By IHE Fellow Lucia A. Silecchia
Can a lazy lack of creativity ever be good for the soul? Normally, I would answer no – unless you asked me during Lent when I was 19 years old.
That was a Lent I intended to take more seriously than I had before. A growing realization that, ready or not, adulthood was dawning led me to reflect more thoughtfully on that sacred season. Even then, I understood that in the wisdom of the Church’s ancient calendar, forty days is a perfect length of time for a season of preparation.
I know that number has its origins in sacred traditions. But, as is true with so many things, the sacred tradition is beautifully matched with human nature. Forty days devoted to preparation is a season that is short enough that a commitment to something ambitious is less frightening than it might otherwise seem. Yet, it is long enough that a new practice or habit of the heart and soul has a chance of becoming more permanent.
In spite of my good intentions, when the Sunday before that long-ago Ash Wednesday rolled around, I had not yet decided what I could do so that my 19th Lent might be the season I hoped it would be. There were three days left, and nothing of note had crossed my mind.
Fortunately for me, that Sunday I was blessed to hear a homily that changed my life. It was filled with practical suggestions about Lenten practices that seemed especially intended for those of us who had not planned ahead. One that caught my ear was the simple, obvious invitation to attend Mass during the week during Lent. I had rarely given that any thought. Unless it was a special occasion, I was on the Sunday plan.
However, to my practical mind, this was a do-able Lenten suggestion. Conveniently, I walked past my parish church every morning on the way to my college classes. The three Masses celebrated every day meant no early wake-up was required. It was merely a half-hour time commitment. Most importantly, although I did not know the exact words from the Catechism at the time, I knew in my heart that Mass was “heart and summit of the Church’s life.”
Thus, for want of another plan, I very casually began a practice that has lasted, with varying degrees of regularity, to this day — decades after that long ago Lent drew to a close.
I found that I began to treasure this weekday celebration, secure in the happy knowledge that around the world in tiny remote chapels, grand urban cathedrals, crumbling city churches, secluded mountain monasteries, far-flung military bases, parochial school auditoriums, and quiet convents, countless others were doing the same. A weekday morning Mass is the Eucharist at its simplest. Without distractions, it is a quiet, intimate start to the day and a cherished oasis before the hectic pace of life begins anew.
I love a grand liturgical celebration. Whether it is celebrated with an enthusiastic student choir, or majestic organ music shrouded with incense, or, yes, even the felt banners and tambourines of my childhood years, such celebrations fill the heart with awe. A large Sunday crowd gathered to praise the same God together is a beautiful reminder that we are all part of the family of God. A stirring Sunday homily, carefully planned, and an altar reverently adorned with flowers all point the way to God in a powerful celebration. The sometimes-too-rare moments of silence in a large Sunday crowd offer a chance to offer praise, petitions, apologies and thanks in the company of an extended parish family.
Yet, when I have the wisdom to make time for it, I also treasure those quiet celebrations during the week when two or three or more of us gather in God’s name, bringing Him the hopes, happiness, worries and woes of the day and receiving far more in return. I am grateful for the silence before and after this celebration, the way this time of the day reminds me that the journey through the day is never traveled alone or without sustenance.
I am grateful for that chance invitation years ago that introduced me to the sacredness of the simple, daily Mass. Now, so many years later, I share that invitation with you. Come and share this beautiful prayer of ordinary times.
May your journey through Lent be filled with blessings this year.
Lucia A. Silecchia is a Professor of Law at the Catholic University of America. “On Ordinary Times” is a biweekly column reflecting on the ways to find the sacred in the simple. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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