January 12, 2010


Recently, on a way below zero fahrenheit Sunday, a friend couldn't get his car started. Those of us who live in cold climes know what that is. He was unable to get to Mass. He felt guilty about that and went to Confession. The priest, rightly in my humble opinion, told him he had a valid reason for missing Mass that Sunday. This friend, RARELY, misses Holy Day of Obligation Mass.

Another friend and a family member were both really ill on a recent Sunday and unable to go to Mass. They were apologetic, you could even say, guilty, about this. However, illness can be a valid reason to miss Mass.

Now, obviously, one should speak to their Spiritual Director or priest if they have doubt about the validity of their reasons for not making it to Mass on a Holy Day of Obligation (Sunday IS a Holy Day of Obligation). Don't take my word on this as truth. I'm giving my understanding and opinion here.

Catholic 'haters' will often assign the phrase "Catholic Guilt", in a perjorative way, upon any Catholic who is aware or conscience of doing wrong.

I wonder, is it really "guilt" or is it longing?

There is a difference.

Do my friends who missed Mass feel a longing for Christ? Is attending Mass and receiving Jesus a longing? You miss Him. You want Him.

Some may argue that attending Mass, and engaging in regular prayer are habits and routines. They may, also, indicate this in a perjorative way. In the simplistic sense, they are habits and routines, but, I think they transcend such simple terms.

They are longings. Longings to communicate with Him whom we love.

In our infancy of faith, prayer, regular attendance at Mass and devotions, may start out of a resolve to make them habitual. However, I believe, as we mature in faith, a bar is crossed. They stop being habits and routines and just one more thing to cram in. We crave it. We long for it.

For myself, what began as a Lenten resolution a few years back to pray the Rosary daily, became a habit to pray it during my long morning commute, then, crossed into a longing for it. I miss it if there is a day I don't drive in to work. Then, I think when can do I do it that same day? I fit it in. I make time for it. It's important to me. There is a longing and a desire to communicate to Him thru His Mother.

Same too with my weekly standing hour of Adoration (every Tuesday night at 6!) and my attendance at Vespers on Sunday. They started out as faith exercises. Now, I can't stand it if something happens and I miss them. If I'm out of town or I'm ill and can't go, I long for them. They've become part of my life. More than that, they've become part of ME.

Missing them is not guilt. It's longing.

We know we want to spend time with Him. The Devil hates this and will do all he can to stop us. To plant those ideas in our brain: wouldn't you rather watch the game? wouldn't you rather go shopping?

I was just reading St. Teresa of Avila over dinner and the Doctor spoke about a period where the Devil fooled her into stopping prayer. The Devil persuaded her she was ok without it. Thus, the Saint intimated, she made God The Enemy and the Devil her friend. One listens to the council of a friend and there it was.

Lest anyone think I'm this great saint in the making, I want to remove that idea from your head altogether. Since I started my new job, I've fallen down on some of my "habits" if you will. I've listened to the Devil, as St. Teresa did for a time, and ignored my longings. I've ceased making extra time for daily Mass. There have been mornings I get up too late to do my daily Scripture readings in the a.m., as is my usual practice, and maybe I fit it in later. Maybe.

The Devil would have me believe I'm ok and it's alright. I'm good enough as I am.

The Devil is full of crap and lies. I've ignored my Angel and my longings for the Lord. I've replaced them with my longings for extra food, blogging, work and sleep-none of which I'd have without Him. Every thing we have is a gift from God. How do I pay him back? Listening to bad counsel.


Blogger Fr. John Mary, ISJ said...

Cathy of Alex: I can't tell you how many times I have heard people, esp. the elderly, confess to missing Mass on Sundays and holy days...I make it a point to ask, "Was this because you did not deliberately go or because you could not?"
90% of the time it was because of weather conditions, inability to get a ride, etc.
And, yes, I agree it is a real "longing" to be at Mass; not only because of the obligation.
I am reading Mother Teresa's letters, "Come Be My Light", and she speaks so eloquently and movingly of the thirst and desire to be with Jesus. Such a magnificent testimony.
And you are right; the Devil wants to trick the good into believing they are evil and the bad to believe they are doing good...thank you Jesus, for your Word, in our Church, in the Holy Scriptures, in our Sacred Liturgy...God is so good, so loving, so merciful...Praise Him forever!

January 12, 2010 9:41 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks, Cath (and Father):

I needed that.

January 13, 2010 7:00 AM  
Blogger Stephen said...

Your helpful blog today also reflects the reading from Magnificat last evening by Teresa of Avila, where she talks of giving up on prayer out of a false sense of humility. The Tempter is always after us to give up on prayer, for many different reasons. I recall a recent "dry period" in prayer lasting several weeks, thinking that I was just going through the same routine over and over and over, thinking that God must be bored with me. Through His grace He finally got the message to me --- just maybe He might have something to say to me, that prayer time is not just a one-way street. He longs to talk to me just as I long to talk to Him, even if I do spend too much time asking for favors. In His love for us He is patiently waiting for us to willingly take the next step.

January 13, 2010 7:10 AM  
Anonymous Owen said...

For me, former prot minister, it is "longing" but "guilt" is not always a negative motivator. Guilt gets a bad rap because it implies there are absolutes. False guilt, sure thing, that's always bad but feeling guilt because we know we have wronged, well, frankly I see that as good, redemptive and even a healthy kind of deterrent to repeating the same wrong.

But gosh, as for Mass, that's a longing.

January 13, 2010 1:48 PM  
Anonymous Austringer said...

Great post...but I have a question: where can one go to Vespers? St. Agnes? The cathedral?

January 14, 2010 7:31 PM  
Blogger Larry Denninger said...

Great post, Cathy - you have a gift, you know.

One question: You wrote I was just reading St. Teresa of Avila over dinner and the Doctor spoke about a period where the Devil fooled her into stopping prayer.

You had dinner with The Doctor? Cool!!!
You probably have no clue as to what I'm talking about. 'sokay. It's a geeky sci-fi thing...

January 14, 2010 9:19 PM  
Anonymous Maria said...

I started going to Mass on daily basis about 4-5 month ago as I was having some trouble. Over time I developed this "longing" about which you have spoken. Now, I actually speed to Mass, if I have to. I know the longing. It is the longing for the Eucharist. It changes everything. This post was simply lovely. Thank you.

January 15, 2010 1:21 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Larry: I get it!

Austringer: St. Agnes. 3:00 p.m on Sundays

January 15, 2010 6:46 AM  
Blogger ignorant redneck said...

Great post!

BTW--if we Catholics are all hung up on guilt, why are we the church with a guaranteed way of eliminating guilt, the Sacrament of penance? I don't walk out of confession feeling guilty, I feel liberated!

January 15, 2010 12:58 PM  

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