It was strange being a temporary member of another family. Although we were blood relatives, the rhythms and expectations of home life were different. There were different assigned lines of responsibility – who was to set the table, who was to wash the dishes or who took out the garbage.
In playing games, I had to trade on the reputation of my cousin with his friends and his endorsement that I really did know how to swing a bat. I was invited into favorite hangouts with the other children with the usual precautions that I wouldn’t divulge the locations to any adults.
There were many things that were different. But one thing which remained the same was Sunday; we were all dressed and together made our way to church. I was on vacation but there was no vacation from God. The normal complaints from the kids were loudly expressed:
“Do we have to go to Mass?”
“You need to go to Mass,” my aunt would respond.
I always thought that was an interesting choice of words. You need to go to Mass. Oh, certainly there is the obligation to attend Mass. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2181) states: “The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on the days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail this obligation commit a grave sin.”
Of course, my aunt was concerned with the state of our souls and sin was definitely a motivating factor. However, the need my aunt was emphasizing was more than an obligation. This was a need as common to us as the need to breathe or eat.
The catechism explains (2182): “Participation in the communal celebration of the Sunday Eucharist is a testimony of belonging and of being faithful to Christ and His Church. The faithful give witness to their communion in faith and charity. Together they testify to God’s holiness and their hope of salvation. They strengthen one another under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”
We need to be at Mass not only for ourselves but for all those who might be motivated by our presence. Sometimes when we take time off from our normal routine, we forget there are some actions which are as essential as breathing or eating. Some things we need to do.
There is never a vacation from God. There is never a vacation from church. We may have to attend with another family (in a different church) but they are still family by blood (the blood of Christ on the cross). One of the great aspects of modern technology is the ability to go online and discover the location and times of Masses on Sunday. It takes away any excuse that we might offer that we just didn’t know or couldn’t find a Catholic Church. When planning your vacations check the diocesan Web site for times and locations of the Sunday Masses in the area you are planning to visit. We, at the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, provide that service through our Web site, www.archmil.org.
I’ve encountered a number of people who have discovered many of our beautiful churches in the archdiocese and who have worshiped in them on Sunday because they went online for information. If you notice people who are new to your normal worship time, say hello and make them feel welcome. It is a wonderful witness and an expression that we belong.
Summertime is also a great time for a little reading. If you are like me, then you put a number of books aside waiting for that special catch-up time. Books can be great companions on any journey. Mystery novels, historical events or biographies will certainly offer hours of pleasure, especially when those planned outdoor activities are cancelled due to rain.
I might suggest adding a little spiritual reading to the list. It is a great source of inspiration. My spiritual director would tell me “choose one of those spiritual books that has a light at the end of the tunnel.” He was referring to the fact that I might want a spiritual book with a couple hundred rather than a couple thousand pages. A simple insight from one of those short reads can create all sorts of possibilities for spiritual growth.
Summer is a time of rest and a time for vacations, but don’t forget God. Remember, he never forgets you.