Sunday, April 14, 2013

Funniest Mass Yet . . .

Going to Mass with small children can at times be more frustrating than any other task, causing you to have very unholy thoughts and wonder why you went in the first place. There have been Sundays when the hour goes by without my hearing a single word of what was said and I leave feeling frazzled, angry, resentful and incompetent as a mother. What is the point of this? I would ask. If I get absolutely nothing out of Mass and actually leave feeling worse, why do we go?

Well, there are many great answers to that question. Two quick ones comes to mind. First, it's not about me! It's about taking time out of my week to worship God, which is what I'm supposed to do. Second, if we want our children to behave in Mass, we have to begin at a young age. You can't start taking a six-year-old to Mass all of the sudden and expect them to know how to behave.

But there's another much more joyful reason than obligation and child training. Not every time, maybe not even most of the time, but sometimes there will be moments with your child that are so precious, so inspiring and so moving that every single other frustrating Mass will be worth it.

I remember holding Noah in Mass when he was a baby. I looked down at him and he was staring so thoughtfully, so intently on the sunlight streaming in through the stained-glass windows above us. He'd seen this many times. But on this morning, he was mesmerized by it. He kept putting his hands up into the air, trying to touch it. After a few minutes of this, it occurred to me that Noah may be seeing something that I wasn't. Many people believe that babies and children are more capable of seeing angels and the Holy Spirit than so many of us adults, as their hearts are more open to it. Suddenly I was convinced that this was what was happening in that moment. Noah gazed up with such awe, wonder and peace in his eyes, and I knew that somehow God was showing Himself to Noah in a way that I couldn't see. Tears welled up in my eyes. A euphoric moment.

***pause as I go get a kleenex***

Of course, those moments are rare. But they do happen and I will always treasure them. What is much more common is to have moments that are absolutely hysterical.

Veronica has been our easiest young child to have with us in Mass so far. She loves to go to Church. She knows Jesus is there. She knows that quite often, Nana and Papa will be there. She loves to dip her hand in the holy water. She absolutely loves the music and claps and tries to sing along, quite loudly at times. If the song was one that she particularly liked, when it is finished she applauds and exclaims, "Yaaaaay!" She likes to hold hands and try to pray the Our Father with us. She loves to give the sign of peace. And she loves it when I take her up to Communion.

Veronica, for the most part, has not made Mass more difficult, but rather has made it more joyful and delightful.

But last night takes the cake. Of course, we still have to manage Veronica during Mass. She is quite the chatterbox and it can be challenging to keep her entertained and keep her from being too loud. I'm still very lucky if I come away having any idea what the homily was about.

We bring a bag of books to try and help the children stay quiet. But Veronica is usually more interested in the songbooks, the participation aids, the prayer cards, the envelopes and pencils for donations, my jewelry, my purse, my scarf or anything else really. Well, yesterday I was standing beside her, listening to Father Bob as she was playing with something on the pew. Then she started asking me, "Tissue? Tissue?" I turned around to see that she had gotten into my purse. And what she had discovered and pulled out was not a tissue. It was a pad! There she was for everyone behind us to see, trying to blow nose her with a pad. And it just goes to show how badly I need to clean out my purse, because obviously I haven't needed one in a while! I tucked it away and zipped up my purse, but I could not stop giggling.

Then a while later, we prayed the Our Father and gave the sign of peace. Veronica knew what was coming next. "Communion?" she asked. "Yes," I told her, "We will go up for Communion soon." I processed up to receive Communion with her in my arms and soon it was my turn. I placed out my hand and Father gave me a host. Veronica then held out her hand and asked, "A piece?"

I almost burst out laughing, but instead gently pulled her hand down and whispered, "No, you can't have any Communion yet." And then, her little lip stuck out about a foot from her face and she cried and wailed at the unfairness of it all. I received the wine with a crying toddler, who sobbed all the way back to our pew, whimpering, "Communion. Communion." Eventually, I calmed her down and spent the remainder of Mass giggling.

These moments help make the effort of taking young ones to Mass much more than worth the effort. Not only do they make great stories and keep us very entertained, but they enhance my journey of faith as well. As Noah gazed up to the light in wonder, I was reminded that God is all around us. As Veronica was so upset that she would not be able to receive Communion, I was reminded of the gift I was receiving. Our faith does not begin to develop when we are old enough to understand it. It begins forming when we are babes. And in many ways, I feel that my children understand God better than I do. It is not I who am teaching them, but they who are teaching me.

And in that I am so very, very blessed and so grateful.

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