Aging, I find, brings with it an almost manic desire to see everything, read everything, travel everyplace, learn everything, climb every mountain, ford every stream. Only Christ, on the altar, can contain that infinite, almost manic longing.

Alternatively, I want to sleep all the time. That happened last week, the result being that I decided to cut down on daily Mass. I usually walk to the 5:15 pm at the nearby Newman Center, 20-25 minutes one way. It’s a beautiful walk, this time of year the sun is starting to set when I emerge. There’s Evening Prayer before Mass, and before Evening Prayer, maybe some time in the Blessed Sacrament chapel.

Mass is a whole “thing,” in other words, that does take a certain amount of wherewithal and energy.

So I rested up a bit last week, or tried to. But what I found after a few days is that without Mass, interiorly I kind of spin. I don’t really get the rest I crave. I don’t have a place to “settle,” somehow.

Then, over the weekend, I went back to Fr. Ron Rolheier’s The Holy Longing, a book I read years ago and hadn’t revisited since.

In it, he has this fascinating passage:

“Who does come to daily mass? In my experience no single category does justice here. On the surface at least, it appears that tehre is little in common among those who attend daily mass. It is a strange mixture of people: some nuns, some unemployed people, a lot of retired women, some retired men, a few young persons, some housewives, and a motley collection of nurses businessmen, secretaries, and other such professionals on their lunch break.

There is no similarity in character among them, but there is something among them (and I am speaking here only of those who truly have the habit of attending daily mass) that is held in common, namely, in the end, they are all there for the same reason. What is that reason? It is something that is deeper and less obvious than is immediately evident. Simply put, people who go to mass daily are there in order not fo fall apart. They go to mass because they know that, without mass, they would either inflate or become depressed and be unable to handle their own lives.

I doubt that most people who attend daily mass would tell you that…”

I would! Fr. Rolheiser nailed it!

He goes on to make another interesting observation: “Significant too is a second thing common among those who attend daily mass, they do not want a service that is too long or too creative. They want a clear ritual, a predictable one, and a short one. Because of this they are often at the mercy of critics who look at this and, simplistically, see nothing other than empty ritual, rote prayer, and people going through the mechanics of worship seemingly without heart. Nothing could be further from the truth and this type of accusation betrays the misunderstanding not just of an outsider but also of somebody who is ritually tone-deaf.”

Say it, Ron! We are laying our HEARTS on the altar!

Mass is far from my only daily ritual–but it’s the central one.

8 Replies to “UP WITH RITUAL!”

  1. Beautiful! Excellent.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Thank you, Deacon!!

  2. Sidney+Blanchet says: Reply

    Whoa! Could not agree with you (and Fr. Rolheiser) more. Daily mass is an anchor and “motley crew” says it all. My only small quibble is about the desire for “short.” I am privileged to have two remarkable alternating priests who construct passionate, instructive homilies focused on the readings. They may be even 10 (!) or 15 (!) minutes long. No one complains. In fact, many stay after to pray, meditate and absorb it all. Food for the journey for sure……

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Well, yes, a useful, meaty homily is a real bonus…I think he was maybe saying no homily is better than a meandering, just-talking-to-take-up-time homily…but to me, the homily is part of the ritual. Doesn’t need to be elaborate, but a little reflection from the priest is always nice…how lucky you are to have your two alternating priests!

  3. People will say to me, “Oh, you’re so good going to Mass everyday.” I have to tell them I go because I’m so bad. It’s what holds me together and helps me keep my head up, sinner that I am. The ritual and repetition is a special kind of beauty to me. Nothing rote about it. It’s a place of rest and comfort and refreshment to my spirit. And then there’s the Eucharist…

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Totally, Regina! I go to Mass because I’m so weak and need so much help!….and as you say, ah, the comfort…

  4. melanieposer says: Reply

    He nailed it! I’ve been sick all week and I keep thinking, what am l missing? And I really, really want to smoke!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      ha yes, let’s take that to the altar!


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