I love a road trip. I’ve made innumerable jaunts to Anza-Borrego, Joshua Tree, Santa Barbara and the Bay Area. I’ve driven to Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. I’ve made two cross-country runs in the last 10 years. Then there are the visits made by plane, train, cab and bus: NYC, St. Paul, MN, northern Ontario, the Lost Coast of California.
I travel alone, but my trusty companion is masstimes.org: You can enter a zip code, province, street, city or state — anywhere in the world — and find the nearest church with Mass. You can search by day. You can search for Adoration and Confession. On any given day, the Masses are arranged by time, from earliest to latest, with the name of the church, address, phone number and link to the website. There’s a map of the area showing the church in question and a guide showing the distance from your current location.
I once made a self-styled cross-country pilgrimage: a seven-week drive from L.A. to the New Hampshire coast during which I went to Mass every single day. During that time, masstimes.org was invaluable, especially through parts of the country, in particular the Southwest, where the daily Mass pickings were slim.
In all that time, only one church, a parish in eastern Pennsylvania, didn’t offer Mass at the time indicated, and even there, I had a nice chat with the sexton, and in the side garden, a “moment.” I was tired, conflicted, bowed down by emotional and spiritual infirmities, and suddenly I saw my footprints in the wet lawn, out of nowhere thought “Sprung in completeness where his feet pass,” and realized: Oh. He knows. He likes having me close by. He’s glad I am here.
But it was only back in L.A. that I made a truly useful discovery: I could use masstimes.org here! Dentist appointment in Beverly Hills: noon Mass at Good Shepherd. Evening jaunt to the Norton Simon Museum: 6 p.m. Mass at St. Dominic’s in Eagle Rock. Tickets to a Saturday night play near Pico and Bundy: vigil Mass at the stunning St. Timothy.
I live in Silver Lake so I’m often at Our Lady of the Angels. But for those who live further afield and are traveling downtown to, say, fight that very unfair traffic ticket: why not arrive early, duck into the 7 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral, and spend some time before the Blessed Sacrament? I’ve discovered St. Bernard’s in Glassell Park (with the wonderful Father Perry Leiker) while house-sitting; St. Anne’s in Santa Monica, an oasis in the midst of several parking lots, while visiting a sick friend; and Holy Family in Glendale, while hunting down a mid-week Sacrament of Reconciliation (Tuesdays and Thursdays, 4:30 to 5:15).
I was confirmed and took my first Communion at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Hollywood 19 years ago this August. Ever since, I’ve known that scattered throughout the city, in the midst of clamor and chaos, are sanctuaries of quiet: oases of dark tranquility smelling of incense and wax.
Through shoot-outs and stabbings, mudslides and earthquakes, jittery nights and adrenaline-charged days, all over our little corner of the world candles burn in red glass above the Body of Christ, the deepest, most hidden mystery of all. Nothing has formed me more, as a Catholic, a human being, and a lover of Los Angeles, than the sacramental experience of trudging invisibly, anonymously, to daily Mass.
I’ve been to St. Bede the Venerable in La Canada (Sunday morning Angeles Forest hike), St. Eugene’s in South L.A. (gospel choir), St. Joseph’s in Hawthorne (funeral Mass for a friend’s sister), Our Lady of Guadalupe in the central coast farming community of Guadalupe (visiting Catholic Worker friends), Dolores Mission in East L.A. (Homeboy Industries).
Even so, I’ve barely scratched the surface. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles comprises 288 parishes and communities, located in 120 cities and three counties. So from Santa Maria to the Antelope Valley, from ocean to mountains to desert to the heart of any number of urban downtowns, daily Mass is a beautiful way to explore the city, to connect with our brothers and sisters, to incorporate Christ into the smallest hour and activity of our daily lives.
Because the fact is that, home or away, we are always traveling. As Dorothy Day observed in “Loaves and Fishes”: “When I moved to the East Side, I went to a Salesian priest, Father Zossima. It was he who urged me to go to daily Communion. I had thought this was only for the old or the saintly, and I told him so. ‘Not at all,’ he said. ‘You go because you need food to nourish you, for your pilgrimage on this earth.’”
Heather King is the author of “Parched: A Memoir,” “Redeemed: Stumbling Toward God,” and “Shirt of Flame: A Year with St. Therese of Lisieux.” She lives in Los Angeles.