How To Find Mass on the Road

Inside Stella Maris, Goose Island, Texas

I still am getting used to the idea of using my smartphone instead of paper maps, telephone books and a cell phone. Everything evolves around here, especially with rving full-time and relying heavily on modern technology to navigate and assist in finding what we need during our slow travels. The travel tip I’ll share today is from my smartphone, it sure makes simple work of finding Sunday Mass.
yp on google play

We have previously used various websites to locate Catholic churches and Mass times while adventuring. Currently, with our smartphones, on this most recent road trip to parts previously unknown, we have made good use of the YP (yellow pages) app and the pre-loaded maps app on the iPhone4. Although, in a couple of instances we have been steered wrong, these two apps have helped us find churches, post offices, homes of friends and relatives, rv parks, campgrounds, grocery stores, and more.

maps from apple

I shudder to recall the days when Google maps always had to be backed up with a paper street map and a cell phone to call and get directions. I still laugh about my friend’s couchsurfers, who never did find the Grand Canyon, because their smartphones sent them off on a more direct route – as the crow flies, rather than as the car drives. I now laugh at myself, when I get frustrated at the phone for leading me to an empty warehouse instead of the post office, but I am learning to pull over, re-calibrate and enter different info when that happens. It also helps to drive around a bit and have a young’un who’s pretty good with reading maps and navigating. And smartphones.

We haven’t gotten lost yet, but I can tell you, we have unintentionally taken some scenic drives and did arrive late for Mass once. We haven’t missed Mass on Sunday, though. I usually check YP on Friday, map out the route to the church, then call the number provided to check Mass times. 

Our Lady of the Valley, La Jara, Colorado

I still carry a road atlas and some state maps for general route planning and reference, but to find local stuff along the way, the YP app and the maps app have been invaluable and saved an enormous amount of time and frustration. I highly recommend checking your smartphone or tablet and trying out similar apps which may be available to you, as you plan your next pilgrimage.


Big Church Little Church

I have to admit, I am partial to little churches and missions. My “home” congregation consists of about 60 families. I like the intimacy, the colorful characters, even the feuding. To me, it is so much more like a family. Yes, we have our differences, we frequently do not get along, but we pull together in times of crisis and need. It is our Catholic life.

In a big church, I feel lost. There seem to be so many people and so much to do. I lose focus. I get complacent. There are too many choices. The children are sent out during Mass, not taught to sit quietly, participate fully and honor the Sacrament. The music is modernized to entertain and attract an audience. Just my take on things.

Inside tiny Stella Maris, Lamar, TX

I walk in to a big, modern Catholic church and I can’t find the holy water. I want to bless myself with it when I walk in and when I walk out. It is a sacramental reminder of my devotion. Now, there is usually one large font, instead of the small ones at each door. I feel funny walking up to that big baptismal pond to use the holy water, then find my way out.

St. Anne’s, Deming, NM

I still want to genuflect when I enter the pew where I am going to sit. I am here for Mass and I want to honor my Host. I want to put the kneeler down and spend some quiet time in prayer and thanksgiving before and after Mass.  Most often, now, the Blessed Sacrament is not even kept in the main part of the church, but in an attached adoration chapel. I guess that’s okay for big churches.

View from Lake Lodge rec room, Yellowstone NP, Wyoming

On this pilgrimage of slow travel, I have attended Mass in churches in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Texas. It is always an adventure, come Saturday, to find out where we will be attending Mass on Sunday. The Holy Eucharist is always nourishing and enriching. Small churches just ensnare my heart. St. Anne’s in Ash Fork and St. Francis in Seligman, Arizona, where I had the honor of leading the music for 15 years. The rec room of the Lake Lodge in Yellowstone NP, Wyoming, where we attended when we were there for my daughter’s wedding. St. Anne’s in Deming, NM, where we worshiped after a long night of trying to find a campsite in the dark. Stella Maris, outside of Goose Island SP, Texas, where we shivered on top of an AC vent, until someone realized it was cold outside and in and turned it off. The pastor there had recently been healed of stage 4 cancer and spoke confidently about God’s merciful love and healing. 

This week of our full-time rving life, this awesome road trip, we will be celebrating Ash Wednesday in a big church in Texas and we will be grateful to have found another spiritual home on the road.


Oh the Drama!

Maybe it’s the so-called “alignment of the planets”, as some say, or maybe it’s just me, but there seems to have been a whole lot of drama going on lately.  Families have their own inherent drama, of course.  Someone’s hurting, “well-meaning” others come in and stir things up and suddenly everything’s out of hand.

In our church communities things get out of hand, too.  Disputes over bilingual Mass and Latin or not get as heated as immigration law debates.  Some cannot set aside their differences and agree to disagree, and leave.  It’s sad in families, it’s sad in our church family.

The media pursues the sexual abuse issue like rabid hounds.  As though they’ve forgotton Jim Baker.  Or as though it’s any bigger than taxpayer dollars going to big bankers to pay out bonuses to already overpaid executives.

Why are we so addicted to drama and the inevitable tragedy that accompanies it?  Where do we find the answers, for healing in our families, our church, our world?  All we can do is practice.  Practice Jesus’ example of unconditional love.  Practice tolerance – of different languages, different opinions, different customs.  Practice spiritual discipline – attend Mass, receive Holy Communion, go to confession.  Pray the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

We who are not politicians, turn over our anxieties to the Highest Power, and make our voices heard to our elected representatives.  We who are families, die with Christ every day for peace in our homes.  We who are Catholics, die with Christ to our own self-righteousness, for peace in our communities.  We can only do a little.  But if we each do a little, so much gets done.


Ash Wednesday

These forty days of Lent, O Lord, with you we fast and pray;
Teach us to discipline our wills and follow Lord your way.
(These Forty Days of Lent, (c) 1970 WLP)

I don’t know what I’m “giving up” for Lent this year. I try to fast and abstain from meat on Fridays, and today of course, though physical limitations sometimes interfere.  I tried to give up coffee a couple years ago and actually made it past the initial headaches, but when the foggy haze refused to lift, I caved in.  That took about 2 weeks.  One year I gave up chocolate, successfully, but right now that just seems like too much torture to endure again.  The last couple years I have worked on certain character defects, but now this has become habit, and I think I should embark upon something new and difficult.

Our pastor emphasized prayer, fasting and abstinence in his homily today.  Making time to pray no matter how busy we are.

Fasting – what can I forego, in solidarity with Jesus’ suffering?  Maybe a day to day decision – a meal, another gadget, a movie.  Put the money saved where it will help someone else.

Abstinence – no meat on Fridays is easy, we already have 2 or 3 meatless days a week.  To abstain from negative remarks in conversation – that can be hard.  To abstain from gossip, even when it’s just “reporting the facts”, that’s challenging.

Now that we have been marked with the ashes of last year’s Palm Sunday palms, it is time to inwardly clean house and declutter our lives to become better bearers of the gospel.  As St. Paul says to the Corinthians in today’s second reading:  “We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us…be reconciled to God…Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation”.


My Baptism Day

On this Friday, during Lent, when I am supposed to be fasting, I look at the calendar and am reminded that today is the anniversary of my baptism into the Catholic faith. Also, incidentally, my half-year birthday. Either way, good enough reason to celebrate.

On this day in 1965, my mother, newly widowed, and godparents stood before Father Albert Piekarski in the church of St. Augustine in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and promised to teach me and model for me the joys and the discipline of being a disciple of Jesus as a Catholic Christian. I never really got to know my godparents, as mom was just coming back from California after burying my dad, and taking grandma and me back out with her to live. I did have many fine substitute godparents. Grandma, a Jehovah’s Witness, daily took me onto her lap and read the Bible to me. I was fascinated with the “red letter version”, where Jesus’ words are printed in red and began reading long before I started school.

I do not remember learning to pray, but some of my earliest memories are of saying my bedtime prayers with mom. We always wore our Sunday best to Mass when I was little, complete with chapel veil for mom, and a little round piece of lace that we little girls wore whose name escapes me, for me. I had little white gloves and a little white covered basket “purse” for my hankie and if I misbehaved there was no crying room for me – I got taken out for a spanking and solitary confinement in the old Rambler.

Our parish school did not have kindergarten at that time, so mom had an extra year before she chose to sacrifice a good portion of her paycheck to send me to Catholic school. There was no tuition assisstance, no tax credit for school of choice, and on top of all that, there were uniforms and shoes and stockings to buy, extra jackets and sweaters for my sickly self, lunch boxes and lunches (no school lunches then), myriad school supplies (my favorite), and miscellaneous for special activities, band, field trips, etc. We were fortunate to have mostly nuns teaching us at that time, nearly all of whom seemed to love their work, and us. You have not lived until you have played a vigorous game of four-square or kick-ball with a nun in full habit. There was a saint for every situation and then there were angels! There were plenty of priests and we had several daily Masses, special school Masses, regular confession times where there were actually priests waiting in the confessionals for you. There were all kinds of feast days. Anyone who desired could help with reading, singing, playing music, serving (boys only back then). Of course there were many volunteers because it meant getting out of class for practice! We were taught to have a very personal relationship with Jesus, Mary, the angels (especially our guardian angel) and the saints. Jesus, God the Son, our loving brother, was the big man, but it always helped to have intercessors and friends on your side up there to put in a good word for you.

Of course there were the less enchanting times, but the whole point of it is learning to draw on the strength of the good stuff to get through the bad stuff. We Catholics call it GRACE. We receive it in the sacraments – in baptism, holy communion, confession, confirmation, holy anointing for all; matrimony and holy orders for those called to that life. We receive it at Mass. We receive it at those odd times when God touches our hearts and fills us up. And it all started with Baptism.

So after Stations of the Cross tonight, there will be a meatless feast, and maybe a teeny little cake with a candle on it, in remembrance of my birth into Jesus’ awesome life.