Every morning around 5:45 a.m. I receive a video message from my best friend who lives in Albany, New York. She uses a video message app, called Marco Polo, as a way to keep in touch with me and our other best friend who lives in Dallas.
Typically, when I view the video telegram, later in the morning, she is walking briskly on a path that circles her property. Other times she is on the road for work, and is randomly walking in a hotel fitness room. Mostly she is a shadow and a voice on the screen, especially in autumn
when the time has not changed and darkness lasts much later.
When she turned 40, she embarked on a physical quest for fitness. I’ve been in awe of her commitment to her health for almost a year now. Although she has a brutal work schedule, including work related travel with her husband, and has two young children, it never ceases to amaze me that she still attempts her daily morning walk.
Over the summer, I was discussing my family life with Fr. McCarthy, and somehow the conversation turned to my most dreaded day of the week during the school year. Friday. By Friday at 6:30 p.m. when I returned home with both my kids, after driving across town to pick them up from school after work, then shuttling them back to the east side for music lessons and then hauling them back across town through traffic. I was a wreck. I was spent. Friday night was the prime night for fighting- and it wasn’t fun. It was miserable. I was miserable.
He listened carefully and then thoughtfully asked me what would make it better. How could I unburden myself of all the negative feelings before I walked in the door with everyone?
There was a very long pause because I didn’t have an answer.
So he gave me some suggestions, asked me to think about it and then check back in.
I let the summer go by without seriously thinking about what I needed to do to release the pressure. But as August rolled around, and I was shopping for school supplies, going to school orientation and getting everyone ready for the year, I felt that very familiar anxiety about Fridays creeping in.
At first, I approached it from a scheduling standpoint. I front loaded my week with what I term “the extras.” Monday night was piano and religious education. Tuesday night was group violin and a monthly meeting for a school committee. Wednesday morning before work and school was an individual violin lesson. It then occurred to me that although I was managing the cursory, outside things that were affecting my life and were in my control, I still was failing to address what I really needed.
I was reminded of what they tell people about putting your oxygen mask on before helping the person next to you. Even if the person next to you is your child. If I was helping my children, while I was running out of oxygen, I was planning to fail. More than that, where was my oxygen?
It was then that my best friend popped into my mind, with her morning fitness routine.
Maybe what I really needed was spiritual fitness. Maybe I needed to commit myself to more than just my regular Sunday mass and daily prayer. I needed spiritual oxygen.
So I did something radical and counter intuitive. I decided to add something extra to my already packed week. I decided to start the school year going to morning mass. Like any change, I decided that there was no time like the present, and started as soon I the idea came to me.
It was the first week of school.
Going to mass in the morning meant getting up even earlier than usual. In the darkness I made lunches in my kitchen, tucking them into lunch boxes, only to discover that I relished the quiet around me. As I closed the front door gently behind me, everyone was still asleep.
I confess, I missed the first day of school photos, and felt the familiar pang of guilt when I was asked by family why I hadn’t posted any photos on social media. I hadn’t been there. I had made my radical decision to go to morning mass. But, I also felt I had given my husband that supreme enjoyment that comes from seeing your young children board the bus, full of courage and excitement for the first day of school. It had been a gift of sorts.
After a couple weeks of this routine, my husband remarked on my consistent calmness, despite all “the extras.” I had noticed it too, but was unsure if I was burdening him with the morning routine with the boys. He assured me that it was good for everyone and his generosity helped me to commit to my morning routine.
Now, embarking on my fourth month, I can honestly say that this is one of the best things I have done for myself. I leave mass with my heart and mind fixed to my spiritual compass, rather than my worldly one. Unlike a fitness routine, I do not have pounds or inches lost to report. Instead, I have gains to report. I have patience and humor. I have kindness and perspective. I have compassion. I feel more open and more at peace. I have days where I feel like my ears and heart are receiving familiar scripture in a new way. When I miss mass because of the natural course of having a family and working, I can feel the difference in my spiritual muscles. An old familiar restlessness returns. My temper and subsequent unkindness are easily roused in me.
My faith is in no way, shape, or form, perfect. But I find the more time I spend living it, the better I am for it.
I cherish my morning routine. When the weather is warm and the windows are open, I hear the bells ringing through the trees, reminding me that mass begins in thirty minutes. The light is just rising and I know that if I am not out of my bed yet, I will miss my one on one time. It propels me to push back the covers, and move through my tasks efficiently so I can spend this time unrushed, my heart finally open. Like the best relationships, it is surprising and yet, inevitable. For how could I not spend time with the source of all my greatest blessings and comforts?
The thought of the upcoming forty hours of adoration is a lovely one. We all have such busy lives. We need the quiet, peace and presence. Long after dinner is done, dishes are washed, children are bathed and stories are read, I will drive up the street to sit and spend time in my most important relationship of all. It has taken me so long to open and orient my heart and my intellect to this relationship, that I truly cherish the time that I can spend cultivating it.
St. Ann’s weekend masses, Saturday 4:30pm Vigil, Sunday 8:00am, 9:45am and 11:30am.
For more information on St. Ann’s Mass Schedule, visit our Web Site!