Feeling taken care of

December 14, 2009 | 29 comments

The other weekend my husband went out of town with the three older kids, and I stayed home with the baby. I decided to take the opportunity to tackle pretty much every household project I hadn’t gotten to in the past four years, and ended up staying up until 3:00 AM on Saturday night. When the baby woke up around 7:30 the next morning, I felt like I’d been hit by a truck. My muscles ached from moving furniture and hauling trash bags full of garbage and Goodwill items up and down the stairs all night, and my mind was foggy from so little sleep.

I got her dressed in a daze, and we headed out to go to Mass. As soon as we settled into a pew I got frustrated. I always enjoy picking up the missalette and looking over the Scripture readings ahead of time, but the baby kept grabbing at the pages so I gave up and put it away. I wasn’t up for any deep thought anyway. I sighed and prepared myself to not enjoy the service very much today.

Yet as the Mass started and my physical and mental fatigue prevented me from doing the things I normally do, I began to experience it in an entirely new way.

Normally when the lectors get up to read the first and second readings I have my nose in the missalette and am energetically analyzing the Scriptures from all possible angles to wring from it as much meaning as possible. But this day I simply sat back and listened, absorbing only the most plain truths of the words. Surprisingly, I might have even got more out of it than usual since not having the words printed in front of me kept that noisy overly-analytical part of my brain from kicking into high gear.

When the cantor went up to the lectern to sing the Psalm, I instinctively leaned forward to grab the missalette again. It was actually a small revelation when I realized, “Hey, I can actually just sit back and listen.” Receiving the wisdom of the Psalm only through musical words in the air added a whole new dimension to it, and allowed me to feel it as much as I thought about it.

As the Mass moved on and I was easily able to do everything I needed to do, even while exhausted and having both hands occupied with a squirmy baby, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of being taken care of. I didn’t need to be “on” to get something out of the service; I could be exhausted and frazzled and unable even to hold a missalette and still hear the Word of God proclaimed and renew my covenant with him by receiving the Eucharist.

I marveled at the perfection of the Mass, how God has given us a system for worship that will enrich you regardless of your state of mind: if you’re feeling sharp and energetic you can bring books to help you gain a deeper understanding of each line of Scripture, you can ponder the astounding connections of the Mass to the book of Revelation, and think about the infinite mysteries of the Eucharist; or, if you are tired and weary, if your gifts don’t lie in the area of analytical intelligence, or even if you don’t know how to read, you can still be a part of the Mass as much as anyone else.

Feeling so uncharacteristically tired myself, I began to think of all my sisters in Christ who feel this way all the time. I thought of all the women throughout the world at Mass this day, hearing these same readings, also with babies on their laps, also feeling fatigue down to their bones. I thought of those of them for whom this is not an uncommon feeling, their bodies reeling from working sun-up to sundown seven days a week. I thought of how many of them are illiterate, too busy just trying to survive to get much of an education, never having learned even the most basic reading comprehension skills that I typically employ at each Mass as I study the missalette. And yet, spiritually, they are taken care of too.

As I stood with the baby at the apex of the Mass, the reception of the Eucharist, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for this gift that is as simple as it is profound. You eat God. He becomes part of you in a physical way. The whole concept is stunning and yet so primal, so primitive, that anyone in almost any state can grasp it.

Rarely in my life have I felt so comforted as I did that day at the Mass. I realized that no matter what happens to me, whether I become rich or poor, whether I end up strong and healthy or feeble and frail, at the Mass I will be taken care of. Because the only thing that will ever be required of me to fully participate is simply a love of God.


  1. Jasmine

    Remember that the most important part of Mass is not what we receive but what we give. The tricky thing is that we are often terrible at determining the quality of what we give to God. Our prayer during Mass when we are unwittingly tired or distracted may be of much more value to God than our nightly but bored rosaries or our self-absorbed thoughts that "feel" pious.

    Personally, I think the most important thing is to love God as truly as we can at each moment, and He will take care of the rest. If we concentrate on giving everything of ourselves to God, we will receive riches of grace in return. (And, of course, our ability to offer anything to God is only because of what He has already given us.)

  2. Rebekka

    I like this. We don't have missalettes where I live now, and I'd almost forgotten what it was like to use them. I like the feeling of anticipation as the lectors come up, sort of a coming to focus. I also like the feeling of doing things "by heart" with a bunch of other people, it feels connected.

  3. Melanie B

    This is beautiful, Jen. It is true we are taken care of and God gives us all the grace we need if we jsut approach him humbly.

    I actually love the idea of missalettes. I just wish the lectors would actually prepare the readings, read slowly and clearly and loudly and without adding their own emphasis. It is so frustrating when I have the baby on my lap and can't follow in the missalette and then can't understand the readings because of a mush-mouth, or whispering or stumbling lector who drops words or adds them or changes them. Sadly that's more the rule at our parish than the exception. I suppose if I read the readings ahead of time it wouldn't matter so much and I am still cared for even if I don't understand the readings. Still frustrating.

  4. Dani

    Early on in my journey, I spoke to my priest about how sometimes I don't feel connected to the mass. At the time, I was relying solely on my Sunday Missal. So I read and frantically flipped pages during the different sections of the mass.

    His response was that when receiving Christ, I should recieve him with all my senses. And if you think about it, we truly do take in God with all of our senses. If I just went in and read, I missed out on the joy of hearing. Once I was baptised, I was able to touch and taste Christ during Communion. During certain ceremonies where they use incense, I can smell Christ.

    Relying just on reading, I was missing out on the full encounter with Christ.

    Excellent Post.

  5. Elena

    My old spiritual director would not allow missalettes in the church because he so strongly believed that the Word of God needs to be proclaimed and heard. Perhaps you discovered that.

  6. 'Becca

    Great post! You reminded me again of how thankful I am for your tip, a little over a year ago, to pray that you will **hear** the one sentence you most need to hear. It has worked well for me so many times! I tend to do that staying-up-late-to-get-stuff-done thing multiple times a week, so I often turn up in church not only tired but also preoccupied by what I didn't get done yet that I hope to do before Monday morning, and it can be very distracting. But I've also found that being tired, upset, sick, or hormonal makes me more "squishy" and thus more open to being struck by God's wisdom from a new angle, feeling it more deeply, and ignoring some of the rigid "this is how I do church and how I think about it" that could get in the way.

  7. Christina

    One of the things I love about the Catholic mass is I don't need to be socially, mentally or physically charged in order to participate. If I'm having a bad day, and want to sit and cry and pray for peace and healing, I can. If my brain is fried from exams and I want to sit in the back and just BE, that's fine. If I'm so tried, weak from being sick that I can barely move, I'm not required to stand up and dance in order to participate in the mass.

    I sometimes wonder how non-catholics do this, when they're tired and don't want to be social or can't seem to think enough to participate in the bible study, what option do they have but to stay home?

    Every day I fall more in love with the Church, who ministers to each of her children where they're at.

  8. Anonymous

    This is the power of the Eucharist. As a cradle Catholic, I tried to convey this to my husband before he converted. Once he began attending Mass regularly – even before conversion – it was the Eucharist that drew Him to Christ completely.

  9. Michelle

    Love this post! I will have to remember this when I get frustrated at my soon-to-be 1-year-old as he tries to move around and make all kinds of noise during Mass! 🙂

  10. Therese Z

    Lovely way of telling your story.

    I split the difference: I read the readings out of my Magnificat with the lector, and then stand and listen to the Gospel without any printed text. I like to think I am now listening to Christ, and I don't need to consult the Bible, when the Word is right there among us and will be made flesh again at consecration.

  11. Robyn Broyles

    I'm privileged to serve as a lector at my parish. On my very first training day, our pastor explained to us that the norm for the congregation during the readings is "attentive listening." Everyone (including the priest and deacon) but the lector should ideally have their heads up and eyes and ears focused on the ambo. The lector should not memorize the reading ahead of time, but be familiar with it and practice it so he or she can proclaim the Word of God effectively and in a personal way, making frequent eye contact with the people.

    I was assigned the second reading yesterday, the 3rd Sunday of advent, Gaudete Sunday. This Sunday, when the priests and altar are vested in the color old rose, is a day of rejoicing, a brief let-up of the darkness of Advent. The second reading, from Paul's letter to the Philippians, opens, "Rejoice. Again I say to you: Rejoice!" (I may not have it word for word… as I said, we're not supposed to memorize it, LOL!)

    One of the sources I use to prepare (I forget which one) noted that this reading is often used in lector training to demonstrate a common mistake: reading words that mean one thing (rejoice) with an intonation that means something else (a flat or serious tone). I also remember from a training class the words of the trainer: Scripture has its own drama. Bring out the drama of Scripture, but don't try to add your own.

    A great way to prepare for the readings (which, I must admit, I often fail to do) is to read and reflect on them before Mass. This is a solution for me (again… when I don't blow it off) since I have, shall we say, an attention span that tends to wander. I used to always read to myself along with the lectors (or ahead of them) to help stay focused, and was initially upset that our priest admonished us for this; but by reading before Mass, if I find my mind drifting when I'm supposed to be engaged in "attentive listening," I have not "lost out" on the Word of God for that day.

    We don't have missalettes at our parish. Instead, we have a weekly printed "worship aid" that includes the readings, hymns, and any special rites that may be scheduled for Mass that day. (Not sure what they do at Daily Mass; I haven't made it in over a year.) At our pastor's direction, the text of the gospel reading is no longer printed in the worship aid. My understanding is that eventually, the first and second readings will be removed as well. The pastor says he has to take "baby steps" when making changes like this so he doesn't get a horrific backlash from the congregation. Catholics can be so opinionated about how we worship! I hope they keep the responsorial, though, or at least the part we are supposed to sing (including the music). It helps me a lot with hitting the right notes with the right words.

  12. Duane

    What a marvelous imagery of the beauty of Mass. You hit upon a key to being receptive to the word of God.

    The ear is the organ of submission while the eye is organ of judgment. The eye permits more detachments from the object of our sense while hearing renders us subject more to the message. Through hearing the Word together we are an audience and in community.

    Reading may certainly supplement, but you so clearly denoted how reading and listening aren't equivalent.

  13. Anonymous

    I was at a daily mass where the priest said "and let us believe that the God who made us knows best how we should worship him – and that is in the Mass" This was a beautiful reminded that God is intimately involved in giving us what we need in his Church!

  14. alison

    minus the baby, i totally understand what you mean. and i'm the same way, diving in and trying to analyze it all. sometimes its best to just go and sit and soak.


    I am a single mother of two young children. I recall vividly the days when I would cry from exhaustion at Mass from being up all night, working during the day and caring for two little ones alone. Sometimes I wished somebody would reach out and hold one of my little ones at Mass, just so I could hear/participate in the Liturgy a little bit. That never happened. It made me resentlful that our "pro-life", "pro-family" Catholic Church just allowed me to flounder alone at Mass. So I left Mass (with the blesssing of my Monsignor) for several years until my children were old enough to sit a bit longer. How ironic!! The solution to a young mother's exhaustion in caring for her babies alone was to 'invite' her to return when the children were older. This aspect of the Catholic Church is something I do not like — to be left as anomymous… Now perhaps you might have finally experienced a moment of 'the desert' that many of us mothers walk daily. Thank God that you have a husband and a father for your children!! And don't forget how truly blessed you are.

  16. Mike L

    I think that MUJERLATINO brings up a point has bothered me, and I am sure bothers others: Which is more important, to be aware of the problems of those around us and support them, or to concentrate on the liturgy? Personally I feel that Jesus was more interested in people and the first part is the more important, although I do not always life up to that belief.

    I live on one of the old Spanish Land Grants in New Mexico where most of the people have families going back to the 1600's, and of course almost everyone is related in some way to everyone else. These people are not overtly pro-life/pro-family in that they don't march or hold rallies, but rather they live it. In MUJERLATINO's case she would probably have found her children being passed around the Church (ours built in 1835) and being very much enjoyed by aunts and cousins and grandparents. Each person might be distracted for a couple of minutes, but then goes back to attending the liturgy as the child is passed on. And if a child is fussy and cries, well that is part of life and of being a family.

    I must say, my wife and I enjoy this attitude. For too long we lived in areas where a mother might be asked to leave the Church if her child cried, or was banned to the "crying room" for the duration. With such an attitude it does not surprise me that the family no longer holds a place of importance in society anymore. And I very much understand MUJERLATINO's resentment of a Church that has allowed this to happen♠♦


    @ Mike: Thank you sooo much for expressing your understanding of my 'desert' experience as a young mother. I agree, in more traditional Catholic cultures a baby IS passed around, and it's a group effort — this alleviates the mother, even for a little while. The whole concept of a "crying room" has always seemed like extra Penance, so to speak… I like your idea about becoming a more family-friendly church. Now that my children can sit still, perhaps it's time for me to lend a hand to my neighbor at Mass! Thank you for your comments. Pax Christi.

  18. Carly

    Coincidentally, in recent weeks our Pastors have been preaching about the importance of the proclamation of the Word of God at Mass, while encouraging parishioners who don't need to follow along in the Missal to sit back and really listen the Word.

    There's a reason why the readings are proclaimed, rather than simply having the congregation read them to themselves during Mass. Our priests have been stressing that while preparing for Mass by being familiar with the readings, meditating on them, etc. are all important and worthy practices, listening to the Word spoken at Mass is crucial to being able to fully participate and fully enter in.

    It opened up a whole new world for me when I tried to do just that more often. There are still weeks when I find myself grabbing it because I've missed a whole paragraph or two while wrangling the three-year old, but overall this change of perspective has been such a blessing!

    Loving your blog, as always, thanks for sharing!

  19. Judith

    I am not a Roman Catholic — I am a Lutheran minister, which is to say, I am a cousin/sister to you all — but I resonate with this post and its comments. On those days when I am not leading worship (preaching, presiding at Eucharist) I LOVE to sit and LISTEN to the Gospel being read to me,to hear the Word and know that He is present in those words as well as in His gifts of bread and wine. Many Sundays, because of my leadership position, it is in the words both of the lector for the 1st 2 lessons and of the choir that I hear and receive the Good News ….
    I have always contended that it takes a Church to raise a child. And it takes a Church to nurture each of us. We can't always be in charge, always be active, always be making things happen. Sometimes we need to be carried along by others, by grace, by Christ in our neighbor. Sometimes someone else needs to hold and love and calm our child (hey — mine were cared for every week by their "church grandmas" while I led worship — God bless them!) And sometimes we need to hold and love and calm theirs.
    Jennifer, and all your readers, thank you for this blog. I feel so at home here among you ….

  20. Johanna Lamb =)

    Our Church is doing a whole segment on Spirituality where the message is that the missal is to be read before Mass and during the Liturgy of the Word our job is to open our hearts to the word and receive it, the message God wants to give us, not the message we pick for ourselves when follow along and read it.
    This has helped change my attitude toward this part of the Mass and it has been wonderful to experience the Word this way. Thanks for sharing!

  21. Anonymous

    To Mujerlatina:

    I have to confess that as a woman who wanted children but never had them, I've sat in church and been jealous of the people there with children, never dreaming that they'd want or need any help from me. Thank you for the eye-opener.

  22. Robinsonpack

    I just wanted to see I teared up reading this. Not sure exactly why, except that I have been there and I resonate with feeling taken care of by the Church in this way. I love that the message/liturgy/truth of the Church is ultimately accessible to all. It was also a reminder to me to access this gift more often (other than Sunday mass and the occasional daily mass), even when I feel at my wits end.

  23. Erika

    "Normally when the lectors get up to read the first and second readings I have my nose in the missalette and am energetically analyzing the Scriptures from all possible angles to wring from it as much meaning as possible."

    HaHA! That's exactly me! Thank God our current parish (which is actually a university "mission") doesn't have missals…

  24. deb

    This was just a beautifully authentic post.
    Thank yo so much for all that you share here. Wow.
    And I will read through these comments , they look equally inspiring.
    How lucky we are sometimes to have these spaces to share and give hope.

  25. truthfinder

    As a former Protestant, now Catholic, I can tell you there were many weary Sundays when I just stayed home to avoid active participation in Bible Studies or other cerebral activities. I so much appreciate "being taken care of" in the Mass, and I am so grateful.

  26. Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience

    You eat God.
    And you are always taken care of because who can't be with Such Sustenance?

    Stunning, Jen.

    You'll never know how your notes, posts, life, has graced mine and yes, sustained me.

    Humbly indebted,
    Your non-protesting Protestant sister ~shy smile~

  27. Peter and Nancy

    A friend of mine who had 4 kids in under 6 years said that there were many days when she couldn't pray or read her Bible. One day, she told God that all she could do was crawl into his lap and take a nap, and offer it to Him as an act of worship. Isn't it amazing that He's been here, and understands fatigue and our human limitations? What a beautiful new experience of Mass for you.

  28. His Servant

    As your sister…God has given us His spirit which dwells within us every moment of every day! We did absolutely nothing to deserve it; it is pure grace and WE can draw on His spirit any moment of any day whether we are driving kids to 65 different places or sitting alone in our prayer closet "listening" to Him. Good stuff sister, thanks for sharing.

  29. TracyKidd

    All people deserve wealthy life time and business loans or short term loan would make it much better. Because people’s freedom relies on money.

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