Lessons From the Car Line Photo Credit: Lisa A. Schmidt

Our family recently transitioned from homeschooling to Catholic schools. Two weeks in, and I intuitively know it’s the right move for our family. Peace and interior freedom have been two big fruits from our discernment process.

But there was one thing about our new routine that created a bit of, shall we say, anxiety? Car line. Or is it carline, one word? Merriam-Webster says carline is Scottish for an old woman. So let’s stick with car line, two words.

When I think about car line, I remember a scene from the movie Mr. Mom, a comedy from the early 80s starring Michael Keaton. In that scene, recently fired Jack Butler, A.K.A. Mr. Mom, drives his kids to school for the first time and encounters car line wrath. Take a peek.


Now there are urban legends about car line ‘round these parts, too. A priest once told me about a time he needed to leave the parish for the hospital to administer last rites. The timing coincided with car line, and as he tried exiting the church parking lot, a mom who had staked her position, started honking her horn at him presumably because she thought he was cutting in line. People, please don't face life-threatening injuries during car line!

So when I use the word anxious to describe the emotions leading into my first car line experience, can you see why?

Now I love rules and order. Thrive under them. One of my favorite job assignments ever was writing a company-wide policy and procedural manual. Seriously. Maybe that’s why I’m not invited to many parties?! I also have a deep love for the liturgy. Benedictine spirituality, which has its roots in The RULE of St. Benedict, is very close to my heart given I spent much time with the monks at Conception Abbey in Conception, Missouri the past five years. Oh, yeah, I’ve also been known to throw the term GIRM --- the General Instruction of the Roman Missal --- around at parties. Buzzkill! Again, do we see why I’m not invited to parties anymore?!

So, car line. I knew there was a set procedure in place. I knew there were rules designed to help car line move orderly, timely, and safely. Leading up to the first day of school, I studied the map and information over and over (and over!) so that I could properly follow the rules. And guess what? On my first attempt at car line, I got it wrong. Mea culpa, I got it wrong. I didn’t wind around the parking lot in the correct path even though I did what the cars in front of me were doing. Lisa, you’re doing it wrong! Thankfully no one honked or screamed, “Moron!” at me like the irked woman in Mr. Mom. But on my second outing, guess what? I killed it --- car line, that is. I nailed it, and the world rejoiced with me!

Now a few weeks into the school year, and all that initial anxiety has worn off. Car line has now become a somewhat peaceful time (as long as I remember snacks for the two younger kids). The time sitting still in line actually provides a little pocket of peace to ponder about stuff. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the connection between car line and the Mass.

I’m the first to admit that I sometimes often get bent out of shape when something isn’t done properly during the Mass. What’s bugging me at Mass? Oh, just allow me to pull out my mile-long accordion-folded list! Given all I’ve learned about the liturgy through my husband's deacon formation, my fervor about getting it right is at an all time high. The Mass is a profound mystery, after all, so why shouldn't we all give it the proper attention it deserves?

I also admit that I've, at times, acted like a bull in a fine China shop when trying to correct a behavior or procedure that's not being done properly. My love for liturgy has led me to a few, "You’re doing it wrong, Moron!” interactions with others. Not pretty.

Maybe, just maybe, a good percentage of those people "doing it wrong" are converts still trying to understand the "rules" surrounding the Mass. Maybe some are just following what the people in front of them are doing. Maybe some are cradle Catholics who've been doing it like this for as long as they can remember and no one has ever told them differently.

What's the point of "rules" around Mass, anyway? The rules underscore what we believe: through the sacred Mass, we take part in the heavenly liturgy in the company of the communion of saints. The rules are to meant to make sure due reverence is given to things that are sacred, particularly the Eucharist. The rules are there to make sure the celebration doesn't devolve into something more earthly than heavenly.

A few days ago, a driver ahead of me in car line made a "wrong" move which resulted in the principal approaching her and having a private conversation. You could tell the conversation was positive because both were smiling, and as the conversation ended, the principal made a "it's all good" type of gesture. Love and charity.

Regarding Mass, imagine taking the you're-doing-it-wrong-moron approach and instead turning it into an opportunity to encourage others in love and charity. Rather than denying others the opportunity to encounter Jesus because we put ourselves in the way, we've opened the door for a deeper encounter with Christ through our gentle, fraternal correction. Imagine, Lisa, imagine.


Copyright 2015 Lisa A. Schmidt
Photo copyright 2015 Lisa A. Schmidt. All rights reserved.