Thursday, April 23, 2009

Daily Mass...

Back when I was in law school, part of what drew me into the adult practice of my faith was daily mass. I was going through some stress at the time, and when I saw that daily mass was offered on campus, it made me stop and think. I had been going to Sunday mass only sporadically since I moved out of my parent's house (too lazy, I'll just be honest) but the thought of daily mass gave me pause. As an undergraduate, I attended a Catholic college, and I frequently went to daily mass there (in addition to regular Sunday mass, at that time). It was held in their beautiful chapel, and I loved the quiet intimacy of it. In contrast to longer Sunday worship, daily mass is generally 20 minutes in length. It's a quick opening prayer, abbreviated liturgy of the word, liturgy of the eucharist, closing prayer, and... - BAM! You're done :) But it packs quite an intensive punch, especially in the middle of your busy work day. I loved going then, and I remember teetering on the precipice that autumn day over 10 years ago, deciding if I should go or just head to lunch.

I went. And my life was never the same. I can't explain why it touched me so much more profoundly that day, but I will forever be grateful. The mass was held in my secular, private university's ecumenical chapel, and I gotta be honest - it was ugly :) Dark paneling and gargoyles abounded. But the spirit that pervaded was warm and wonderful. Mass was held in this side nook, and as is typical for daily mass, only a small group of regulars was in attendance. The priests were from a neighboring parish, and were genuine and kind. The liturgy was reverent and meaningful. I was hooked. I went every single weekday that I had class, and anytime I had to miss due to a scheduling conflict I was despondent for the entire day. It not only changed the depth of my spiritual life, but my entire worldview. I was suddenly a quietly, but firmly, "religious" person, and many people in my life seemed surprised by my overnight spiritual awakening. Of course, I've always been a bookworm anyway, so pile on the nerdy qualities :) As an adult, it's rather refreshing to be able to take pride in your interests out in the open, instead of feeling like you need to hide such things about yourself, which is so often the case in the pressure-filled environments of our lives in secondary education.

But I digress. After I graduated, my commitment to my faith stayed strong, though going through typical periods of spiritual ups and downs. My Sunday mass attendance did not waver, but I was never able to get to daily mass on such a regular basis again. Here and there I would attend, often for weeks at a time, when possible. But the convenience of the college chapel was not duplicated in my life after law school. And I've always missed daily mass.

The past couple of weeks, I've made an effort with the Catholic student center's (otherwise known as the Newmen Center) noon mass here. I've never been able to go on a daily basis since I've worked here for a number of reasons. Daily mass is only offered 3 days a week, for one thing; but also, my librarian schedule of multiple reference shifts, classroom instruction, and committee meetings per week often conflict with even those 3 opportunities. Lately though, with my daily rosary, the pangs for daily mass have come back. So, last week, I had a clear Wednesday on my schedule, which happens to be one of the days that mass is offered in the Newmen Center. I went. Mass there is held right in the office, so it's not exactly a transcendantly beautiful setting in terms of aesthetics. The "artwork" is so hideous that I have to forcibly avert my eyes, lest I become physically nauseous (I swear on my honor that they look just like that screen that comes up on your television just before an important public service announcement). But once again, the quiet intimacy of the liturgy drew me in, and I'm now going to at least one daily mass during my work week. And once again, the effects on my countenance and spiritual life are apparent immediately. Yes, I'm grateful for my ugly little Newman Center, right here in my fabulously ugly university. Because the eucharist is there; and without that, what else is there?

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