Get me to the Church on Time! A short meditation on Sunday morning struggles.

071114One thing I surely have easy as a priest is getting to Church on Sunday. All I have to do is walk down the stairs, go through the dining room and walk the passage through to the Church. And there I am. I realize that it is not as easy for most of my parishioners and I am always grateful to see them, knowing the sacrifices many have made to get here.

These days many of my parishioners are “commuters” who live up to 30 miles away from the parish and come back each Sunday because of liturgical preferences (we have an excellent choir) and historical ties. Not only do they have to drive, but finding parking in the city can be a challenge.

But praise God, here they are most Sundays. Given some of the challenges, we are not famous for starting on time. It’s almost laughable how empty the church looks at the appointed start time. We usually start about ten minutes late and the Church isn’t full until about the homily time.

Every Sunday I look out and say, “Thank God.” I really love my people, God’s people. I look forward to being with them each Sunday and am always amazed at the joy and the faith they manifest.

And once again, I know it’s not easy. I know of the frazzled nerves and little conflicts it took to get out of the house and the challenges faced as they headed down the road. Just a little rain or snow makes it harder, not to mention that “low fuel” light that comes on when they are already running late. So in they straggle, during the Gloria, the first reading, the second reading, the Gospel, and even the homily.

But thank God, I think. Thank God they are here. Yes, thank God.

Enjoy these videos of getting to Church.

31 Replies to “Get me to the Church on Time! A short meditation on Sunday morning struggles.”

  1. We drive about 30 minutes to the Basilica of the National Shrine of St Therese of the little flower in San Antonio. Well worth the drive. I have several protestantized Catholic churches that are closer, but give me that old time religion. The traditional orthodox novus ordo. Beautiful

  2. My kids complain that we are always an hour early for church. Hehe. We practice singing and the kids are welcome to just be in the presence of God. I love Sundays. Time to put aside the daily cares and REST in the Lord. I’m so very thankful TLM is offered in the evening. We have literally all day to prepare 🙂

    The first video cracked me up, but eating in the car right before Mass? No, no, no.

  3. Great post! I live in Frederick now and actually have a church 5 minutes from my house…but I prefer ADW parishes because that is what I grew up with and know the best. I really have greatly enjoyed your parish the few times I have ventured to that side of DC (the far side for me).

  4. Why don’t churches have Sunday school at 1 PM, and the main Sunday service at 2:30 PM? They’d surely boost attendance, at no Biblical cost of which I’m aware.

  5. Sorry Monsignor, but I disagree with just about everything you said today.

    If your mass “usually start[s] about ten minutes late” then you are a major part of the problem. You need to get better organized and let your parishioners know that mass will start on time as scheduled. I realize that emergencies happen, but emergencies don’t happen every Sunday before every mass.

    I’m sure that your parishioners’ employers would not tolerate them arriving at work 15 or 20 minutes late day after day. They would soon be unemployed. If you are organized enough to get to work on time, then you should be organized enough to get to mass on time. How much more important is God than your employer?

    People know if it is raining or snowing or there are other types of inclement weather. Generally speaking, that is not an excuse for being late either for work or for mass. A responsible and intelligent person makes allowances for “rain or snow” and adjusts accordingly. When a family is late for mass and they don’t arrive “until about the homily time”, they distract their fellow parishioners and disrespect those who made the effort to get to mass on time.

    Regarding the first video… Any family who sets an alarm 30 minutes before mass is sorely lacking in any kind of organization. They then decide to shower, search for clothes, make coffee, fix breakfast, etc. Their priorities are very warped. This Chinese-fire-drill type existence is very unfair to the children they are trying to influence and rear. Children learn by watching and emulating their parents. What poor examples these parents are setting for their children.

    Generally speaking I enjoy your columns and admire your wisdom. However, this time I think you struck out.

    1. Americans and Germans are very precise when it comes to time. The rest of the world, Not so much. Since you’re into analogies, instead of thinking of Mass as work where I am a strict employer and the parishioners are non-exempt (clock-punching) workers, how about the analogy of a family gathering, where I am a Father, glad to see his family and where those family members know the event starts at 8 but that there is a little give and take about that, since this is…, not work.

      Finally, I think you miss the whole tone of this article which is light-hearted. I do not write in an all-or-nothing mode such that being late is no problem at all. Rather I am resonating with two videos that are also light-hearted and finding humor in a culturally widespread phenomenon that getting to church on time is a challenge for lots of mysterious reasons. And then you show up all serious and stuff, tapping on your watch and fuming and insinuating that I am foolish in this regard and that my job is not to strike out with you, but to affirm what you already think.You also go on to imply that people who are late are unintelligent, and irresponsible. Really John, aren’t you using a canon to kill a flea.

      Even in the “strict” days of the 1950s there was a rule that as long as you made it by the sermon, you had fulfilled your Mass requirement. Not ideal to be sure, but Holy Mother Church has long had a place in her heart for folks you call foolish, irresponsible and unintelligent.

      In matters like these, a little “wise” advice is to lighten-up just a bit, avoid all or nothing thinking and find a little room in your heart for people who aren’t as perfect as you. Most people have foibles (like being late) that plug into the frantic nature of modern life. And not everyone sees themselves as employees of Mother Church.

      1. I think starting 10 minutes late could give Catholics on vacation that randomly choose your parish for Sunday mass anxiety. When I’m on vacation I find out when mass starts from online bulletins. If I think mass starts ten minutes earlier than it actually does I’d be full of anxiety and somewhat antsy while I’m waiting. I’d wonder if you were going to show up at all and worry that we’d have to see if there’s another Catholic Church in the area with a later mass we could go to if you’re a no-show. I’d have no idea that this is normal and that the de facto start time is 10 minutes later than the official start time. I recommend updating your bulletins/church signs to the real start time for unsuspecting vacationers.

  6. Thanks you for being so understanding! I have a 5-10 minute drive to my church, but I have three kids to get ready two of which are in diapers. So, getting to church on time is very difficult.

  7. Sorry to say, I cannot always feel gratitude when people just “show up late” for Mass. I realize that many times things happen to make us late, but to condone it as a blessings, I cannot see the point. Showing up to celebrate the Mass once a week should be the highlight of the week, not “something we have to do.” Love most of your posts, Monsignor, but this one I have an issue with….sorry.

  8. Having always attended a parish close to home (<4 miles) I can't imagine a 30-mile commute. I can understand why some would make such a trip, but I'd think it would be difficult to truly be part of the faith community. I love that we see our fellow parishioners not only at church, but also at our child's school, at the local pool, and around the neighborhood.

  9. Thanks Msgr! This is so great for you to say. I live in Louosoana and only know you through your posts and sermons online and I have no doubts you are a great shepherd of God’s people. You are humble, speak the truth without hesitation and offer excellent insight that I have come to rely on. Bravo!

  10. If I were a parishioner (if only) this post would make me fall in in love with you. If your homilies are anything like your blog posts- I doubt they come only for the excellent choir.

  11. Thank you for this article. Is comforting to see that our efforts and struggles are understood.

    The (now 9 of us) are Daily Communicants. Daily juggling of a heavy workload (small family construction business), school (home) and other endless responsibilities, to attend and assist at Daily Mass, is well worth the effort.

    Yet, it is exhausting, especially since Masses in our Diocese and the adjacent, often cater more to the retired, than working (Masses during working hours). So, with the varied Mass schedule at most Parishes, we bounce around, day to day, from one Church to the next, to pray Mass. God Bless them all for putting up with us.

    Nevertheless, each of our now 7 children have been graced with daily proximity to The Blessed Sacrament, since conception. There are certainly sacrifices, but none like His, Whose efforts have taken thousands of years and at such great cost, to provide us with this opportunity.

    Then comes early Sunday Mass at our own Parish. Some of the boys are Serving. Some of the girls sing in the choir. Dad here, by Sunday, is frazzled and disheveled. After dropping everybody off and parking the car, I usually miss the announcements.

    How my wife does it is beyond me. As well, how the multiplicity of Priests patiently tolerate these often latecomers.

    I wouldn’t have it any other way. Thank you for the encouragement.

  12. We’ve got some families with 12-13 children. They are always on time. Then we have some that would be late to their own funerals. Maybe they’re not good at foreseeing how long things will take, they have a chaotic life, or they’re just naturally fickle. And consider their background. Certain cultures say 6 pm and they mean 6 pm. Others say 6 pm and really, they’re saying, “Show up between 7 and 11 if you, you know, feel like it.” I just don’t get excited over it any more. Living with weeds amongst the wheat was OK with Jesus so I’ll let Him figure it out.

  13. Honestly, I think it’s true we do need to lighten up, but if we all realized the IMPORTANCE of getting to mass, there wouldn’t be so much trouble in arriving on time. We have the chance to be in the presence if Jesus for an hour or so. We have the chance to do what He told us to do…eat His body and drink His blood. If you were guaranteed a million dollars if you arrived to church on time, you’d set your alarm early enough and you’d GET there on time with you hand out waiting for your million dollars. We have the true faith and the opportunity to attend mass, a but if heaven on earth. Although we cannot guarantee salvation, we can be with Jesus…and show him how much we adore Him.
    I say “get to church on time! It’s worth it!”

    1. Okay, I struggled with this after the day of the baptism of my 4th child, where of course everything was laid out, ironed and ready, and we were early. “While it’s not every day that the Church gets a new member and you see a soul get saved,” I pondered, “what is keeping me from doing this every week, when I get to see God face to veiled face and receive Him Body and Soul?!?” The answer that came in prayer: Exhaustion. I simply couldn’t keep pace doing that every week, and it would be a detriment to my relationship with my kids on one of the two days when we aren’t all lost in activity and supposed to be, you know, resting. But there is still the problem of habitual lateness, not because we’re late (unless we’re so late we miss important things) but because lateness is accompanied by an unsettled spirit and frustration at family members that SO doesn’t prepare us for the miracle taking place. So instead of focusing on getting places on time, which generated said frustration and anger, I focused on eliminating the busy elsewhere in our lives, and took it as just one sign among others that “hey, we’re finding it easier to be on time; maybe life isn’t too (like, overly, maybe sinfully) busy now.”

    2. Yeah, and I’ve seen where if free food was offered after Mass it would be standing room only and NO “Johnny come latelys”. Even those who’re habitually late be on time. So, what does that say about some people’s motivation for making it to Mass on time? Plus, being late for Mass is in a way missing Mass yet they still come for Communion.We’re always going to have the weeds among the wheat. We need to get over it and concentrate on our own salvation. Those who’re “different”, “progressive” or “open minded”, well, I’m not God and He can deal with much than I.

  14. LOL! Driving to Mass this morning (Rosary before), trying to get there early, I swallowed some mouthwash and spilled cologne on my shirt. I thought of this post while laughing at myself. Thank God for the AC blower and emergency napkins!

    Yeh, I don’t understand unnecessary complaints. God bless!

  15. Mother of four here. All young adults now, and one is married. (How did that happen so fast??) Now oftentimes it’s just hubby and me going to Mass if the “kids” are heading out to another parish or Mass time. And thanks be to God, it’s my husband’s organization that gets me out the door promptly. On my own I would certainly be late, and often am, and was certainly always running late when my four were younger. We were rarely, almost never, early enough for the boys to serve, like my beloved brother (literally) John Z above mentions. 🙂 But I know I’m doing my best each and every day and I pray for God’s mercy and hope He is pleased with my efforts. Even if or when I arrive late. Even when I know someone may be complaining in their heart about my lateness. And why waste my own embarrassment or their exasperation? I can swallow my pride, offer both of our sufferings up in union with our Dear Lord’s humility (who can compare?) for His intentions, and focus on Him. And from the other side of this perspective, here’s something I learned from an old friend, who is now a Priest. Pointing my finger at others points three back at me! So I focus on my one long and three curled fingers and say “They are following the straight and narrow.. and what three things can I do for Christ today?”

  16. I’ve always had to worry about me…When I worked ( now retired) or going to church I had a routine. I do minimal preparation in the morning. Why? Because I’m a nonfunctional person until I have coffee. I arrive 15-20 mins before 7:30 am Mass. I go over the readings and music before the Mass. Through rain sleet or snow, Cathy must go. I know I sound boring and maybe a little bit of a “model” child image but this is who I am and this is what I do. Irritating isn’t it!

  17. Consider yourself lucky. On Sundays, all kinds of sporting events are organised. Roads are closed without notice. Suddenly we find, roads closed for a marathon, or some charity walk or some show. Then traffic is diverted. I am the kind of driver who only knows one route to church, send me down a road I have not been to and I get lost. Now I know 1st Sunday of every month, the roads are closed in the central city where I normally worship for “car free day”. I go to another church in the suburbs. However I am an extraordinary minister of communion. So they will be short-handed because at one of us cannot come. Some I know will drive the wrong way down one way streets or ride the bus or train to town then walk in 80 degree heat to get to church.
    As someone commented it is a test of our faith how we manage to get to church at all

  18. Loved the article and the videos were great. I struggled with lateness , generally getting out the door for just about everything . All my life from grade school on up i would manage to just arrive on time or just a “little late”., yes, i was even late for my wedding. Well, I am grateful when my husband astutely noted that being late was a form of rebellion, a passive aggressive form of behavior, and it can also be attention seeking. i also think there was insecurity involved, never feeling ready enough, you know last minute clothes change, and then the disorganization i.e.- cant find the keys etc. My spouse is extremely punctual, never late, in fact he likes to be early, and my behavior was irritating , and a source of anxiety to him and occasion for anger. He considered it rude to the guest to be late, and i was making him be rude. It was an epiphany for me. I work at being on early now , not just on time, or even a little late. I see my lateness as a statement that i don’t want to be making to the world , but especially for my husband.
    Mgsr. you are a gracious and loving pastor. I can see a bit of a paradox in the gospels when it comes to lateness. On one hand we have the bridegroom who closes the doors to the maids who ran out of oil for their lamps, they were too “late ” the door had been closed. Then there is the loving father who is generous to all who come to him , late comers get the same wage as those that started early. I wonder if you could comment on this ?( forgive me if i have some details missing, its just from memory and being the cradle catholic i am , i haven’t the chapter verse thing down.)

  19. I am a recovering perpetually-late person. I am finding that in order to be timely, I have to leave lots more space in my life before those important events, where before I had put “other activities,” be it sleeping in (yeah right), picking up the house before leaving, or even bringing breakfast to a homeless man. Sometimes, late people have something like an explosive diaper or a far-away parking space to cause their trouble; sometimes, they lack foresight and need to work on that – or maybe they ARE working on that and failed this time; sometimes, a reason for generosity and charity arises and it’s more important than being on time. I have also found that people who are always on time might struggle in other areas, like the flexibility to allow for charity to make them late, or with judgement. Turns out we’re all sinners. I am actually glad that Mass starts a few minutes late to accommodate at your parish, under its unique circumstances.

  20. Three thoughts competing for my memory:
    1) The song “Get me to the Church on time” from My Fair Lady (Lerner and Loewe, composers);
    2) A mother of an infant, discovering that the just-changed diaper has now filled, odorously, just as she’s ready to leave for Church;
    3) From 59 years ago, at the nuptial mass for me and my Bride, my own mother coming to church with my Dad and my seven younger siblings, in her bedroom slippers! (My Best Man had given me a ride. We were there about 10 minutes before the 9 a.m. scheduled time; but this was before V-II, and we were expected to fast from midnight.)

    Our current pastor seems to begin on time, even when construction outside delays traffic into the Church parking lot. The parishioners who attend daily have adjusted, and most of us try to arrive several minutes early, to find the Introit (entrance verse for you youngsters) in the missalette before Mass starts.

  21. So glad to read a priest write that he looks on his parish grateful for family!

  22. I think, in the olden days, if you arrived Before the Gospel you had attended Mass properly, as I was told and we respected……
    .I would love
    to be in a parish where the Mass started a bit late….life is late….here in the South, most things always a bit late…only planes leave on their appointed times here. And that is very stressful.
    Our large family attended Mass once with a daughter wearing a sock on her wounded fingers, which had just been caught
    in the car door!….it was that or no Mass later. So we and she persevered. She is quite a special person!

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