"Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him, and he says in reply from within, 'Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.' I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence. "And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened."- Christ
"Hey God, got any extra loaves? I know it's 2am and I've been playing loud music all night...but I got a hankering for French toast right now."
Before you read on, please be aware of the fact that I must be one of God's most annoying neighbors considering my history of knocking at all hours of the night and how I never give up.
......I was so relieved at 2am Monday when I completed my exam...but not so happy about the fact that I missed mass this Sunday because of this exam. Truth be told, I could have gone to mass and sacrificed an hour or two and just stayed up a few more hours working on the exam. I mean, I am not one to miss mass when I can help it. However, I did skip it with the promise that I would find a church church on Monday (or something) and attend some 12pm mass...or at least offer up a few prayers of thanksgiving. It turns out there was no noon mass at the church I visited on Monday. Turns out the main door to the church was locked...along with all the other entrances. Not being one to give up, I waited outside an empty rectory for a little while until these two sweet women came up and let me in. One of them opened up the door to the church and left me there to pray for as long as I wished. There were no lights on, the only light source I had was the light outdoors that was filtering in through the beautiful (and dusty) stained glass. The whole place was dark and a little cold...but Christ was there in the Eucharist...somewhere behind the curtained tabernacle.
Though it was Monday and I had already prayed the joyful mysteries, I decided to pray the sorrowful mysteries. As I prayed, I could not help but feel lonely and far away from everything. Therefore, I moved from the pews in the center, to one of the smaller pews right in front of the tabernacle. I prayed and, for the first time in quite a while, started feeling the desperate loneliness/doubt that plagues us religious folk every once in a while (like a watered down "dark night of the soul"). I could not explain it, but something was off. I did what I could to keep praying and focused on the rosary. However, I just could not shake off whatever it was that was off. Eventually, I finished and then walked to class. I got home and still couldn't shake off the feeling. I got up this morning...still had that feeling. When I prayed the rosary this morning, I felt a little better...but I was still feeling like something was off. I had picked up "Mere Christianity" (by my main man C.S. Lewis) from the bookshelf this morning and read it on and off through the day...and it helped but it wasn't the remedy I was looking for. Something was wrong and I needed to fix it...and I had some idea as to how I could fix it.
I had my chance after I left the lab early (when you don't show up for a week and a half due to exams and such, it takes a while to get back in the swing of things). As I walked from the station to my house I felt the urge to stop by a church I've been frequenting since I moved to my new apartment. I figured I would walk in and pray...or at least read a little. Guess what? More locked doors. A sign on the door told me that the church would be locked for another hour. I hope you're starting to see the pattern here...However, you know that parable about that annoying neighbor that knocks on your door at midnight....well that annoying neighbor is me....and I don't give up easily when it comes to faith.
To make a long story short I waited outside for about an hour...reading my book and thinking about how easy it was for me to slip sometimes when it comes to matters of the faith. I kept hearing that nagging voice that told me to give up, that I was a fool for waiting in the cold...that I was a fool for wasting my time...that I could always just go the next day....you know, that voice that tries to get you to stop praying, to stop going to mass, to stop going to confession, to give up on the Eucharist...to give up on Christ. Fortunately, however, that voice was no match for a conscience that has been working overtime for a few years now trying to make me a better person. It helped me ignore the temptation and weakness and focus on the fact that I had totally let God down and even let my Church down this Sunday...
I started feeling like a fool sitting on the stone steps, but I swallowed my pride. The wind started blowing and I got cold, but I offered it up as penance for the souls of Purgatory. I read on through my doubt, my pride, my frustration, my loneliness, my anger...you name it. I got about halfway through the book by the time they unlocked that door, but I felt a lot better by the time I got inside. Don't get me wrong, I still could not feel my bum and my hands were still numb...but I had put everything that was weakness aside in order to truly feel better. IT WAS WORTH IT. The mysterious desperation/doubt was over. The light coming in through the stained glass and the light that radiated from the Eucharist broke through the darkness that was trying so desperately to strangle my faith. The mass touched my soul, its silence and prayer taking me back 2000 years ago to the Last Supper and every Christian mass that followed across millennia. I felt connected to God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the saints, the angels, and every Catholic that has ever lived and every Catholic that has yet to be born. I felt like I was home. I felt at peace as I prayed alongside my fellow Catholics....and it was a great feeling. It was the best I had felt since the last mass I had attended. I felt that I was taking part in something much greater and much more beautiful than I could ever imagine let alone appreciate.
As I sat through mass, all of those doubts I had been experiencing seemed to melt away. They were replaced by the feeling that I was a part of something much bigger and greater then myself...as well as these guys. I knew what had happened....I had missed mass on Sunday out of laziness and lied to myself about it. I had convinced myself that I had done it because of the exam...and with this lie...evil began to take root and had begun to feed me lies. (Darn you temptation and your insidious nature!)
In spite of all the lies I was being fed, a certain and longing hunger persisted through the darkness and the doubt. Prayer had kept me from starving...but it had not satiated me...especially when my spiritual life had suddenly had turned into an all out battle between good and evil. I had to go to mass. I simply felt the need to take part in it. Everything I was doing on my own was nice, but it just wasn't enough. I needed more....I needed to go to mass. I don't know how some people can go months or years without going to mass. I can completely understand the laziness, pride, doubt, etc. that compels someone to NOT got to mass...because I have felt it over my own life. However, I cannot understand how some people can feel fine about it. I barely lasted two days this week before I broke down and found myself begging God to open the door.
Truth be told, I still feel a longing. However, going to mass enabled me to spend some one on one time with Christ as well as my Church...and gave me some time in an otherwise hectic schedule to really examine my conscience. Needless to say, I've slacked off big time these last few months as far as the Sacrament of Reconciliation goes....and considering how much I longed to receive today, I think it's time to knock on God's door again with humility was well as repentance (it is Lent after all). Thankfully, He's always there to listen and help me out when I need Him most....even if I can no longer remember how many months it has been since my last confession.