Friday, June 18, 2010

Day 234 - Daily Mass and Other Perquisites of the Unemployed

          In one of our weekly telephone conversations, my 90 year old mother suggested that I should take advantage of the opportunity presented by joblessness to attend daily Mass. Loathe as I have become to take the advice of the many well-meaning well wishers who seem to be constantly trying to ease my burden, this actually seemed like a very good idea to me.
I like daily Mass. I have often wished when I was working, and therefore unable to attend, that I could—although, to be honest, I also often wished that I could be attending a root canal or a colonoscopy. Many otherwise disagreeable things are preferable to me when compared to being at work. That being said however, in the interest of full disclosure, daily Mass has never been disagreeable.
I have always found Mass a satisfying and tranquil way to start a day, and something that carries over into the balance of the day no matter how unsatisfying and un-tranquil things may later become. Daily Mass is better in many respects than Sunday Mass because Sunday Mass is thronged with the barely faithful, Catholics who really don’t want to be there, but only come out of a sense of obligation and fear of heavenly reprisal.
Daily Mass, on the other hand, is attended almost exclusively by people who want to be there. They are a quiet, thoughtful, sanctified bunch, and I’ll guarantee you that none of them leaves daily Mass to go to a workplace where they create misery and havoc for others. If everyone went to daily Mass the world would be a far, far better place.
          Daily Mass notwithstanding there is a lot of inner peace associated with not working, peace that may or may not, according to circumstances, be offset by the inner anxiety associated with not having an income. Disregarding the income factor though, there’s not much not to like about not having to go to work. First and foremost is not having to associate with jackals and dolts. Even if you are a jackal or a dolt, not being forced to rub shoulders with more of your kind is liberating. There is a chance that, absent the behavioral reinforcement afforded by their proximity, one might in fact and over time cease to be a jackal or a dolt. Oh, happy day!
          Not having to work means one is free to self-actualize. The absence of deadlines and to-do lists, freedom from the unreasonable expectations of others, escape from the tyranny of pressure, subtle or otherwise, to compromise one’s ethical sensibilities: all these contribute to the general spiritual well-being of the jobless. How ironic then that the jobless should be held in such low esteem by the working, when the jobless are clearly on the road to becoming morally and intellectually superior.
          But I was talking of Mass, and Mass is a holy undertaking for the working and the jobless both. I have been able on occasion to attend daily Mass in both conditions. It is a blessing to be able to do it. Attending Mass informs the balance of the day in ways I could not hope to adequately describe. St. John Vianney says that “when we have been to [Mass and] Holy Communion, the balm of love envelops the soul as the flower envelops the bee.” It is this “balm” that is most noticeable—a balm of healing and comfort that soothes the sting of our worldly encounters.
          St. Leonard of Port Maurice was more global in his assessment. "I believe that were it not for the Holy Mass,” he says, “at this moment the world would be in the abyss, unable to bear up under the mighty load of its iniquities. Mass is the potent prop that holds the world on its base." Maybe. I know that it holds me on my base when I am able to go, and there is no doubt in my mind that if everyone did it there would be less in life to tilt the world off its base and toward the destruction that seems imminent all around us.
There is a wholeness, I think, in Catholicism not found in other religions—at least not for me. I mean this in an intensely personal sense, and my intent is not to devalue anyone else’s spirituality, nor to insult anyone’s faith.  I’m sure many would disagree with me, but I have left the Church, examined it afresh from without and then again from within. I have not found it wanting in any respect. The logic of its precepts is perfect and beautiful. I am at home in my Church and my Church in me.
The Church has had her lapses to be sure—sad periods when overzealous defenders of the Faith allowed excesses of righteousness to cloud the fullness of communion with the divine and with one another—the Inquisition, the intemperate wielding of temporal power by prelates and popes in the Middle Ages, and, most recently, the scandal of sexual predators within the priesthood. I don’t excuse these, but neither do I allow them to define my religion for me. My faith gives me the capacity to understand the evil in men and from whence it comes. My own sinfulness allows me compassion in the truest sense—the sense of ‘there but for the grace of God go I.’
          My satisfaction with my Church is not born of a sense of justification or correctness or holiness or morality or salvation, but rather from a sense of completeness, of unity, of a logical explanation of who I am in the grand scheme of now. Everything else proceeds from this sense and the way it makes sense to me. It defines and informs my humanity and rests at the core of who I am in a way that my work never has.

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