When my alarm went off at 3:15 on a Saturday morning, I briefly questioned my own sanity. I had promised my seven youngest children, ages 14 years to 7 months, that I would bring them to a pre-dawn Rorate Caeli Mass – a sung Latin Mass that takes place during Advent and honors Our Lady. It is illuminated solely by candlelight. I had been longing to attend such a Mass, and the kids were excited as well. The only catch was that the Mass started at 6:30 a.m. and was more than two hours away.
But then I recalled the dramatic action taken by a friend of mine whose children went on a weekend high school music trip out of state. It turns out that none of the Catholic chaperones from the group were willing take the girls to attend Sunday Mass. To remedy this, my friend made the 8-hour trip to bring her children to Mass and then drove 8 hours home again. I know that her children will always remember this example of their mother’s love for them, and her love for Our Lord.
If my friend could do that, surely, I could get my people up and out the door for this early-morning Mass, and perhaps it would be equally memorable for them.
2020 was rough and Advent was no exception. From the alarming prospect of a nation run by Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, to Pope Francis deciding to #buildbackbetter, to the sore throat of a child (Is it COVID or a cold?), Advent felt less like preparation for Our Savior’s birth, and more like a grueling march as we struggled to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
I know that I get caught up in the news of the day far too often. I check Twitter a lot more than I should; however, I will admit that there is a small part of me that sort of enjoys reading about the day’s indignation. What disjointed statement did Joe Biden make today? What did the Holy Father say in his most recent Scalfari interview? And seriously, what happened with the Vatican Nativity!? And yet this “outrage porn” is what drives my discouragement, resulting in the not infrequent feeling that God has abandoned us. It is an oddly vicious cycle.
Sometimes when I pray, I get tired of waiting for an answer. I look around our world, most especially within the Church and feel, if not despair, then the pain of neglect. More than once I have asked Our Lord, “Where even are you?” Of course, I know He is there. St. Matthew reminds us in his Gospel that “even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” He sees us and He remembers us. I know this to be true; sometimes I forget.
Sitting in the darkness of such a beautiful church with candles burning in the sanctuary as we waited for Mass to begin was profoundly moving. The anticipation was almost unbearable.
But waiting can also be so painful. I look around at souls being lost to the world and my heart aches. I see people swallowing the lies spewed forth by the princes of our very Church. I watch as the Chinese Catholic Church is sold out for 30 pieces of silver by the very spiritual fathers who are supposed to protect them. And still, we wait for Our Lord. Where is He? I get impatient with the waiting.
But He comes. He comes to save us. And yet, He does not come, sword drawn, prepared to smite His foes, vanquishing evil. Instead, He comes as a tiny baby. We wait for salvation to come and when our Savior comes, He is a helpless infant. Now THAT is the God of surprises.
At the same time, as if to remind us of our own powerlessness, we see that we cannot rescue ourselves. We are not the ones who do the saving. It is He who comes down to us, like dew from Heaven. This humbling reminder in the midst of my impatience for action reorients my heart. Instead of wanting to instruct Our Lord on the finer points of fixing the world, I remember that I am the one who needs fixing.
The Gospel for the Rorate Mass was that of the Annunciation. Our Lady said yes. As the homily reminded me, she was the singular vessel of devotion and into her the heavens rained down the Just One. She consented to what the Father was asking. Her “yes” always reminds me of the Wedding Feast at Cana where she reminded the stewards at the wedding feast to, “Do whatever He tells you.” That is my lesson as well. I must say yes and keep saying yes to whatever task Our Lord calls me to (and I am pretty sure He is not calling me to constantly check Twitter or keep tabs on the outrage of the day).
Instead, like Our Lady, I am called to humbly serve my family. I am called to educate and raise up my children in the faith. I am called to teach them to remember that Our Lord has everything figured out.
In that beautiful church, I remembered that all that craziness both within the Church and without should not be my primary concern. My job is to continually prepare my heart for Him, shoving aside all the worries of 2020 and beyond, and make room at the very center of my life for this tiny baby Who is Salvation Himself. As we approach Epiphany, I am so thankful that, at every Mass, I can gaze at Him with awe and wonder, just as the Magi did. He is the answer to the uncertainty, anxiety, and chaos that reign in the world.
We made it to the Rorate Mass and then back again. Even the hard-to-please 11-year-old thanked me for bringing him and his siblings on our early morning adventure. And Our Lord reminded me once again that He has not forgotten us. Indeed, he reminded me that my small part to play is to say yes to Him, over and over. I pray that this time I will remember.
Maybe when my children look back at this day, they will recall not just getting up early and driving for hours in the darkness. Maybe they will also remember that the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Photo courtesy of John Cosmas of the Charlotte Latin Mass Community
Kathleen Gillio is a homeschooling mom who lives in upstate New York with her husband and 9 children.