Sunday, June 20, 2010


At yesterday evening's Mass, I felt a sense of disquietude. I therefore found it difficult to concentrate on the Mass. There was no reason for this feeling. Or was there? After all, there were some singular differences from our regular Mass. First, Fr. Ed is in Europe, so we have a one-month replacement, Fr. Paul, who is a very pleasant priest from Lagos, Nigeria. However, his English is highly accented and difficult to understand. Second, he apparently does not know how to work the mike, so we could barely hear him. (Someone will be sure to help him before the next Mass.)

The mike issue reminded me of an instance experienced by an interim priest we had three years ago. He was having trouble getting his mike to work and wanted to explain it to the parishioners. So, instead of saying "Peace be with you," he first said, "There is something wrong with this mike."

Right on cue, not hearing anything but being on automatic pilot and hearing some quiet, incomprehensible words ("there is something wrong with this mike"), the entire congregation responded, "And with you."

Now there is what I would call habituation. Automatic pilot. It is something that I noticed during the early days of my conversion when I first started attending Mass. I struggled to learn the liturgy, but just about everyone else had it memorized. I envied them until I realized that many (certainly, of course, far from all) were on automatic pilot, repeating words without really thinking about their meaning.

How could they treat this wonderful hour with God and God's people as anything except something special, a time to be savored? How could they read the bulletin while sacred words from the Bible were being read? How could they feel anything except awe in the presence of God?

How? Familiarity, custom, habit. They knew all those words by heart: the ones they spoke and the ones they heard. For me, initially, these words had all been new, exciting. Now, I, too, have heard them before. The Mass is becoming habitual for me??!!

I guess that is what has happened to God's people from time to time -- habituation. Familiarity breeding contempt. Taking God for granted, which has even led to forgetting about Him. Take, for example, the Israelites as they followed Moses around the desert. Or many other civilizations.

Maybe that was the source of my sense of disquietude. Because of being disquieted, I lost the opportunity to savor my time with God. I was there, but I was not. I don't want that to happen again because I will never get that hour back. The only "habit" I want to have is constant communication with God, savoring His presence wherever I am and being ready to fulfill whatever task He is kind enough to entrust to me or actually carrying it out. Any other use of my time is wasted.

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