This weekend, I was one of many, many Catholics we find in the pews at Mass: Distracted and Checked Out.
Some of it was because I am the mother of three kids who takes her kids to Mass. This means that during various points of the Mass you may find me:
- writing my three year old’s name for him over and over on the back of the worship aid just to keep him quiet.
- shushing the 6 year old who keeps up a constant stream of chatter no matter the time or location (she even talks in her sleep).
- elbowing my 8 year old and pointedly gesturing to the worship aid when he isn’t engaging in “full, active, conscious participation.”
This week, before communion, as I was trying to pray to prepare myself to receive the Eucharist, the 3 year old slipped off the kneeler and smacked his head on the pew and meditative prayer quickly took a back seat to kissing the injury and active pleading to God that he would quiet down so we wouldn’t have to sneak out the side door (He did and we didn’t).
As much as I’d like to blame it all on the kids – it’s not just their fault. At various points during Mass, I caught my mind wandering in ways totally unrelated to their distratctions:
- Did my husband take the fish we were planning to have for dinner out of the freezer to thaw?
- Is it going to be warm enough to go out on the boat or to the pool?
- I should talk to Father about how he could easily Tweet this homily. Maybe I’ll just get him to give me a copy and I’ll Tweet it.
- on and on and on….
After Mass I realized that there are a lot of times (not just during Mass) that I’m checked out of and distracted from my faith.
Today, I took some time to pray through the readings for today’s Liturgy of the Hours and found both comfort and challenge. (If you don’t know what Liturgy of the Hours is, that’s okay – I didn’t until a few years ago either!)
Today is the Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist, and in reading through the story of his birth, I realized that even some of the holiest, most church-going people in Scriptures shared in the struggle to pray well, to have faith, and to truly engage in that faith.
John the Baptist’s father Zechariah was a priest who knew the promises of Scripture inside and out. While I’m sure he had faith, he also had moments of doubt, moments where he didn’t really believe with his whole heart.
Read his story in Luke 1:5-25, 57-80
Zechariah was like many of us – good people who occasionally check out and end up just going through the motions – so much so that he missed the miracle before him. Zechariah learned to trust God the hard way – nine months of being deaf and dumb. But Zechariah’s 9-month “incarceration” in a prison of silence served a greater purpose: he was able to meditate deeply on Scriptures, and then filled with the Holy Spirit, to proclaim the beautiful canticle that shows what it means to truly believe with all of his heart, soul, mind and strength.
I take comfort in knowing that even a faithful old priest like Zechariah could lose a little bit of his faith, become distracted, and check out. I’m also challenged to make sure it doesn’t take an angel rendering me deaf and dumb for nine months to refocus my heart and bring me back to the joy of a relationship with a living, loving God who fulfills his promises.
The Canticle of Zechariah has been a reminder for me that while God’s faithfulness is not dependent upon my ability to see it, my own faith is. Even if the words don’t always ring true, I pray them with hope that they’ll open my eyes so that I can remain checked in and focused on the victories – large and small – He has won, is winning, and will win for me.