We live in a very rural area. We were actually considered a “mission” church for many years before the Diocese restructured all the churches into independent entities. For a while we didn’t even have a priest assigned to us.
Finally the Bishop decided to combine us with two other “local” churches and assign one priest to all three. So our parish priest travels over 100 miles every Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist with three different communities. Not to mention a “daily” Mass once a week, confessions, weddings, baptisms, etc., in each community.
So when a late winter storm struck last week and dropped a foot of snow on us, the middle church, on an early Saturday morning, we knew Father had alot more snow up at his higher altitude. Snow continued off and on all day, with intermittent thawing, enough to wet the roads for ice overnight. Sunday morning, the roads were closed due to multiple accidents and there was no route open for him to get to us to say Mass. Inevitably, that Sunday the church was packed. There is no deacon in our community, and without dispensation from the Bishop, we could not have a communion service. We did, however, sing and have the Liturgy of the Word. We then made a spiritual communion before leaving.
Afterwards, we had a food sale in the hall, and one generous patron made a large donation so that any who could not afford to buy could still eat. It almost felt like what the early church must have been like. But it also felt suspiciously Protestant. Without the Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist, I left with a longing and a hunger not satisfied. I also missed the usual rituals. I love the entire process of the Mass, from the processing in, the readings, the shared profession of faith, offering the gifts, consecration, Holy Communion, and final blessing. When I was away from the Church, this is what I missed. Since I have come back, I don’t want to be without it. To receive Jesus, fully, into my body and soul; to have His grace well up inside me and overflow all around me, this I long for. This I desire most of all. I continue to pursue it and can never get enough. I am weak and human, and utterly fallable. I need His strength to attempt to live fully.
In our area we get this reminder several times a year when Father is sick, or the weather prevents him from coming to say Mass. How fortunate and grateful we are that we do have a priest to come and say Mass on Sunday, even one extra day a week. With the shortage of vocations and a culture that despises celibacy, we may someday soon have to drive a great distance to get to Mass. What a tragedy indeed, if the odd Sunday was the one that we did have Mass.