Miami Beach (as seen from the ship)
As a teacher I told my students hundreds of times that there is no vacation from God—especially during their summer and holiday breaks. Now I find myself with my mom on a brief Caribbean cruise while trying to maintain some semblance of a prayer life. Last year I took a cruise while working as a chaplain for the ship. Mass was built into the daily schedule as an option for the passengers during their cruise vacation on that particular cruise line. However, this year I am simply another passenger on another cruise line that does not offer their guests the opportunity of a Catholic Mass each day.
Really it is not that big of an issue for my mom and me. I inevitably pack a small “Mass kit” which enables me to offer Mass no matter where I am. Mass this past Sunday was celebrated privately in our cabin, as it was the other days of our cruise. However, I thought about the other guests on board—approximately 4000 of them—and realized that there was no such opportunity for them while at sea to attend even Sunday Mass. (I did note, however, that an “Episcopalian Mass Service” was listed in the itinerary for Sunday.)
Maybe I’m strange, but if I were not a priest, this would be an important consideration for me as part of my vacation. I would want to travel where God was not something of an afterthought. If one cruise line offers a Catholic chaplain daily and another does not, I should probably consider choosing the one offering me the possibility for some spiritual nourishment. After all, no matter what cruise line, there is inevitably plenty of food to eat, enough excursions to keep a person constantly on the go, entertainment galore, and an immense ship providing just about every amenity that you can imagine. Would it be too much to ask that a Catholic chaplain be provided as part of the cruise, when possible? Various cruise lines have obviously found a way to do this since I had participated in such a program just last year. In fact, I witnessed sincere gratitude by passengers and crew who were both glad that I was there to offer Mass for them.
I am also sad to report that I could not locate even an interdenominational chapel on this newest of cruise ships as I have found on other older ships and on other cruise lines. My current ship boasts of a seemingly endless number of possibilities available to keep a person on the verge of being gluttonous, pampered and entertained. To me this is a sad indication of the secular, materialistic world in which we live. Apparently, there is simply no place and very minimal time (if any) for God.
If we want to be a seriously devout, prayerful Catholic (Christian), it involves basic things such as starting and ending each day with prayer, praying during meals, finding sometime during the day to be quiet and reflective, reading the Scriptures, and attending Mass minimally each Saturday evening / Sunday—even on vacation. I can see, however, how hard it can be even for a priest to maintain something of a prayerful routine while on vacation.
Be assured that even when I am away, you are remembered in my thoughts, prayers and Masses (in the cabin!).
Fr. Ed Namiotka