Maybe it is just the stage of life at which I am right now, but vacations never seem as relaxing as popular culture would have you believe they are. Every year before our week with very good friends at their lake house in western Illinois, I make what I think are modest plans for extra prayer, reflection and reading, and instead I come to the end of it wondering where all the time went.
Of course, none of the time was “wasted.” We spent hours in gorgeous weather on the lake engaged in activities and accomplishments that our children will never forget, among them: slalom skiing for my 12-year-old, fast and fearless tubing for my 11-year-old son, astonishing double backflips off a diving board by my 8-year-old daughter, and near-permanent attachment to our friend’s cuddly Havanese for my 6-year-old daughter. For the adults, there was enjoyable time preparing elaborate Italian meals consumed with good wine, evenings around a firepit overlooking the lake, and a midnight cruise on the boat under a full moon.
So the fact I didn’t accomplish what I thought I would is not that great of a tragedy. Especially because I was hit with a couple of unexpected moments of inspiration.
I’ll focus on one that has relevance to a couple of stories in this issue of the newspaper.
The background is our contact with my friend’s father, who is in his 70s, has nine kids and (nearly) 35 grandkids. He’s also a very successful entrepreneur who persevered through a string of early failures and remains actively engaged in his enterprise.
I always enjoy talking to him, and listening to stories about the obstacles he has overcome, from venial city councils to the current economic downturn. He seems to have an unshakable confidence that even through all the trials and many blessings, God has, is and will provide for him and his family.
I’ve heard him say before that his trust comes from prayer, especially virtual unfailing attendance at daily Mass. That comes first. And then everything else falls into place.
This time, though, I was able to attend Mass at his own house, and witness the glow on his face as the two of us worked to stow the cruets and other Mass items. This is a man, I realized, who really understands and appreciates what Mass is all about. This is living like the Mass is, in the words of the Second Vatican Council, the “source and summit” of life.
As our editorial this week points out, the wording changes to the Mass prayers being introduced this Advent are a tremendous opportunity for all of us to rediscover this truth for ourselves. As Catholics, we believe that there is truly nothing more monumental we can do than prayerfully join in the celebration of Holy Eucharist.
Not everyone will be able to find a way to get to Mass daily, but many of us can. The best fruit of my vacation is a firm commitment to try.