God bless the meteorologists. I doubted, but they were spot on. When the alarm went off at 5:30am, the snow was on the ground and rising with each hour. I am guilty of the sin of pride in never, ever canceling church due to the weather. I am the Winston Churchill of mass. (“We will say mass in the rain, we will say mass in the snow. We will say mass in the storm and we will say mass when it’s warm. We will never, ever stay home!”)
I left the house earlier than normal, 6am, to give myself plenty of time. I barely made it out of the driveway and slid out of the neighborhood. Once on the interstate, I knew that if this main artery was covered in snow and very difficult to traverse, the roads around the church would be impassible. I aborted halfway and drove instead to the hospital, where my wife would be finishing her shift as a labor and delivery nurse. If the roads were this bad now, I wanted to drive her home.
For an hour I sat in the hospital lobby and did something I don’t think I’ve ever done before. I updated the parish Facebook page and, with the help from a parishioner, updated the website (one can’t do everything from an iPhone). Church was canceled for the Second Sunday of Advent. Exit Sir Winston.
I joke, but it was the right move. Had I lived within walking distance, it would have been a different matter. I would have walked to the church and said the office, but in this case the high likelihood is that I would have been stuck in the snow and wasted the time and energy of the police department to lift both my car and ego. The combined mass of both would have been significant.
At 10am, the time I would normally have finished the second mass of the day, I broadcast via Facebook a live devotion. The technology is wonderful and we are so lucky to be able to communicate the way we do. The things I was able to accomplish in short order with a mobile phone and a laptop are technological wonders. But it is not church. I was staring at a dot on my laptop. My whole day was off. I was able to experience what my heart and mind have always believed: if we want to hear a good sermon, there are thousands on YouTube, if we want the best choral music to lift our hearts, there’s iTunes, if we want to connect with friends, there’s Facebook, but if we want the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we have to be at the altar. There is no alternative. For all the talk of ‘alternative ways’ of doing church – online, at home, in bars, etc. – it will never satisfy the yearning of the soul unless the Sacrament of the Sacrifice is duly celebrated and Holy Communion is offered to the faithful. Ever.
But when one is starving, you can eat bark. Facebook is better than nothing.
After the digital devotion, my daughter announced that the large Weeping Willow in our backyard was lying on her side in tears. Apparently if a tree falls in the backyard and there are children playing, you can’t hear it. Thanks be to God, it fell away from the house. Damage seems minimal although I’m sure there’s some to the fence. A chainsaw purchase is in my future.
I spent the evening trying to tidy the house, especially knowing that we’ll have several days cooped up together. The children and I drove my wife back to work and they were able to experience the thrill of fishtailing in snow. That evening we had a brief moment of Norman Rockwell bliss as I pulled out my old piano books (three years of lessons with three different teachers – you can guess my ability) and played the first few bars of Christmas carols with the children at my side. I was pleased to remember Every Good Boy Does Fine and Great Big Dogs Fight Animals, FACE, and All Cows Eat Grass.
Evening Prayer by the sad little gas fireplace and I finished Luther on Netflix and the Sunday ended, although nothing about it felt like a Sunday.