Life slows in the heat of the day and the prayers at mid-day are shorter. There have been new arrivals to the center and they filled the near files of the choir stalls. My groom and I had to cross to the other side to find a seat. Like most Catholics—like most folk, I suppose—I am a creatures of habit. I sit in almost the same position in every church, no matter the design, and it is unsettling for me to have to move. I’m convinced that God plans these minor disruptions with precisely that in mind.
A large group of visitors arrived just as prayers were starting and seated themselves in the pews that are arranged for the general public at the back of the church. I wonder, were they Catholics, too, or just sight-seers taking in the local color? To the unfamiliar, the mass must seem a complete mystery. Without the words of the psalms to follow, the chanting is lovely but without content. Even with all the appointed books and papers, it can be hard to follow along. Catholic worship not only requires all one’s body, but a good chunk of one’s brain and certain organizational skills as well.
Because of our program, we miss two of the hours of the office the monks regularly pray. During Tierce, we were already deep in conference and by None we will be coming back to it again.
Ora et labora indeed: prayer always comes first here. I am surprised by how easily a day’s work can be arranged around formal prayers, if the will is present. I am sure that I waste far more time in idleness than I would were I to carve out time to pray at least part of the daily office. My daily routine encompasses morning and evening prayer these days, and usually mass, but that’s all. And even those can fall away when life gets crowded with duties, real and imagined. Perhaps after this brief spell, I will remember the proper order when I return home.
Ora. Only then labora.