Later this month I’m going to do a youth ministry night for our teens on Having a Daily Faith. It’s going to be all about the habits we need to create related to our faith life, that holiness doesn’t happen by accident, and we need to be intentional about what we do. So I’m going to blog about some of the daily faith things I do to keep my faith the center of my life, instead of letting it hang out in the fringes of my week.
My junior year of high school (just a few years ago, so many I cannot remember), my friends and I decided we would go to morning Mass before School. The options in our home town for daily Mass are pretty varied if you don’t need to get on the bus at 7:15am for your read job – school. So the only option was 6:15am Mass at my parish (there are 3 in town).
So we got up super early and went to Mass before school, trading off driving since none of us had our own cars, and it was sometimes before the sun came up! I’m a morning person once I’m out of bed, but how I got up at 5am every day to go to Mass as a high school student, I’ll never know.
This is when the habit began for me though, when I was 16; half of my life ago, actually.
When I was in college it got a little easier. There was a noon Mass and an evening Mass, if I remember correctly, in our student chapel. There was also the option of attending with the monks early in the morning. At that time in my life, the habit was regular weekday Mass, at least a few times during the week. I didn’t make it every day, but really wanted to, just didn’t rearrange my schedule well enough to make that happen.
One year I became the Monday, Wednesday, Friday daily noon Mass sacristan, so that helped a lot. I also spent many an evening at Vespers with the monks. A friend and I would meet each day, go down for prayer, and then head to dinner. It was quite a lovely time, to be honest. Might be the reason why we’re still friends today actually – and why he’s now a monk.
After college it got harder. I moved home, got a job at the county jail (a story for another day), and was only able to go a few days a week when I was volunteering for our youth ministry program. The time were a little better for me though since I didn’t have to be at school quite so early, and I had my own car!
About a year later, I attended the Life Teen Youth Ministry Conference out in Arizona. The job I got in North Carolina wanted me to go as a part of the training process, and so I flew out for the week with my new boss. I remember distinctly something that Mark Hart said about daily Mass, ministry life, and us. He told us that we can’t give what we don’t have, and also to not walk past the chapel every day at work without going in. I made a commitment that day to attend daily Mass as often as possible while I was doing ministry.
The parish I worked at had Mass at 9am every day, the perfect time before work. It became my habit – Mass then work each morning. I lived really close to the parish so I could even go on my day off. When I got a job at a parish across town, I kept up the habit and even had a noon Mass I could attend instead. Youth Ministers love noon Masses, more time for sleeping!
When I transitioned to being the office manager, I made it part of my day. How could I go to the Church every day for work and not go to Mass? Some people in my office would say “I’ve got too much to do.” I’d reply and say that’s probably why you should be at Mass.
Once I left parish work, I let the busyness of my day take over and missed weekday Mass a lot. I was working from home, setting my own schedule, and still couldn’t take the hour to leave for noon Mass, even when the church was just 6 minutes away. The first Lent I worked at my current company, I decided to attend daily Mass, use these 6 weeks to re-form the habit I desperately needed in my life once again. It worked. I blocked out the hour from noon to 1 on my calendar with a recurring meeting. Nothing could get scheduled there if something was already scheduled!
I’ve been doing that for two years now – blocking out my calendar, making it a priority. Assuring myself that the busier I am, the more I need to attend Mass. It’s known now that I’m not available during the lunch hour because I attend Mass. Known to not schedule time with me then – not that I’m so holy I attend Mass every day. But I still go back to what Mark Hart said almost ten years ago to me (well, to the whole room): “you can’t give what you don’t have.”
I’ve heard that St. Francis de Sales said “Every one of us needs half an hour of prayer every day, except when we are busy—then we need an hour.” Although he didn’t actually say that, I think the idea still applies. A woman I worked with at a parish also had a quote up that said, “Don’t get so busy doing the Lord’s work, you forget about the Lord.”
Daily Mass is the best daily faith habit I’ve ever taken on as mine own. It’s a moment of peace in a busy day, a moment of Jesus in the midst of a broken culture, and a required break from my tendency to become a workaholic. We’re all ‘busy’ … and when we embrace that as the ultimate virtue we miss the mark. We were not created in order to ‘be busy’ but instead to “to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven.” (Baltimore Catechism, Part 1, Q6)
The saints tell us that this is a sure-fire way to holiness, I want to be holy, so I’m making it a habit to do. Even in the midst of being busy at work, traveling a lot, and having a hundred other things that I could be doing. They can all wait.
Next Week’s Daily Faith Topic: Evening Prayer