by Father Mark Goldasich
There’s one organization that I’ve wanted to join for years, but just haven’t gotten around to it. In most groups, this delay might be considered a handicap. In this club, however, it would be extolled as a virtue.
One day soon, I intend to search online and see if this group even exists anymore. Better late than never, right, especially since this organization — the Procrastinators’ Club of America — is the proud sponsor of September’s “Be Late for Something Day.”
When the subject of lateness comes up around the parish, I’m sure to hear the following: “Hey, Father, remember that time you were late for Mass?” I suppose I should be thankful that it’s referred to as “that time” and not “all those times.” In fact, I am late sometimes for weekend Masses because I hear confessions beforehand and now and then folks come in at the last minute and delay me from starting Mass.
But that’s not what people are talking about. “That time” refers to a Father’s Day sometime between 2005 and 2009. I’d gotten up in plenty of time for 8 a.m. Mass and had even read a little of the newspaper and had a cup of coffee. But then I did something dumb. Because I had about a half-hour before the start of confessions, I decided to stretch out on my bed for a few minutes to rest my eyes. I was so intent on the resting that I didn’t think to set an alarm.
I awoke to the sound of a ringing phone. Who would be calling me so early in the morning? Morning? Immediately alert, I peeked at the clock — 8:08. I uttered a little prayer, “Oh, please, Lord, let it be Saturday morning.” (I don’t have a morning Mass on Saturdays.) I grabbed the phone and heard the parish secretary saying, “Father, did you oversleep? Are you OK? We’re all here waiting for you to say Mass.” I mumbled a quick, “On my way!”
It’s amazing how fast you can move when you’re late! I searched for a matching pair of shoes, laced them up in record time, ran a comb through my hair and was tucking my shirt in as I locked the front door. I looked up to see a parishioner pulling into my driveway to check on me. I learned later he was relieved to see me alive!
At the church, I cut through the grass to get inside quickly. As I entered, the whole congregation burst into applause. I blushed and then almost fell as my shoes, wet from the dewy grass, gave way on the linoleum. When I finally began the Mass, I was so flustered that it took me until the Creed to finally bring my mind into sync with my body. It’s a day that I’ll never forget . . . and apparently no one at the parish will either.
So, if you intend to celebrate “Be Late for Something Day,” I’d recommend not doing it at church, especially if you’re the celebrant.
That “late Sunday” so unnerved me that I’ve not repeated it. In fact, it’s made me appreciate the value of arriving early to church or to appointments: You’re much less stressed, especially by slow traffic or red lights; you get a chance to compose yourself and breathe deeply; and you’re better prepared all-around.
Although lateness is something to be worked on and remedied, I also think that there’s a place in life for the “better late than never.” We’re often so bombarded each day with the “must do’s” that the “would like to do’s” sometimes get shuttled aside. Below are some situations where, even though sentiments may be late, it’s much better than doing nothing at all:
• Thank-you notes: Yes, a person should be thanked in as timely a fashion as possible, but sometimes — especially with the holidays, for example — other things intrude. It’s OK. I’m sure that Emily Post will forgive you, as will the giver of the gift, no matter when a thank you comes . . . as long as it’s heartfelt.
• Expressions of sympathy: Sometimes you may not find out about the death of someone until well after the funeral. Sending a note to the family at any time will be greatly appreciated. People don’t just grieve for a few days or weeks; your note will be a welcome comfort even months after the funeral.
• Apologies: Again, it’s best to say you’re sorry about an offense as soon as possible, but sometimes immaturity, embarrassment, or still-too-raw emotions may get in the way in the immediate aftermath. It may even take years. A heartwarming story, written by Tom Hallman Jr. in The Oregonian, tells of a student who apologized to a teacher 39 years later. (For the full story, Google “man apologizes to teacher.”)
• Words of appreciation: Most of us are fortunate enough to have many wonderful people in our lives. Sadly, we often keep that appreciation to ourselves. I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t treasure — anytime — a good word or two sent their way, whether in person, online or by phone.
This weekend, get around to one of those “better late than never” projects. You’ll actually be putting “Be Late for Something Day” into practice. Why? Because it was supposed to be celebrated on Sept. 5. So, congratulations on a lesson well learned!