As a kid I remember being super excited for a road trip from Massachusetts to New Jersey to visit my grandparents. In my five year old brain, 'New Jersey' might as well have been the moon and a week was basically forever. I had to pack accordingly. Pulling bags out the closet I filled them with my stuffed animals, dolls, books, art supplies, my sticker collection and a panda poster.
Wisely, my mother did an audit on the bags when I told her I was ready to go. She explained to me that I needed to bring fewer toys and games and pack the items that were really important like clean socks and underwear. Dumping out my first attempt, we picked outfits for each day, pajamas and a swimsuit for the sprinkler and placed those inside first. When I got to Grandma and Grandpa's, I was ready for anything. And I didn't miss my panda poster.
We can treat our summers like I treated my first attempt at packing’Ìâ‰âÂÌâ‰Ûùas a big space to fill with fun stuff. As school lets out and our responsibilities lessen, the possibilities for awesome seem endless and we can start filling our days with trips to the beach, vacations and odd jobs. Yet, if we're not careful, a lapse in our routine can lead us to forget what's most important.
The Eucharist’Ìâ‰âÂÌâ‰Ûùthe body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ which we receive when we participate in Mass is 'the source and summit of the Christian life' (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1324). We don't take a holiday from Christian life. Therefore, it would be foolish to think we could take a 'holiday' from receiving the Eucharist and not suffer. Just like I would have been in a world of hurt if I had attempted a vacation with no clean socks or underwear, skipping mass on Sunday is a mortal sin that cuts us off from the graces God wants to give us in every moment of life.
Have you ever not realized how hungry you were until you walked into the kitchen and smelled dinner cooking? Suddenly your stomach is growling loudly, your mouth is watering and you can't wait to eat!
Our need for the Eucharist can be like this. When we drift away from the sacraments – especially the Eucharist – we find ourselves more prone to give in to temptation, feeling distant from God and just struggling. We may not always realize the graces we're getting from the sacraments – just like we don't always realize that we're hungry.
Just like a balanced diet keeps us physically healthy, regularly receiving the Eucharist keeps us spiritually healthy. This summer, don't let your soul starve!
- Mass is actually offered every day at most Catholic Churches. Take advantage of the break from your school schedule and commit to attending mass not just on Sundays but another day during the week. Ask your youth minister if there is a mass they like to attend during the week and offer to organize a breakfast or lunch afterwards.
- If you start a job this summer, tell your employer up front that you can't start work on Sundays until after mass is over. This won't come as a surprise to most managers, just be sure you don't spring it on them after they've made a schedule for the week. Learn how to request time off and be sure you do it.
- If you're attending a camp that isn't Catholic, be sure that they offer transportation to a Catholic Sunday Mass or Saturday vigil. Many camps will have some sort of Sunday prayer service and while praying with your friends is great, this is not a substitute for Catholic mass. Your parents may need to call and make arrangements, so do your research ahead of time, don't wait until you're getting dropped off to find out what your options are.
- When you're out of town, research the local churches and their mass times. If you have a smartphone, you can download the Catholic Directory App to use your phone's GPS to find Catholic Churches near you!
If you are travelling with friends, talk to them before you leave and be sure that they understand this is important to you. Be sure that they'll be able to either drop you off at Mass or invite them to join you’Ìâ‰âÂÌâ‰Ûùit can be a great way to share your faith!