Today was the first day that I had to scrape ice off the windshield. I got up at 7:30 so I could grab a cup of coffee before heading off to the 9:00 Mass for the Feast of All Saints.
In our archdiocese, the obligation tis lifted when the feast day falls on a Saturday or Monday, so I took the opportunity to go to Mass all by myself, and relished it. It is rare that I manage to get to Mass both on All Saints' and on All Souls'.
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Recently, as the 4yo gets closer to being a 5yo and easier to handle, and as Mark has been taking over more of the duty of carrying the baby around during Mass, I have found myself less frequently occupied with childminding and more often with my hands free. I've started doing something I have long thought about doing but worried about how it might look: Taking notes in Mass, at least during the homily.
I spent more than half my life as a student, you know, and I am a note-taker: pen on real paper, the sort that draws circles around important words, adds lots of arrows to connect ideas, goes back and finds the main points and numbers them. I listen so much better with a writing instrument in my hand, and I retain so much more -- even if I never go back to those notes again -- if I once write the information down. Not to mention that the task of catching the important parts, distilling them into bits concise enough to keep up, and recording them -- a survival skill I worked on for years and years -- focuses me on the words instead of the little distractions of my mind and body -- what else I have to do today, what on earth I am going to say to so-and-so the next time we talk, when I will be able to have lunch.
I decided all of a sudden that I don't care if anyone looks at me funny during Mass. I have a little notepad in my bag anyway, and I started pulling it out at homily time (sometimes during the readings if something in the readings strikes me) and taking notes.
It's made a lot of difference in my ability to take what I hear, find something fruitful in it, and carry it around in my mind -- out of the church and into the places where I can actually put it into practice. Also, it's easier to discuss it with Mark or with the kids later, because -- what's new -- I remember it more than five minutes after Mass is over.
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I really liked an image that our pastor used in his homily this morning. Children getting ready for picture day at school often protest at the dressy clothes and the sitting still; but when we are older, and it is time for us to pose for a group picture for some club or association or even friendship that we are happy to belong to, we don't want to stand out as the guy who doesn't seem to belong; we want to fit in, are eager to show through our image, our appearance and our expression, that we belong to this and it belongs to us. It is not superficial if the desire to be a part of the group is real.
Putting on saintliness here on earth is like that, because we belong already to the friendship and association of all the saints.
The notion of standing in rows and saying Cheese with my friends here on earth, and with St Therese and St Paul and St Josemaria and St Thomas and St Gianna and St Andrew and all the rest, just has tickled me all morning.
So. I am glad I wrote it down, because otherwise I might have been thinking about lunch instead.