Over the years, I've watched friends and family jump on all sorts of diets, fads, exercise programs, etc. And yes, I have latched on to some of them as well and do still faithfully take my "Juice Plus" to supplement my "getting healthier by the day" diet with full servings fruits and veggies in a capsule. The newest craze that has taken over my Facebook news feed is something called Spark. I have recently pondered whether I needed to add Spark to my life since everyone seems to be accomplishing everything on their to-do lists while running mini-marathons each day while my daily to-do list just carries over and only includes walking around the inside of my house monitoring schoolwork and chores!
But as I thought harder about this, I remembered that none of those "things" in the past really helped me get through my "whole" day happier and more fulfilled. Sure, some of them made me feel better, some gave me more energy, some helped me get into better physical shape, etc. But none really helped me get through all the trials of life and become a happier, healthier person spiritually. As my "followers" (lol) already know, my family has been undergoing a life-changing overhaul. I've been trying to figure out a point when things first began to make that big U-turn for us and haven't been able to nail it down.
But one big curve in the road came to mind this weekend as I thought about the awful week I had had. It happened a few years ago when my son, about 8 years old at the time, challenged us to attend Mass everyday during Lent. He had just made his First Reconciliation and was preparing for his First Communion. We had been drilling into his head the importance of the Sacraments and the grace you receive from them. I guess he figured we needed extra grace in our family! (We did.) We had been attending Friday morning Mass already and really enjoyed starting our "weekend" off with the Holy Eucharist. But I am NOT a morning person! Ask my mom and husband! I would have to
literally drag myself out of the bed to make Friday morning Mass even though I knew I would be thankful I did once I knelt down in front of the altar, but how was I going to do this every morning?
I accepted his challenge mostly because you can't tell a kid, "No" when they are asking to go to Mass. That's got to be a sin,
right? My husband came with us when his work schedule allowed, but I
was ultimately the one dragging myself out of bed at 5:30 am every
morning to attend 6:25 am Mass with three fairly small kids. I always wanted to turn that alarm off and roll back over. I did a few times and felt terrible when I was reprimanded by a 6, 7, and 8 year old when they realized we had missed Mass. I then had to take them that evening after school and work, but it wasn't the same as starting our day off with Mass. I needed that peace and calm first thing in the morning.
Fridays had always been a great day for me. I was able to face whatever the day had in store for me much better than on other week days. It was as if nothing could get in my way on Fridays. It was the end of the work week and no one was going to mess up my happy day. The rest of the week..... well, let's say I didn't handle situations quite so well. I looked forward to Fridays like everyone else, always counting down the days---starting on Monday morning!
Amazingly, things seemed to get better on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays during that Lent. I was able to handle pressures of life much better. I began to notice a change in myself that Lent as well as a change in the kids. This change was so great, that as soon as Lent ended, we started only attending Friday Masses again. I was so happy to get my extra hour of tossing and turning in bed back....Ah! Slowly, our hectic lives started back up. My patience with people started to dwindle and pressures of ordinary life started to frazzle me once again. The calm had ended except on Fridays. Go figure!
Slowly, we began to head back to daily Mass one or two "extra" times a week at the request of the kids. They seemed to understand that daily Mass equaled more serenity in our lives. I had not yet "gotten it". They understood the things that I had been teaching them about the Sacraments more clearly than I obviously did, since they were now going to weekly confession to receive the grace to do better and then challenged me to go more often. How humbling is that!
Small, but great, things began to happen in our lives during those years. (Read previous blogs!) But it took another Lenten challenge from the kids for me to realize how much more smoothly life seemed to run when we attended daily Mass. So for the past couple of years, we have been attending Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning Mass as often as we can. Not because we are "holier" than anyone else, but just the opposite. It's because we are sinners and need that extra help!! We know that we are not strong enough to do it alone. We need those graces received in the Sacraments to get through our daily toils, to help us fight off the temptations of Satan, and to become more worthy of God's unconditional love.
Just like my friends can tell if they hadn't had their "Spark" one day, I can tell when I have missed daily Mass and the Eucharist. Last week was a prime example; it was a terrible week! It started with an out of town appointment first thing Monday morning and was followed by a migraine that kept me in bed for a day and a half. Both keeping us from morning Mass. Things just went downhill from there. I found myself barking and yelling at the kids and my husband, something I hadn't done in a very long time!
I remember crying myself to sleep Friday night thinking, "What in the world happened to me this week?" I couldn't really say it was an out of the ordinary week, nothing major happened in our lives, the kids weren't overly bad, no major problems, etc. I just handled all of the ordinary happenings badly! Very badly! Saturday morning I woke up and realized that we had only attended daily Mass on Friday. I had missed out on my "spark", the Holy Eucharist, that gives me strength to tackle my daily and weekly tasks charitably with love. So, off I went to Mass this morning to ask for forgiveness and to get the "spark" of the Spirit to help me through my week.
Attending daily Mass isn't some "miracle fix" to all of life's problems though. Our life is still full of troubles, trials, situations, conflicts, and chaos! Satan tempts us even more than before, or so it seems. Daily Mass attendance doesn't make me any holier than any other mom, Christian, or Catholic around. The Holy Eucharist feeds my soul which in turn helps me to tackle life with a little more grace, a little more tact, a little more patience, a little more understanding, but most of all, a LOT more love.
As my son challenged me several years ago, I challenge you. This Lent attend an extra Mass or two during the week, or begin your day with an extra 30 minutes of prayer, scripture reading, and quiet time with God, and see what a difference it can make in how you handle your ordinary daily tasks. I challenge you to find your "Spark" that will help the fire of the Spirit burn brightly in you.
****Disclaimer to all of my Advocare friends, please take no offense! I am still considering how much more effective I could be with both my "Spark" and yours. I just don't want to wake up wanting to run 12 miles a day! ;-)