One year ago this Sunday, I started going back to mass. I grew up Catholic and went to Catholic schools, however sitting through mass was incredibly stifling to the point where I felt suffocated and actually short of breath. As a sensory person I also felt very, very unconnected to God.
Then, last year this Sunday, I attended my first Old Rite/Tridentine/Extraordinary Form of the mass. For those of you who are not familiar, the mass I'm referring to is the traditional latin mass, prior to the Catholic church's "modernizing" of the mass in 1962.
The first mass was not easy because I didn't understand any of what was going on, or what was being said, or how to get into the groove of it. Regardless of these perceived obstacles, I could see the spirit of the mass: reverence for, devotion to, and connection with God. From that moment I became extremely motivated to learn how to practice this devotion.
I came back each week, although I did not take communion until I went to confession. Without too much information, this was very painful for me as I recounted the frailty and sin of my life thus far. I was beginning (and just beginning) to see the accountability that I was missing throughout my life. Accountability that I alone was responsible for. How far off course my life was from what God wants for me, and is according to his laws. It's hard to face yourself squarely in God's presence and humbly admit your weakness and beg for mercy and healing.
Even harder is to hold yourself to these standards. Nobody is going to do it for you, but you can bet that tons of assistance is available to you.
Throughout the past year I have continued to learn about the service itself: what different parts of the mass mean, how to practice them. And like anything you can learn the mechanics, but it takes a little while to align your energies with the practice so that you are connected with the meaning. After that come many more experiences: emotion, devotion, adoration, and strength.
And my strength has developed considerably through the practice of the old faith. Nothing in my life, ever, has enriched or help develop my faith more than this. It is not a preachy, charismatic, in-your-face faith. It's an invitation to live a full life in the Lord, one that I graciously accept.
All week, I look forward to mass. It's a couple of hours on a Sunday morning that I take very seriously and a connection that I desire. Today, on my Churchiversary, a man sat next to me whom I'd never seen before. We have many new people at our church now, and many of them are lost but learning, like I was. However, this man could not sit still. He fidgeted all mass long, wrote things down, gestured constantly. This is someone who probably had the clinical diagnosis of OCD (not the Hollywood-poor-me-version). Needless to say, I had an extremely hard time holding my concentration and was not in my normal practice and form today. I want a do-over.
But how appropriate that on this day, this man would sit next to me. Nothing worthwhile is easy or without sacrifice or challenge to what you are trying to uphold. This man really did test me and my focus today. Like most of my experience over the past year as I change my thoughts and behavior to be aligned with God's law... this was another test of what I am trying to hold fast. Nothing is true until you are tested, and not just one time.
So many good things have happened in my life in the past year. And even in the bad times, I know that God's graces are available to me to get through them. When things are good, and when things aren't so good, I know now to go to the Lord. It's where I belong.