John, though - he's a great bowler. After a particularly awesome strike, he turned around and said, "Before the ball left my hand I knew that was gonna be a perfect strike."
I didn't even question him. Of course he knew. He felt himself line up perfectly with the pins. He felt himself align his body with the lane so as he drew his arm back, the weight of the bowling ball, itself, propelled him forward. He was in-tune with the motions of the game. He was "gelling." He was "in the zone."
I understand the feeling. Maybe not for bowling (okay, DEFINITELY not for bowling) but I've felt confident and sure in other areas of life: pouring just the right amount of pizzelle batter into my iron for the perfect cookies, timing my laundry cycles to coincide perfectly with cleaning the bathrooms and the roasting chicken in my oven, and snipping the perfect amount of wire so I don't waste any for a pair of earrings.
We've all had this feeling. We're so "in tune" with what we're doing that our actions are second nature. We know, before we complete a task, that everything is going to turn out pretty awesome.
This is how I usually feel regarding religion. I gel. I'm "in tune" with God. I have an easy, natural response to confusing or potentially bad situations. When folks ask me questions about Catholicism, I've got an answer. When I'm faced with a severe temptation, I'm pretty quick to call out to St. Michael. That's just what happens when you communicate regularly through prayer and reception of the Sacraments.
Unfortunately, however, I was NOT gelling so much last week at work. I'll be honest... I'd had a pretty terrible weekend. I slipped into mortal sin, decided not to go to Mass, and paid for it on Monday.
Now please don't think I'm using my blog as a confessional. I'll get to that. I think it is important, however, to note just how damaging missing Mass actually is. So many people (my past self included) think that missing Mass is "no big deal." How can missing Mass be a mortal sin? Well, I had learned that lesson the hard way a few years ago, but apparently my soul shamefully decided it needed a refresher.
I missed Mass and intended to seek out Confession and Communion the following weekend. I trusted God not to let me get hit by a bus in between Monday and Confession, but I was definitely looking forward to Confession rolling around.
Anyway, Monday morning comes and all is well with the world. I'm doing my job properly, I'm having laughs with my coworkers, and everything seems perfect. And it was perfect... until my last call on Monday.
It was from a gentlemen who had a lot (and I mean A LOT) of trouble with the Catholic Church as a whole. He called saying he wanted answers to questions, but he wasn't asking questions so much as rambling about the various misconceptions about Catholics that have been strewn across the media.
Typically I'm able to handle those situations with poise and charity. I can usually redirect misconceptions with a firm and gentle explanation of the Truth.
I failed miserably this go around. Absolutely FAILED. I wasn't gelling with God. I wasn't gelling with my faith. I wasn't in communion with the Church I sought to defend, so how in the world did I think I was going to avail myself of the graces I willingly cut myself off from?
Usually at the end of such calls I've got people at least agreeing that though they don't like Catholicism's stance on social issues, the Church isn't the evil enterprise they originally thought it was.
This guy, even though he wasn't angrily yelling anymore, probably still thinks that Catholicism is stupid and should be outlawed to protect those who couldn't see it for the shell game he thinks it is.
Since it was my last call of the day, I felt pretty miserable going home. My coworkers all said I did a great job on the call, but no. I could tell I'd messed up. I could feel it, just the same as I could feel when I'd succeeded with a caller. I knew the reason, too - I wasn't in communion.
It's like expecting a master chef to prepare a gourmet meal when he's only given the fry station at McDonald's. Sure he might be able to wrangle up SOMETHING, but it's not going to be as incredible as what he could do in his natural setting.
My natural setting is Communion with the Church. That is when I do my best work. That is when I feel as though I can help the most people in the best way. When I'm not in communion, I feel something missing. I honestly think God dropped that caller in my lap in order to remind me of that.
Of course He wasn't going to let me get smashed by a bus before getting my relationship with Him back on track. But He wasn't going to simply walk away and allow me to be without Him for a full week, either.
Nope. He loves me too much, and quite frankly, I love Him too much, too. I then looked up daily confession and found out we offer them at the Basilica right behind my office. I went during lunch the very next day and reconnected with Him. The rest of the week, though busy, I was back in tune with the world around me. I was gelling.
But God was good to grant me that one caller who would haunt me into never missing Mass again.
Missing Mass isn't just about breaking up my relationship with God. It's selfishly cutting myself off from the graces that could be used to help other people. And I think that is the lesson to be learned here (at least for me, anyway).