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.