"You will be a better mom because you are a theologian, and a better theologian because you are a mom."

Is it true? In this blog, I explore the interplay and intersection of motherhood and theologianhood.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Daily Mass

For about a decade now, I've been attending daily Mass as best I could. If I were to use Evangelical language to talk about my "conversion" or "my personal relationship with Jesus" I would have to say that it all started with daily Mass at Keough Hall and Welsh Family Hall. (I should note that I generally don't use this language; I fully admit to being a "cradle Catholic" who has slowly grown in my faith through the years.)

There have sometimes been challenges to this and I have lots of funny daily Mass stories, including the time my friend Alison and I decided to attend six daily Masses in one day, while freshmen at Notre Dame (what a freshman thing to do). I must say it wasn't too hard in the morning. We went to an 8:00 a.m. and a 11:30 a.m. Then we went to a 5:00 p.m. But the tough part was when we went to 10:00, 10:30, and 11:00 p.m., all in different dorms. We had to run to make it on time. In retrospect this was both childish and foolish. On one other funny occasion, we all wore windpants to a daily Mass because we knew it annoyed Fr. Poorman to have crinkly noises during Mass. When I lived in Kenya at a Holy Cross seminary, I got to attend Mass with the priests, brothers, and seminarians. I think I was better behaved at those Masses.

So far I probably don't sound so reverent. So let me leave those undergraduate years in the dust and mention briefly my daily Mass career in southern California. The only daily Mass at my parish was in Spanish (and at least 45 minutes long), and by the end of the year I was quite adept with all the Mass parts in Spanish (in some ways much better than English because they're closer to the Latin). The 30-some older Latino crowd that attended Mass there seemed really to appreciate me. They even had me lector at one point (that was probably a mistake). On my birthday they sang me "Mananitas" after Mass. The only tricky part was that some days daily Mass also served as a funeral Mass. So I ended up attending a lot of funerals that year. In general I didn't mind, except when I was afraid I'd be late for work and had to ride my bicycle as fast as possible from the Church.

At Dayton, I generally worshipped at the noon Mass in the chapel. As always, certain faces became familiar (including my students). Enter Maia to the scene, and things became more challenging. When she was three days old, we took her to that Mass, and Fr. Heft slapped Jeff in the face in the communion line when he realized we'd had our babe (it was a friendly, happy slap that was more instinctive than premeditated). For awhile Maia usually slept for Mass, but as she became older and more mobile, it was harder to control her. Sometimes she'd climb up the steps to the choir loft. In retrospect, we maybe should have tried to make her sit still, but everything echoes in the chapel, and this seemed the best way to keep her quiet. When it got the point where Jeff spent the majority of the Mass outside with Maia, he started opting out.

Last year the only time I could make it to Mass (due to Jeff's schedule) was a 6:55. I only went three days a week, but I'm still glad I made the effort. The congregation was primarily older (often retired) Marianist brothers and priests. I sat in the back with three other women who attended that Mass. By the end of the semester, I felt like I was an honorary Marianist, even though none of the men ever said a word to me other than "peace." Then Eva was born and I didn't show up again until the morning of my qualifying exam. Kind of to my surprise, everyone was REALLY excited to see the baby (no one had said anything to me during my pregnancy; it wasn't a warm-fuzzy kind of Mass).

Anyway, just last week I started my new daily Mass schedule (Tues, Thurs, and Fri at 8:00 a.m.). I find it always takes a little adjusting to get back into the rhythm of the worship (in other words, to stop getting distracted by the idiosyncracies). In contrast to last year's Mass of mostly old religiously professed men, this one primarily consists of old ladies of the laity.

And I started writing this post so I could mention something that Jeff said to me the other day, in reference to one of his colleagues. Jeff said, "Oh, I probably shouldn't tell you this because you're going to be jealous, but Eric and his whole family attend daily Mass every morning together."

To which I responded - "Why should that make me jealous? That's like my worst nightmare!"

Because, let's be honest, for a busy theologian mom, there's not a lot of time to pray. I really delight in being able to follow along in my Vulgate while the readings are read in English. I like being able to concentrate, pay attention and actually pray. I like to sit and stand at the appropriate times (rather than nurse, corral, or supervise). Unlike some of our friends, Jeff and I have remained committed to going to Sunday Mass together as a family. But it's just really nice to have some time to myself in the presence of God, worshiping with the Church at a daily Mass. So no plans to bring the family along anytime soon. :)

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