace of knowing if I made it anywhere it was a good thing (and feeling like I didn't need to make any excuses!) I decided that once we committed to going to Mass, we would go no matter what.  With the exception of serious illness or other commitments outside our control, we would do our best to just show up.  Showing up on time of course was always the goal, but if we ended up late we would go anyway. And I would go cheerfully, not spitefully.  I would show my kids that Mass is so important that we would not let traffic or the search for missing shoes, or even disorganization keep us from getting there.  We would not allow the embarrassment of walking into a Mass that was already half over be greater to us than the One who is present at every Mass.

This was a big turning point for me.  It opened up a whole new world, because it allowed me the freedom to acknowledge the obvious - I am busy.  Sure, sometimes I'm late because I lack discipline. But often I'm late because life is crazy.  So what.  I can still make time for the most important thing.  I began to count on the grace of just getting there, even if we were too late to receive Communion, and Jesus never disappoints.  And the more faithful I was to doing this, the less and less I ended up being late.

Naturally there are still days when despite my best efforts, I can't manage to be on time.  Today was one of those days.  My commute to town includes a ferry, which was down for service when I arrived and put me 15 minutes behind schedule.  I debated the entire time about going all the way to the little country church where I attend noon Mass (especially since the last time I made my way out there Mass had been canceled), but in the end decided to go.  I knew we would be terribly late, and that the priest counts the number of hosts to consecrate before Mass so there probably would not be enough for us to receive (on the slim chance that we did get there early enough not to miss the liturgy of the word).  When we walked in during the Memorial Acclamation I had made peace with the fact that we would pray for special grace during Communion, and knew the Lord would be faithful in granting it. I had no idea how faithful though.

When the time for Communion came my children and I knelt down in the back rows where we were sitting to pray.  After a short time we heard footsteps coming down the aisle, and the priest said to us, "I'll give you a special dispensation."  He was standing there with the Eucharist, and my children and I rose and received Christ.  As the priest prepared to give me the Eucharist he said, "The Lord knows your intentions," and I felt so embraced in that moment.  I had not counted on receiving Jesus, yet here He was being given to me.  I was so filled with gratitude.

I know daily Mass can be a chore.  But for my family it is something that is always worth the effort.  Of course it has to be reasonable, I know if I were to get all of us out every day for Mass it would do us in, and that's not what the Lord wants.  But I also know that when I am attentive to the days where I could, with a bit of extra effort, squeeze it in, God is always faithful.  I have often shown up too late to receive Communion, and I'm learning that's okay.  There is still grace to be gained simply by being in His presence.  And today, being met in that chaos with the warm words of a priest who understood the trials of a mother's heart and invited us to come to the table anyway?  That was an unexpected gift.  Jesus is always faithful, in big things and in small.  If we do our part to make commitments that are reasonable in the context of our lives, and then work to keep them no matter what else stands in our way, He can make up the rest.  All we have to do is let our yes be a yes.

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