In what can only be termed a disaster of personal calendar management, I agreed to go to lunch at 11 with a group of co-workers on a Tuesday—a day when Mass is at noon. I had intended to rearrange my schedule to attend an earlier mass at another parish, but a computer crash and an absent assistant left me bereft of any meaningful time management skills—and so I arrived at work, having missed the time for the alternative mass, and faced with a dilemma.
A dilemma soon solved. I went to lunch, but fasted so that I could slip away for mass. This, let me assure you, is something guaranteed to garner more than passing interest from your table-mates. Only one of them was Catholic, and he, fallen-away, so the curiosity level was high. Genteel Southern civility prevented any really probing questions, but that’s no matter. My own mind was doing a very nice job as Inquisitor, all on its own:
What are you, some sort of religious fanatic? Well, maybe. If I am going to be fanatic about anything, it ought to be Jesus. After all, He longed for His followers to be on fire; I dread being lukewarm. When I go to Mass, I rekindle the flame of my devotion. I don’t want it to go out.
What would be the harm in missing just one service? You aren’t obligated to go to Mass except on Sunday, are you? True enough, but for me it isn’t a matter of obligation, it’s a matter of joy, privilege, opportunity. Nobody would think twice if I missed lunch with a co-worker to have a personal audience with the President—at Mass, I get a much more intimate connection to Christ. I can enter deeply into the life of Someone I love, Someone who completely loves me. Why would I miss it for lesser pursuits?
Still, only little old ladies really go to daily Mass. You are a busy working woman with a lot to do. Aren’t you being scrupulous? Nope. And not only little old ladies are there when I go. There are a lot of working folk, who, like me, go because they can, because working actually gives them a way to be there at Mass on a daily basis.
But daily? Really? Why? I pray daily for my daily bread. What better bread than the Body of Christ? The way I look at it, I have a hard enough time getting through the day doing what God asks when I receive Christ daily. I need all the grace I can get, and I know if I just open up and let it work, great things happen. And now that I have opened myself to it, I feel it, very acutely, when I miss it. My world is out of harmony if I don’t get that time to be with Christ.
So, is it such a big deal that you fast before Mass? Yes, it is. The Church asks that I come “hungry” for Christ, and sometimes, like today, that hunger can be pretty sharp. Breakfast at 5 this morning was a long time ago, and my gut was growling by the time I got to church. All the better. It served to remind me, in my insignificant discomfort, that I was coming to see Him who died, in agony, for me. That tends to put life (and suffering) in perspective.
Ok, I can understand no food, but not even water? Remember the words from the cross? “I thirst.” It’s just another way I can use my body to instruct my soul, and my soul to master my body.
But couldn’t you break the rule just this once to celebrate with friends? Wouldn’t God forgive you? Of course He would, were, I truly sorry, but that’s not the point. The church asks so little of me in the way of discipline, how can I refuse to do that which is legitimately under my control? If I cannot obey the Bishops, whom I can see and hear, how can I hope to obey Christ, whose presence and commands are much harder to discern?
Okay, okay, but just this once. Would it really matter just this once? Maybe, maybe not. I’m not willing to find out. I made a commitment to myself that, in so far as my own choices were the only thing that determined my attending daily mass, I would be there. I sometimes miss mass when I travel, because of flights or being in places where, sadly, daily Mass isn’t an option. Sometimes I miss it because work compels me to be somewhere else at the appointed time, but I work long and hard to keep that part of my days uncluttered, and usually, I succeed.
I still don’t see the big deal about daily Mass. Isn’t one day a week enough? Not with all the spiritual work that needs to be done in the world. We poor kin of Adam need all the grace we can get, and I can help bring it down by doing my part. We each have a part to play in the Body of Christ, each according to his talents and opportunities. There’s a lot I cannot do—I’m not suited to mission work, I am not consecrated to the religious life, I don’t preach and I am not free to do much of the volunteer work that needs to be done. But this I can do, and this I will, joyously.
And so, I did.