“No one ought to consider himself a true servant of God who is not tried by many temptations and trials. Temptations overcome are a sort of betrothal ring God gives the soul.” – St. Francis of Assisi
Going through rough patches, it becomes easy to descend into a lazy prayer life, if prayer doesn’t halt altogether. In one such recent trough of emotional health, I caught myself heading in that direction. I missed daily mass.
I know what you’re thinking. You don’t have to go to daily mass. Most people don’t. It’s just one of those things that keeps old ladies and the occasional parochial school busy, right?
But I have learned to love attendance at daily mass. When I took my new job, I was happy to find a parish in the city where I work that offers mass at 6:45 a.m., early enough for me to make it to work on time. There is something about the progression of readings, two-minute homilies and the chance to spend some time with Jesus at the start of my day that appeals to me. It is one of the positive aspects of Catholicism that sets it apart from other denominations; Catholic churches don’t sit locked all week waiting for Sunday or maybe a Wednesday Bible study. Because of the sacramental nature of Holy Communion, the buildings are used every day, and some are open all day if you just want to pop in to say hi.
On this particular day, I was in front of my computer, checking Facebook, reading emails, doing the usual things that one does to pass the time in the 21st Century. Then I looked at the clock and realized that mass had started 15 minutes ago. I immediately felt guilty.
My guilt emerged not out of some self-righteous sense of piety. I did not feel guilty as one feels guilty after committing a sinful act, because it was not a sin. Rather, I felt the kind of guilt that comes with forgetting about a lunch meeting with a friend. I felt guilty because I treated my valued time with Jesus as something unimportant, just some daily routine at the back of my mind.
I immediately asked for forgiveness, a forgiveness that immediately came to me.
The Good News of God’s forgiveness is that it is all-encompassing. Sometimes it’s easier to go to the confessional and rattle off the list of broken Commandments than it is to confess when we fall short of our spiritual goals. We tend to think that if we have not sinned, then we have nothing to worry about, so we don’t ask the Holy Spirit to guide us. But even in those moments when we forget about God, the love is always there.
Don’t take this to be an insistence on daily mass attendance. Everybody’s path to spirituality is different. But it is comforting to know that when we do get off the rails, God is always willing to set us back on course, even when the goal is simply to enjoy God’s presence.