Toward the end of 2015, two things happened that changed the course of 2016. The first was that our whole family made a Marian Consecration on December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It was the conclusion of a parish wide preparation led by our pastor, Father McCartney. When we made the consecration, I wasn't sure what it would mean, but I knew something would change. The second was that we concluded the year with Midnight Benediction at my childhood parish, St. Mary's. I wrote about this recently, but did not mention that we first discovered this beautiful, holy event on New Year's Eve 2015-16. We left church that night with the feeling that makes you want to say, "Lord, it is good that we are here."
Soon afterward, we were at an Epiphany party. There were about five families there, all with children, and we played a game of "resolutions." Each person wrote down a New Year's resolution on a piece of paper, folded it up, and placed it in a hat. The resolutions were read aloud, and the object was to match the person to the plan. I do not usually give much thought to resolutions, perhaps because I never seem to persevere in anything longer than six weeks. Looking down at that blank slip, I realized that between the January 1st holy day of obligation, first Saturday, and a Sunday, we were three days into the new year, and we had been to Mass every day.
I wrote: "My New Year's resolution is to attend Mass every day in 2016."
Now we've always tried to go to Mass fairly often, sometimes very often, but if anything would come up--a morning lesson or appointment, a change of plans, a few raindrops--Mass during the week was the first thing to go. Suddenly, in 2016, I found myself carefully planning. The 9 o'clock Mass was our usual, but within a five mile radius of our house, we found parishes with daily Masses at 7, 8, 12 noon, and even 5:30 in the evening. Truthfully, here where we live, Mass is almost as readily available during the week as it is on a Sunday.
Days and weeks passed, and I kept wondering if we would have some obstacle to getting to Mass, but this only happened once--a late January blizzard kept us absolutely and completely snowed in for a whole day from morning until night. A few months later, getting to Mass required a minor miracle. We were vacationing on Martha's Vineyard (imagine me saying that in a Woodside accent, and it won't sound so snooty), but it was a week before the Summer season began. The three parishes on the Vineyard combine in the off season, and there is no Mass on the island at all on Fridays. I looked into taking a ferry to the mainland for one day, but the ferry and Mass times did not at all coincide. I prayed, "Dear Lord, would you please let there be a Mass here on Friday?" After Mass on Thursday, the priest was greeting people. I shook his hand and said, "Father, there is no Mass here tomorrow, is there?" He said, "Normally there isn't, but we are having a special memorial Mass tomorrow at 9 am."
God is good.
Most days, the children came with me--one of my younger daughters came every single day, even to those early 7 o'clock Masses. My husband joined us now and then on days when he didn't need to be at work too early. Toward the end of 2016, I almost couldn't believe the year was drawing to a close, and we had had the blessing of Mass every single day. (Remember that blizzard? God must have felt sorry for us, because He generously provided a February 29th leap day to make up for it.) I started to wonder what had this year of grace meant--what was God preparing us for? It had begun with a Marian consecration and benediction, and it had been a beautiful year for us. Yes, it had the trials and troubles of any normal year, but it was hallowed and felt like the start of something. It felt like a Year of Mercy.
Yesterday, I spoke briefly with our pastor after Mass. He mentioned 2017 as the 100th Anniversary of Fatima and the importance of this great event. In 1917, the Blessed Mother appeared in Fatima, Portugal, to three shepherd children the same age as my youngest three and gave a message of peace and hope to the world. Yet, there is another important part to the story that is sometimes forgotten. The children were first visited in 1916 by the Angel of Peace who prepared them for the appearance of Our Lady by teaching them prayers and even giving them Holy Communion.
I look back on 2016 as a gift sent one hundred years after the visit of the Angel of Peace--a time of prayer and preparation and grace. How happy and hopeful and eager we are as we await this great centenary of Fatima.