When I signed up for RCIA classes at our parish in September 1996, I failed to read the fine print. Graduation, otherwise known as Confirmation, would be at the Easter Vigil. Since my daughter’s school had spring break the week before and the week after Easter, we had planned a dream vacation and booked non-refundable plane tickets. When I learned of the conflict, I went to our priest and pleaded invincible ignorance.
Father Joe came up with a compromise, which turned into a double blessing. First, he confirmed me two weeks early on a day we shared with another couple pressed for time: Korean converts who wanted to get their marriage blessed by the Church before the husband lost his battle with cancer.
Second, my sense of guilt drove me to find an Easter Vigil service while on that spring break vacation, which would allow me to join my fellow catechumens in spirit if not in body. This was not easy: Holy Saturday we would be in Chinle, Arizona, next to the magnificent Canyon de Chelly on a Navajo Reservation.
We raced over two-lane roads illuminated by the Hale Bopp Comet and arrived at the only Catholic church for miles around just as Mass started. And there, in a traditional eight-sided structure called a Hogan, on my first Easter as a Catholic, I learned the graces of attending Mass while on vacation.
In Chinle, we saw the joy of receiving Christ in a people to whom the faith is foreign: 30 of the 33 new Catholics that night were Navajo. We saw an example of how the Church incorporates native culture into its practice of the faith – the Hogan itself can be a sacred structure – without altering that faith or the sacrifice of the Mass.
On this and other trips, my family realized the truly universal nature of the Church, which is everywhere, even in the middle of an Arizona desert. Regardless of the place or language, the readings and the prayers were the same as they were in our suburban parish, so we were all praying the Mass together. You get to give God thanks and praise, which is right and just, for being able to go on vacation. And you get to do so in some beautiful locations. The Chapel in Beaver Creek, which has a 5 p.m. Sunday Mass for skiers, is a favorite.
One of the most critical factors in making Mass a part of your vacation is that Dad gets to show his children that even though they are on a trip they don’t take a vacation from God. This can have an effect on something that is a concern to all parents: the faith of their children. In a Swiss study cited in Touchstone magazine, it was found that the most important factor by a large margin in determining whether children will practice the faith of the family is regular attendance by the father. When dad passes up the hot tub for a seat in the pew, it sends a strong message: Mass is a priority.
On another spring break, we traveled to the Yucatan Peninsula. At the resort, no one knew the location of the nearest church or the Mass times. So, we didn’t get to Mass on Easter Sunday, the most important day in the history of the world. We swore that would never happen again.
Since then, when trip planning, we find out where churches are located and when services in English are held, using the website MassTimes.org. We make sure to schedule our vacation activities around Mass, not the other way around.
When our son graduated a semester early from college, we let him pick the location of what we thought might be the final big trip the four of us would take together. He picked Norway, with a four-day stopover in Iceland. That island nation has only one Catholic church in Reykjavik, with services in Icelandic, Polish and English. I found a great hotel within walking distance and, after a day of touring the city, surprised my son with the announcement we could fit in a 6 p.m. Mass before dinner. You can’t escape the Church even in the shadow of a volcano.
This article originally appeared on Fathers for Good and is used with permission.