The last few weeks I've been dragging my tail out of bed one day a week to go to 7am mass before work.
I can't necessarily claim credit for this, since my initial impulse was a solid old-style guilt trip that our associate pastor laid on us one week at bible study. But having once gone, I found myself remembering the things that make solo, early morning mass going so fulfilling.
First off, as the parent, it's a great chance to be able to pay full attention to the mass itself, rather than splitting attention between paying attention to the mass, and trying to make the kids give some vague semblance of at least facing in the right direction.
But it also seems like a much more direct experience of the sacrament, with 20-30 people all within a twenty feet of the priest. At Sunday mass, we usually have 400-600 people and approach standing room only, and the tenor of the liturgy are very much in the hands of the priest and the music director for that mass. The weekday mass, on the other hand, is as much in the hands of the congregation as the priest in many ways. To use the meal analogy which is so often abused in amateur liturgics: a banquet's tone is set by its organizers, but the feel of a dinner party is as much a result of the guests as the hosts.
Something that struck me these last few weeks is how young our parish really is. Growing up, most of my experience of going to daily mass was with my grandparents, who were daily communicants. Daily mass in their parish was the domain of a dozen folks in their eighties who congregated as Denny's or McDonalds afterwards for breakfast. And at 7am, the old ladies got the mass they wanted, one way or another. When the priest forcibly retired the sanctus bells, the sanctuary echoed with half a dozen old ladies loudly jingling their keys at the elevation.
Own own weekday mass has an average age a good thirty or forty years younger than my grandparents' parish did, and a number of brave souls even march in their kids each morning. The middle-aged woman who sits in the front row in her veil keeps custody of a set of sanctus bells, and the hymns we croak out a capella in our morning voices are generally much older than the ones that the music leaders invariably select for Sundays.