All the Everything’s are cancelled here in Missouri today- not just in a few places, but literally all over. (Thus- all the everythings.)
Ice is in the forecast And here in the Show Me State, we don’t mess around with ice. In fact, if today were Sunday, we might even get a dispensation from our Catholic Obligation to got to weekly mass. People in other denominations might be able to declare they are having church at home. But we have a list (and it’s a short one which includes dangerous travel conditions) for acceptable reasons to skip.
I often feel like skipping- mass can be boring. Also, it is so cozy in bed on Sunday. Or we have important plans with important friends on Saturday at 4. I work realllly hard during the week. I just want to do what I want to do- the highlight reel of which includes staying in sweats and refusing to wash my face. Besides, if we aren’t on this planet to do good things while we are here, than what are we here for anyway? This is a serious question I often ponder while concurrently concocting excuses to miss mass.
So it’s just typical that on a day it would be permissible to skip mass the calendar says Friday instead of Sunday.
I identify as a Catholic. And like you, I align my behaviors with my identity. The author Nir Eyal would argue I have an identity pact with myself (I’d say it’s with God, but why split hairs?). Everyone makes choices based on who he or she believes him/her self to be. Research has conclusively shown, that how we think about ourselves has a profound impact on how we ultimately deal with distractions and unproductive behavior.
The genius of the Church is that there are obligations designed to embed habits into our lives so that we are able to stay in line with a straight shot at identifying with Jesus. To think of ourselves as Catholic is to understand our obligation to be the best versions of ourselves- which won’t get us to Jesus status- but will at least keep us headed in the correct direction.
The trouble is that I, for one, am radically incapable of going for any length of time in the service of using my talents for God’s work without a tangible reminder. Regardless of how tired I am, or how unentertained I might be, weekly mass unfailingly delivers a guidepost for the weekly renewal of thoughts, actions, practices, moral virtue, joy, and hope (a list concocted by none other than our main man Saint JP2). And all of that taken together points, aims, and fires us off into a week to do the really good things we were each put here to do. This obligation simply voids almost all excuses. Off to mass we must go. We will be better, much better. for it.
Last week, a few of us went to see Jen Fulwiler from the Catholic Channel. I was in the throes of the germ that has settled into most of Missouri and used about 12 filters in the picture above to look even half-way decent. (Kim and Shari- so sorry for washing you out, but it was the only way to get rid of the dark circles that made me appear I’d just come from a bar fight.)
Jen talked about her own use of these editing tools. Except. I know she was lying, and I hope she goes to confession. Despite what she said, in person she looks exactly like her insta feed.
She is also very, very on point with “real” Catholic-momming. At the show, it felt a little like those of us in the photo above were the only ones in the room without six or more kids. For a hot second, I found myself confused and wondering if this made us sub-par Catholics, or at the very least, sub-par audience members? (We were, in fact, laughing politely when others were doubled over with tears in their eyes.) But then I realized if that were true, a large portion of the Church would be disenfranchised, and this simply isn’t the case.
Or at least, it doesn’t need to be the case. Disenfranchisement can be a choice. And beyond the choices we make as individuals, we get to decide whether or not we are going to reach out and help others understand this as well. I work with a person who informed me he “used to be Catholic” but stopped “going” because when he tried to go, someone made him feel sub-par about it. Someone made him feel like a “Bad Catholic.” This made me sad. I wondered if the person who triggered this stoppage had any clue? (Also, let’s get real “bad Catholic” is an actual thing people say. “Bad Presbyterian” is NOT. That seems silly. We need to choose to drop this mind-set.)
I admire what Jen Fulwiler is doing with her life, and I admire the huge Catholic families we often see in mass. There is much good in the service of God. But I also understand that their service is different than mine- different than YOURS. We all have a role to play. The key to answer the call in the way that we are able, to keep going back to the sacraments, and to help ensure others feel welcomed to do the same.
Recently, my years have been framed by patronage to a saint. It’s focusing, kind of like a resolution which carries with it the promise of unique intercession.
I’ve never really been crystal clear on how the connection to the particular patron happens. But hindsight supports the notion that God is good, and sends us he or she whom we need- if we just open our hearts and minds to the possibility and make room for the saint. For me this as included St. Helena (2016), St. Francis of Assisi (2017), St. Francis de Sales(2018), St. Teresa of Avila (2018), and St. Ann (2019).
And now, St. Dominic is on deck- literally posted up on my desk at work- already reminding me of that which I clearly need to be reminded.
But every other year, the patronage has come on more slowly, like a hip guest late to a cool party. So keep your eyes peeled and your ears open. With over 10,000 saints, the possibilities really are endless.