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November 3, 2002
Vol. 1, No. 143




global perspective 6.30 a.m. Mass

by Arthur Jones, NCR editor at large

I didn't stop going to periodic daily Mass because of this pontificate. The idiocies of the Vatican restorationists and their various claques have not penetrated my communing. Yet.

Probably because I haven't attended more than once any church where the altar is home to the new-style soutaned papal marionettes.

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I stopped going to daily mass because somewhere along the way someone told the priests they had to "say something" at every Mass: "Give 'em a word every day about the Word for the Day."

The fact is that most priests don't have anything to say worth listening to at about 6:40 in the morning. They're not properly awake, I'm not properly awake, I'm semi-dozing with my head on my hands which rests on the pew in front. And I'm thinking some God things, like, "who broughtest me up from last night to the joysome light of this day" -- even though it's still pitch black outside.

But I do miss it -- given that I go to church for the Eucharist. On Sundays my greatest visual pleasure is always to watch the people coming back from communion. Tapestries on the move; the Canterbury Tales headed to the pew behind me; the world's shortest pilgrimage -- bench to altar and back to bench.

Instead of early Mass in the wee hour, which is what pre-Daylight Saving Time 6 a.m. is like, at rapid pace I circumnavigate twice the local park, walking in the road to avoid a black and white dog with the temper of a curial cardinal faced with a question. And then I go back to the dark house -- except there is no such thing as a dark house these days.

There's constant and blinking lights. Invariably red or green. Machine eyes of anger, or envy. The phone has a red one, so does the dishwasher. The modem on the computer has three greens, one flickering, three solid.

There's dots of red and green on clocks and timers and the black boxes that turn powerful electricity into something weak enough to power the telephone answering machine.

Nonetheless, I sink into the old leather couch and mutter my way into my Celtic invocations, going to the page when I can't recall the lines. And look in the gradually improving light at the clay crucifix from the Altiplano of Peru. And the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa I brought back from a Solidarity meeting. And the little framed book, Japanese instructions on the rosary. My house altar. (There's also two, small, carved elephant heads, a relic of St. Jude, and a plastic dashboard St. Anthony who lost his magnet.)

And they're all nice. But it isn't the Eucharist. The trade-off is, it's quiet.

And at that time of day, what I most want, I suspect, is a moment or two of silence to think about God in the half-mind of still waking up.

Arthur's Daily Ditty

6.30 a.m. Mass

He wants to preach,
I do beseech, restrain your tongue,
It penetrates, if barely.
He wants to teach,
Each word's a screech,
I'd loved to learn:
S'too early.

Arthur Jones' e-mail address is

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