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Twice as Nice

This year I am trying to be proactive. As the holidays approach, before all of the holiday food gets to my plate, I am trying to create a good habit of working out each day. Since Joseph has been born, I’ve done a lot of walking, but I haven’t done any intense workouts. That has changed. I’ve started doing more difficult exercises that really get my heart rate up.

In the last week, as I was cooling down after one of those grueling workouts, I started thinking about that heart rate I was measuring. My smart watch tells me how many beats per minute, but I was thinking about how each of those beats is actually two things. If you’ve ever listened to a heart, it sounds like a “lub dub”. It might have been the exhaustion making my brain wander, but I started to wonder about what was happening during those different noises.

The first startling news was that “lub dub” is a technical term for the two noises made by the heart. They’re also known as S1 and S2. A healthy heart begins relaxed as blood flows into the heart. The blood flows into the atrium, then down into the ventricles. Then the valves between the atrium and ventricles close. That closing is the “lub”. Now that all the blood is trapped in the ventricles, an electric pulse causes them to contract, pushing the blood out of the ventricles and out into the rest of the body. To finish off this contraction, the valves leading out of the ventricles are closed, creating the “dub”.

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We can hear these noises with a stethoscope, but for more exact recordings of the heartbeat, doctors use EKGs that measure the electric pulses of the heart. Those electric pulses are what cause the movement of the heart, the closings that make the noises. The electricity pulses from one region to the next. This orderly spread of the electrical impulse ensures the distinct portions of the heart contract in an orderly, sequential way. It’s important for the heart to have these two closings in this exact sequence in order to keep the blood flowing smoothly.

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Imagine if the blood couldn’t flow into the different chambers of the heart. Imagine if the blood couldn’t flow out of the heart into the rest of the body. We need both. Doctors would be concerned if you didn’t have both parts of the heartbeat. You wouldn’t survive with just one or the other. Just like both parts of the heartbeat are important, this weekend, both Masses are important. That’s right, you are obligated to go TWICE this weekend: once Friday or Saturday to celebrate Christmas and once Saturday evening or Sunday to celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, your ordinary Sunday obligation. Right now, make a plan. Check your local Mass times. If you think about it ahead of time, it will be much easier to follow through. The Mass is such a joyful occasion, but this weekend we get to celebrate it twice! This is truly a wonderful Christmas gift!

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Because it is the week of Christmas, I’m trying to keep this brief. We all should be spending time with family right now, but I have one more challenge for you. Everyone knows that Christmas and Easter are the two most attended Masses each year. If you have family that will be going to Christmas Mass but do not normally attend Mass on Sunday, invite them to join you this Sunday. If they’re in town from out of town, they’ll probably still be in town the morning of the 26th. If they live in town with you, tell them that this is a time to be with your family. As I said before, this Sunday is literally the FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY! What better way is there to celebrate the holy family than with your entire family? Ask them to do this as a Christmas present to you. We recognize that attending Mass is as important as keeping our heart beating. It’s just as important for those family members too, so help them get there.

Have a merry and holy Christmas. You and your family are in my prayers.