I was traveling this weekend, and although some people have assured me that there is a dispensation from Sunday obligation for those on the road, somehow I couldn't square it with my conscience to miss Mass because I was out of town at a Catholic conference. A word about the Behold Conference: I enjoyed immensely the chance to get to see many of my favorite women in person, and I took full advantage of the precious opportunity to receive the sacraments and sit in adoration unencumbered by small children. The organizers were attentive, and everything was beautifully planned and executed. The chant choir was exquisite. But as the weekend wore on, I yearned more and more to be home with my family, and particularly with Darwin. It seems I am not a person who likes to travel without her husband. By the time Sunday rolled around, I was in an agony to get home and just be with him.
We were already under travel constraints, since through a minor but honest comedy of errors we had missed the Saturday mass we'd wanted to attend. No matter. We still had all Sunday. But as we drove eastward, missing every Sunday mass from Peoria to Columbus, I grew more and more uneasy. My excellent travel companions Betty Duffy and Sarah Reinhard are women gifted with a fabulous amount of articulate intelligence, and I myself went to college, but though the three of us had reckoned individually with the loss of an hour to Daylights Saving Time and with crossing time zones, we were unaccountably defeated by the unusual combination of the two, which meant that the 1 pm Spanish mass we'd counted on was over by the time we rolled into Betty's town at 2 pm. I knew there was a 6 pm mass at a church along the Columbus beltway, but through a combination of careless navigation errors I couldn't get there in time. But I knew I had one more out -- there was a 7 pm on the campus of Ohio Domincan I could reach just in time.
Trying to use an iPad to navigate while you're driving alone is a dangerous business, as the drivers around me could attest, but I found the quiet campus of Ohio Dominican and hunted the quiet grounds until I found the quiet building with the chapel. It too was quiet, because Ohio Dominican, it seemed, was on spring break. Through the glass doors I could see straight to the silent altar, but the door between me and Jesus was locked.
I had thought, earlier, that the most important thing to me was to get home and be with my husband. I was wrong. Slumped on a bench outside the locked chapel, fighting down rising panic at the possibility of missing mass on Sunday -- a mortal sin, something that could separate me from God forever, and knowing that I could have made better choices during the weekend that would have prevented this situation -- I knew that nothing, nothing, was so important to me as to get to mass that day. Going to mass isn't just an obligation, just as spending time was with my family isn't an obligation. It's an act of love, one I want to perform, and one that by this time I desperately wanted to perform, wanted more than anything else. And here I sat, choking on the very real possibility that I had just blown my chances to do what I had just truly realized I most desired.
There were still five hours left in the day, however, and in a big metropolitan area that turns out to be plenty: the Newman Center at Ohio State University had a 9 pm mass. I passed numerous fast food places, but they had no pull on me -- not because I wasn't hungry, because I was, but because I had no desire to be anywhere but with Jesus. And when I reached OSU with an hour and a half to spare and finally was able to sit in the chapel with the tabernacle, I had to sob a bit for sheer happiness at finally being exactly where I needed to be. All the scripture verses I had ever heard about the beauty of God's house and the deer longing for running streams and one day in your courts came flooding back to me, and they were true. I didn't get home until almost 11 pm, but it didn't matter. I had been to mass on Sunday.
I'll never again make jokes about the "sinner's mass". And now I think I'm going to have to be an OSU fan. Go Buckeyes.
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