by Edie Gilligan
I was raised in the Catholic faith. My parents, European immigrants, had childhoods in which the faith was as much a part of everyday life as school, or playing. The deeply held traditions and devotion to the Church were practiced almost automatically. When the families came to America, however, the Church began to wane in its importance. In the fervent endeavor to make a life here in the US there was little time left for religious aspirations. It took both hard work and careful planning to acquire a job, then a car and eventually start a family and have a home of your own. I admire my parents so much for their work ethic and their example of making the “American Dream” a reality in our eyes.
We attended church infrequently. I saw church as a place to dress up for, to sit and stand and kneel at the right times, and be shushed now and then. I remember looking at the stained glass and the statues and wondering about these long- ago events that seemed so irrelevant to me. I had no real connection to my faith or to Jesus, for that matter.
As a youth, I attended Protestant church camps with my friends and visited church and youth groups with Baptists and Mennonites and learned about the life of Jesus and His saving grace. My family continued to attend Mass on holidays and for funerals. Yet I was uninspired. The Mass seemed boring and predictable, and not as user-friendly as the other churches I had been to. I didn’t understand the Rosary or penance, let alone Communion. They all seemed like more rules to follow.
Later, I continued my faith journey through Bible studies, MOPS [Mothers of Preschoolers] groups, reading and praying. My new husband was also an uninvolved Catholic who knew more about fiesta time than the sacraments. I enjoyed the knowledge and inspiration I was receiving, but missed the structure and reverence I felt as a child in church. I tried going back to Mass, but was still confused about which path to follow.
Through years of continued Bible study, conferences, and reading, I realized the only way to get my whole family to go to church was to go back to Mass. My husband felt comfortable there, my parents and grandparents could join us and feel at home, and though my kids fidget a little like I once did, it feels right.
I started watching EWTN, the Catholic television network, and began reading about the meaning and importance of the Mass. We studied Mary in Bible study and I came to love and admire her greatly. I started to record the Holy Rosary and use it for meditation time. It was peaceful and beautiful.
Then one Monday morning when I was struggling with giving worries over to God, I remembered that a service is offered every weekday at our parish. Could that help?
After making coffee, breakfast, lunches, dropping kids off at two different schools and pulling into the gas station on fumes, I wondered if I could still make it in time. It was 8:19 in the morning.
By 8:30 I was sitting in a small room with a tiny altar and cross. There were people of every kind there: old, middle-aged, moms, working men, etc. We were quiet and contemplative until the priest entered the room and said, “Peace be with you.” Peace is just what I felt.
It was a mini version of the full Mass that day. We prayed and responded, listened and wished each other peace. Father blessed the host and the wine and suddenly it became so clear to me. I was there to commune with God, to hear His Word, receive His blessing, and take His Body and Blood into my own. Questions and concerns I had struggled with over the years seemed to fall away and I let myself take in the Mass.
I know a good number of the weekday regulars now. I wonder what brings them there. I pray for them and for others, and for myself too.
Sometimes I just sit quietly after the Mass and give my attention to Him. Each and every time I go to my morning Mass I am fed, strengthened, and renewed. I pray I am then more Christ-like as the day unfolds, and thankful that I have a standing appointment with my God 8:30 weekdays, my morning Mass.
Edie Gilligan writes from Ladera Ranch, California where she is a mother, teacher and parenting coach.
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