Stephen Miller blogs about his family’s adventures – and challenges – in attending daily Mass in a rural area. This is day four in a six-day series, as Stephen says, because “Sunday is a given.”
It’s springtime in Minnesota. The swallows are swooping, the broccoli is bursting, and school is ending! Our homeschool year ends today and we have big plans for tonight. Mostly a goof-off evening: nachos, ice cream sundaes, and a movie. Jenna and I choose the movie Babe. I’m not crazy about anthropomorphizing animals, but Babe is a pretty good movie. Every year we raise some hogs, though none of them have ever talked back to me. Grunted: yes; chewed on my pantlegs: yes; provided us with a lot of bacon and roasts: oh yeah!
Our Mass options today: Randall at 8 am (12 miles away), Swanville at 8 am (13 miles away), Long Prairie at 8:15 am (14 miles away), Grey Eagle at 8:30 am (22 miles away), Sobieski at 4 pm (22 miles away), and Belle Prairie at 8:30 am (28 miles away).
Morning Mass works best for us, since we’re having a family party tonight. It’s always interesting to attend a different church, one we’ve never been to, so we’re off to St. Joseph’s Church in Grey Eagle.
How to get there? I know that if you’re in Swanville you can just keep going and end up in Grey Eagle. I make a quick check of that route on Google maps and verify the route.
Once again we head down the Morrison-Todd County Line Road. I expect road work and am not surprised when we see the sign that reads “Road construction ahead.”
Then we see a sign that reads “Flagman ahead.”
The next sign reads “One lane traffic ahead.”
I fully expect to see a sign that reads “I’d turn back if I were you.”
The flagman stops us and I have the opportunity to see what the farmer has planted in his field. Oh, corn! I think that’s what he planted last year. And the year before that. And the year before that. And shall I go into my rant about how there should be farms where vegetables that people actually eat would be grown?
After a short wait the flagman lets us pass. We drive by the big native Minnesota machine that chomps up the old road and lays down a new one behind it. Just amazing!
It’s a long winding beautiful drive from Swanville to Grey Eagle. We arrive and, unbelievably, can’t find the church! How do you hide a church in a small town like this? We finally find the church after asking directions from a guy walking his dog. We were a little late (two minutes, tops). Probably not enough for excommunication (that’ll be the last time I use that joke). So even though we left early enough, we’re still a couple of minutes late.
We got out of our cars (we took two, I needed to get to work after Mass) and Father Ron Dockendorf hails us from the front of the church. Thinking he was just going in to celebrate Mass I jubilantly shout “We made it!” He informs us that Mass was at 8:00 am (they had just switched to their warm weather schedule). So as it turns out we were 32 minutes late and we completely missed Mass.
Father Ron was very kind and gave us a blessing right there in the parking lot and sprinkled us with holy water.
We act like tourists and take pictures of the beautiful Marian grotto in front of the church.
But I failed. No Mass. No Blessed Sacrament. I’m hungry. I’m hungry for the Real Presence.