Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas Eve Mass

Yesterday I talked about the Christmas Eve run and the mass just a little bit.  Today, I want to take a few moments to comment on the mass itself.  Why?  Because going to such a small church that  relies on those outside the community who visit for vacation but attend the church for at least some support, makes for an interesting spiritual experience when one takes the time to think about it.

The small group of people who are the regular community care a whole lot and give their all.  And on Christmas Eve they gave it their all and were willing to admit where they were having issues.

Take the music.  They had a three piece brass trio that played some songs before the mass.  Were they as fine as the brass quintet that played at the Maryland State Boychoir Nine Lessons and Carols?  Nope.  Not even close.  But they provided an important link in the joy of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

The had a choir that was okay, but the woman who was leading the choir through song on Christmas Eve made several observations.  The individuals who usually played the music and the director of the choir were all out of town for Christmas Eve.  That happens.  People have family and sometimes cannot arrange to stay.  But the group sang on.  And for part of the prelude the group sang a cappella. Then, they invited the congregation to song some familiar carols and the nice thing was that even in a Catholic church nearly everyone sang along.  My heart was touched as I'd been to a non-Catholic church on Christmas Eve the past two years (in addition to my normal mass attendance) and the difference in singing was notable.

The woman who led the responsorial psalm by herself gave it her all.  Everyone involved made absolutely sure that they tried as hard as they could.  They had pre-recorded music on the electronic keyboard but probably would have been better off just going a cappella the whole way.

But the key is they were all in.  And that is what church should be about.  All in for beliefs.  All in for community.  All in for the sense of what it can provide.

And that was beautiful.  It was just one example.  But it was a great example of those who are not perfect, who know they are not perfect, but who love what they are doing enough to do it anyway and to make sure that they do their best.  A lesson for me.  A lesson for all. 

Friday, December 25, 2015

A Christmas Eve Run to Remember

Yesterday, I ran 10 miles on Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve has been a strong running day for years.  I'll trace back to 2011.  In 2011, I ran 12 miles by myself--warm enough for shorts but encountered some sleet.  In that year, I ran a little alone, then with Back on My Feet Team Christopher's Place, and then with the team coach a little bit extra.  That was fun.  Two years ago I did a track workout by myself.  Last year I ran a half marathon distance by myself.  And yesterday, I had a 10 mile run that concluded a wonderful year of running with the training partner with whom I ran the most times and most miles this year.

The temps were in the mid-60's.  It was raining when we began at Lauren's house.  It rained for about half the time we were running.  It was windy, and the wind was most often coming toward us--blowing the rain at us making the caps that each of us had on less useful for keeping rain out of the eyes and slowing us down.  But we carried on our run and carried on a conversation about everything from what we knew about different races (particularly ultras) to seeing the latest Star Wars movie (which neither of us had done) to my lack of attention to where we were running yesterday.  Lauren concluded that a lack of attention might actually benefit me in the ultra race that I am going to run in May--it might make the miles feel less challenging.  The "back" part of the out and back run was less rainy but just plain humid.  The water in the Inner Harbor was very high--indicating the abundance of rain we'd had recently.  And for the third day in a row there was really no sunrise to speak of as the clouds and rain continued.  It was so warm that a cold drink of water immediately when we finished was incredibly useful. 

We also went to mass yesterday--as we have every Christmas Eve since I was a young boy.  Yesterday was the first time since we were a family of five (I'll even count 2004 as Daniel was only three days from being born so everyone knew that he was with us) that not all of us were at mass together.  Four of us were already at the family resort where we have vacationed at this time of year for many years.  Our oldest was still back in Baltimore to play at a Christmas Eve mass and another gig on the day after Christmas before he eventually joins us.  The mass was at the Holy Infant Catholic Church in Elkton, VA.  We arrived early (we didn't have to arrive quite as early as we did, but we got four seats together) and were chosen to bring up the gifts.  This year the boys were old enough to carry both the unconsecrated hosts and the wine so Sherry and I were just along for the walk up the aisle.  

The readings the priest chose to use were from the midnight mass.  They began with the reading from Isaiah in which it talks about how the people in darkness have seen a great light.  

And that is where today's tie-in between running and spirituality comes is.  Over the two previous days, I'd had the opportunity to hang with two other fellow runners with whom I don't often have a chance to hang outside of running.  Each of these people is part of the light that I find in running.  And with one of them I had a long discussion about being light for others and how runners are people who tend to be seekers of self and seekers of light.  

So, despite the little natural light that we saw on the run yesterday (there was plenty of light from the streetlights) the light of running itself is something that was experienced in full yesterday.  Physical challenge with the cardio and strengthening.  The joy of spending time with others.  Conversation (everyone who reads this knows I love words.)   And the spirit of being connected to something larger.  Running the streets of Baltimore is not like running on the open plains chasing wildlife for dinner as our ancestors did, but the fact that our ancestors did shows just how primal running can be.

And the ideas of all this--the challenge, companionship, conversation, and connection--are my part of my path to being light for others not just through running but through life in general.  

Friday, December 11, 2015

Seeing My Sons Connect the Dots

Sometimes as a parent, I wonder how much I am getting through to my kids.  I have heard two stories recently that nicely reflect on my sons and how I believe I have gotten through.

First, after a recent concert my oldest and his girlfriend made sure to walk my wife (who was there alone as I was in London) back to her car.  My son then also made sure that his girlfriend got home safely before riding his own bike back to his dorm.  As I described this to a friend with whom I often run, she commented on how much of a gentleman that made my oldest.

Second, for my youngest, he made dinner last night.  That was not all that unusual. My ten year old is in charge of dinner a lot of nights.  What was unusual was the fact that it was our first home cooked dinner in about four weeks.  The kitchen is done.  And he and my wife stopped someplace on their way home to get some stuff to make for dinner.  So, when I arrived, I had the opportunity to eat garlic bread that my son had made from a loaf of bread and spices, some mozzarella topped with diced tomato that he had made, and pumpkin ravioli.  I skipped those to consumer some leftovers I didn't want to go to waste, but it was great to see that he had taken the initiative and mentioned his sense of satisfaction and accomplishment with making dinner himself.

All the things I have taught him--how to prepare food, the importance of good food, the importance of preparing food for yourself, and when we got home from his concert the importance of cleaning up--had come to life.  He has connected the dots.  Hopefully he finds it nourishing his soul.