September 15, 2009


Yesterday and today I have had the early Mass at 6:45 in the so-called "friars' chapel," which is adjacent to the left side of the sanctuary of the main church. It's a group of eighteen or so, and I enjoy it very much. I try to get the church open and everything set up by 6:15 or so, and then I get half vested and go to sit in the back of the church, which ends up being the quietest spot leading up to Mass.

Sitting back there trying to pray I have come to know the arrival of the regulars by sound. The first is always the quiet but quick feet of the old woman who has probably been doing this same devoted routine since before I was even baptized. I hear her stop for a moment before passing through the sanctuary into the chapel, and without even looking I know that she is kneeling on the sanctuary step, offering a prayer.

Then come the two early morning chatters, usually audible before they even come in but quieting down right away when they notice that it's me that day and I'm sitting out by the entrance. I hear them begin to make their way up to the sanctuary, after speaking the whispered script about whether Father remembered to bring some missallettes up to the small chapel. I turn my mind to gratitude for the example of their piety and constancy, grateful for the opportunity to mortify my annoyance at their little racket.

Then I hear the quick and purposeful steps of the Italian lady whose granddaughter's wedding is being prepared in Atlanta for celebration next Spring at our church. Her path is intermittent, the sound of her steps coming and going as she stops to pray at the shrine to Fr. Solanus and then again at St. Anthony's altar on her way to the chapel.

And so on it goes until the last rush of folks arrive right before Mass begins. Over my time here I have noticed that I depend on these folks spiritually. The example of their stability and constancy holds up my own prayer, and reminds me to repent of how shallow and fragile is my own devotion. Each morning I am grateful for the grace of their stability and routine, and I pray that I might grow into something of their regularity in my own service to the Lord.


Julia said...

I also know the sound of people arriving at the chapel and find their regular presence comforting. The same people arrive at the same time in the same way every day, from the old man who arrives an hour before Mass, who can barely walk but genuflects everyday, to the young seminarian who comes twenty minutes early, dressed immaculately, one day a week.

I've also been in the humbling position of having these same people come over to tell me that they are inspired by my regular presence, even though at twenty years of age my example is almost nothing compared to the older people who have been saying their rosary before Mass every day for decades.

pennyante said...

When I go to Mass in the hospital chapel twice a week, I usually am the first to arrive. I do this purposely because I love the peacefulness and quiet. I need these few minutes to recollect myself... I don't even turn the lights on... only the sanctuary lamp casts its glow. Of course, the room is not in total darkness since the floor to ceiling glass brings in the daylight.

Anyhow, I leave the lights for the couple who usually arrive next. They also prepare the altar and the lectionary.

When someone from our group of about a dozen people is missing, we are concerned; and are happy to see them back again...

Soon after I first discovered these Masses, I was asked if I was a reader (which I am); there are 3 or 4 of us who take turns doing the readings. At first I felt like an outsider but no longer... It doesn't take long before a group like this becomes a family.

Perhaps, this is how it is with your early morning worshipers too, Fr. Charles...

Qualis Rex said...

Sounds like you couldn't find a better set of regulars even on "Cheers". Hmmmm, Father Charles, I smell a sit-com.... ; P

Rachel Gray said...

Daily Mass is great because you get to know all the nice people who go regularly.

It's neat that you spend time praying in the chapel with the people, Father. Our parish has priests who do that occasionally and something about priests and people praying silently together like that just gives me warm fuzzies.

On the other hand I know of a priest in another parish who had problems trying to pray in church before Mass-- people kept interrupting him.

Brother Charles said...

That happens too, Rachel!

FrankCaiati said...

That was a fantastic posting. I sit here pondering what to write for tonight on my blog, you have reminded me that there are extrodinary things in the ordinary of life.
Thanks for the inspiration!

Deborah said...

I love this post. I have been attending daily Mass with my husband for the last 5 years. I was just thinking this morning about the way people come into Mass to pray and leave everything else behind. As the church fills up, you can almost hear the prayers of the people who quietly enter and kneel before our Lord in reverence and supplication.