At the beginning of Lent, I don’t exactly plan when I’m going to attend daily mass… there are some days that are more obvious than others. I’m a Eucharistic Minister at the Cathedral each Wednesday at noon – I lector at the Cathedral every other Friday at 5:10. And on Sundays, you can usually find me in the 5th or 6th pew (it depends on how fast the fan is running) at the 10:00 mass at St. Bede in Mentor. But the other days, it just depends.
I never go into Lent thinking I’m going to fulfill my obligation at a funeral. But when I think about it, I have attended more funerals in the last year than ever before, so the rate of its unlikeliness has decreased. I guess that’s an inevitable part of life – you age and people around you die more regularly with each passing year. Today, I attended the funeral of a mother of a co-worker. She was elderly and had battled Alzheimer’s for many years. My co-worker is now the last surviving member of her immediate family with both her father and sister passing before her mother. I think if I were in her shoes, that might impact me more than anything else. I think of my family – 2 parents and 3 siblings and can’t imagine a life without any of them, let alone all of them. My co-worker is in no way what I would consider “old.” She is a very enthusiastic, youthful 56. She travels the world with her husband, meets me for happy hour on occasion and takes great pride in her appearance. I see a lot of people in that age range who share these qualities and I find it inspiring and comforting. I want to be energetic, fun and still going on girls’ trips and planning St. Patty’s Day weekends away with Renee and Doug. I want to care what I look like and I want to have joints that don’t hurt and not be bound to a certain lifestyle because I’m not in the best of health due to anything I have done or haven’t done. And I want as many of my family members and friends to enjoy this same fate.
When someone you love dies, do you feel that they’re really gone? Is physical presence important to you? Does something happen and you feel like the person you loved who passed is sending you a signal? The priest who said the funeral mass this morning remarked that we should pray to those we’ve lost. We should keep talking to them because they’re never really gone.
After, I feel like I always do after a funeral – peaceful. If there is any moment where I sense God is in attendance, it is at a funeral. He is there to help us through the difficulty that goes along with losing someone we love. He is there to help us after the fact. And He is there to remind us that while we are mourning here, the one we’ve lost is happy, safe and listening for our prayers. Rest in peace, Jean.
I’m sure I got a chuckle or two with that opening line… or maybe I’m the only one with a mind that operates that way. Regardless, I think the statement “The first time is always the hardest” is true in so many ways – both good and bad. Last week I missed mass not once, not twice, not even three times… but four times. It started Monday – and as I write this nine days later, I’m having difficulty recalling just why I missed mass. Work has been more than hectic lately, for sure… Project after project, obligation after obligation. I know I’m not unique or special in saying that I’m busy at work. Tuesday of last week took the cake – I had a meeting here at the office until about 7:00PM and then stayed here working on a project until almost 11:30 before heading home, only to stay up until 2:30 in the morning. Wednesday was more of the same. I finally got myself back to mass on Thursday of last week, only to miss again on Friday because I was traveling to Savannah.
Does missing mass make me a bad person? No – I know that it doesn’t. But I question more what it says about the promises I make to myself and others and how it speaks to other behaviors. Most people feel bad when they don’t do something they say they’re going to do. It’s human nature – or at least human nature for those with a conscience. But have you ever noticed how after the first time you either do something “bad” or don’t do something you said you were going to do, the second, third, etc. time gets a little easier? Is that why people make New Year’s Resolutions to get healthier and the gym is empty again by February?
I was at a meeting on Monday and one of the presenters said something that has stuck with me – he said, “There’s no such thing as trying. Either you do or you don’t.” I could easily say I tried to get mass those four days, but at the end of the day, I didn’t make it a priority and I didn’t find the time to go. It made me look at other areas of my life where I either do or I don’t. “I will try to get in touch with that friend,” or, “I will try to spend less money on dresses and shoes and save more or donate more.”
The last couple weeks of Lent are undoubtedly the hardest. We lose steam and focus. We wonder if the things we gave up or the things we’re doing extra are making a difference. I’m not going to just try to make it to mass each day for the rest of Lent. I’m going to make sure that I do.
Are you never late, sometimes late or always late? I would probably stick myself into the middle category, though I have noticed I have gotten a little worse as I’ve gotten a little older. I started thinking about being late and the impact it has on others when I ran into church 10 minutes late on Tuesday. I was working away when a co-worker walked past my office and said, “Good night, Jenny… you’re going to be late for church.” It was the first time since Lent started that I actually considered skipping. But I quickly gathered my things and myself and drove to the Cathedral. I walked in just as Fr. Strebler was at the altar preparing for the Eucharistic prayer. When you attend 5:10 mass at the Cathedral on a weeknight, you are likely one of maybe ten people there, so people see and notice you walk in. Including the priest. Smartass Jenny wanted to wave at him. Guilty Jenny wanted to duck her head in shame. Not only was I upset about being late in general, I missed my favorite part of mass. I like the reading, the gospel and especially, the homily. That’s what fuels this girl to keep attending mass. It takes me away from myself and allows me to contemplate the world around me. How am I treating others? Am I grateful enough? Am I judging too much? Am I worrying about things I really have no control over? Am I spending too much time thinking about the wrong things?
Being late to church on Tuesday was unfortunately the beginning of a domino effect for me. I was late to a meeting on Wednesday night… I was 5 minutes late to mass yesterday.
So what does being late say about you and what does it say to the people you are meeting? Do you apologize when you’re late? Do you expect people to just roll with your lateness? When I am late, I feel such a sense of guilt because I believe I’m sending the message to the person/people I’m meeting that their time isn’t as valuable as mine. Funny how we sometimes expect people to hold our time valuable, but also expect them to not mind when we’re late to be with them. I think the same holds true to our time with God, whether it be in prayer or in church. We expect Him to be right there for us if we’re going through a hardship or are faced with worries… but if everything in the world is right and we’re just going along our merry way, we can put our time with Him on the back burner and get to it when we’re good and ready. Save room and time for the one who always has room and time for you.