Woster: Whether religious or not, reflection is an important part of life

We have created so many labor-saving, time-saving mechanical and technological methods and processes and gizmos and gadgets, yet we seem to have less time than ever.

Terry Woster
Terry Woster

When I was a boy, it seemed my family spent half of its life during Easter Week inside a church.

I exaggerate, but we were in the pews of the Catholic church in Chamberlain often during the week leading up to Easter Sunday. My dad woke me for daily mass every morning during Lent. Holy Thursday was an extended evening service. Good Friday was an afternoon marathon. Saturday evening involved another extended service with blessings and ceremony.

Just as well. Had I been allowed to skip those services, I would have found myself hanging out alone. My friends were spending as much time inside their churches as I was inside mine.

No one expected it to be any other way. If a downtown merchant had decided to stay open on Good Friday afternoon, he would have found himself twiddling thumbs and dusting keys on the cash register. People, at least people my family knew, simply didn’t consider shopping that day. They went to whatever service their church offered.

For most of my school years in Chamberlain, Father Mac (T.J. McPhillips) served as our pastor. I had a priest at Creighton University in my college years who said a Sunday mass — at 4:15 a.m. — in 16 or 18 minutes. Father Mac would have reported such a speed demon to the Pope. When it came to masses, especially on the biggest holy days, Father Mac cut no corners. Services took as long as they took, and that was that.


Sometimes a service took even longer. Those were the times when, in the middle of a homily or prayer, Father Mac would look up and catch a couple of kids whispering together in a back pew or goofing off in the choir loft. He would stop talking and simply glare at the offenders. The church would gradually grow still as every member of the congregation stopped breathing. The people around the offenders would look worried, wondering whether to tap the kids on the shoulder or just wait until they became aware of their predicament. Eventually, they would catch on, die a little inside and sit up ramrod straight in the pew. Father Mac would resume his message and the collective release of breath would, I swear, make the stained-glass window panes bow out.

It occurs to me that a person doesn’t have to be a believer to take a lesson from the way things were handled during Easter in those days. One of the benefits of those long services, those quiet hours together or alone, was that they offered time for reflection. More, they encouraged reflection.

Time is a precious thing, always but especially these days, I think. We have created so many labor-saving, time-saving mechanical and technological methods and processes and gizmos and gadgets, yet we seem to have less time than ever. Certainly less quiet time, less time suited to reflection.

I’m convinced that humans need some personal time for reflection to be anything like fulfilled. I know I do. I should have plenty of it, too. I’m retired. Somehow, the hours and the days just roll by. I enjoy many things. I just seldom really look at what’s going on in my world.

Some years ago, I wrote a column focused on the musical “Godspell.’’ In skits and songs, the play tells the Easter story, loosely based on the Gospel of Matthew. I played guitar in a Pierre Players’ version of the tale. Cast members were a collection of very different folks who melded into a tight group for the production. The basic theme was serious, sure, but the play had many light moments, when the cast members representing Jesus and the apostles just acted human. It was a delight to watch.

I wrote that I thought it was a good thing to make the people around Jesus human. They were just people, and so are we all. Most of us are pretty decent, frequently flawed and seeking answers, whether in any sort of religious setting or completely separate from that.

I believe it is a good thing to take time to remember we are human and to contemplate what that means to us.

Opinion by Terry Woster
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