Stephen Miller blogs about his family’s adventures – and challenges – in attending daily Mass in a rural area. This is day three in a six-day series, as Stephen says, because “Sunday is a given.”
Up and at’em at 6:30 am.
Today’s Mass offerings are: Browerville at 11am (10 miles away), Swanville at 5:45 pm (13 miles away), Long Prairie at 8:30 am (14 miles away), and two churches in Little Falls offer Mass at 7:30 am or 8:30 am (22 miles away).
For our schedule today Long Prairie is most convenient, so the home parish, St. Mary of Mount Carmel, it is!
It’s a busy day for us: Father Jimmy Joseph is coming over to our house at noon for lunch and then to bless our gardens and fields, Jenna has a cello student coming to our house at 2:00, and I have a Schoenstatt Boy’s Group meeting at St. James Church in Randall at 3:00. Jenna is also making lunch: carnitas and coleslaw. Yum! But morning Mass is brief and shouldn’t disrupt any of that. On the way to Long Prairie, Jenna casually mentions that since it’s Wednesday, it will be a class Mass (St. Mary of Mount Carmel is blessed with a Catholic elementary school). Well, even a class Mass won’t make it that much longer.
Vera, 11, comes with us. We don’t listen to the radio or play a CD on our way to Masses. Instead we have conversation or enjoy the quiet. Having a wife who is studying theology in graduate school provides ample opportunity for intellectual discussions. Lately she’s been thinking about Mary as the gateway to the Church, and we’ve been discussing the beatitudes and comparing that with the qualities of our Blessed Mother.
We arrive at St. Mary of Mount Carmel and reflect on how many cars are lining the street. We park, walk up the stairs and enter the sanctuary. We are met by 8 sixth grade ushers, who provide us with a printed program. I look at the cover and see that it’s a graduation Mass. This will be no quick 1/2 hour daily Mass or even 45-minute class Mass!
The front of the church is packed with kids and the other pews are pretty full. Long Prairie has a population of about 3,500 and it looks like everyone in town showed up for this Mass! Father Omar is in his element, questioning the sixth grade kids and enjoying their answers. It’s a little like a tv game show, but without the technicolor sets or commercials. Linda Dinkel, the principal at the school, is out of town enjoying her first grandchild who was either just born or almost born (it was a little unclear). Brenda Gugglberger, the former principal, took over the role as commencement speaker. The air was filled with outstretched arms as electronic devices “capture the moment” as the children participate in the various ceremonies.
An hour later (after the Eucharistic feast and before the final blessing) my wife leaned over to me and said, “I think this could go on for some time.” Yesterday I was worried about being excommunicated for being late to Mass. Now we’re leaving before Mass is officially over! But we have a merciful and forgiving God, and as lovely and emotional as the ceremonies were, we thought it prudent to quietly excuse ourselves and go.
I wonder how many kids are tempted to pull the bell ropes on their way out of the Church? I know I am!