Sunday, August 1, 2010

Should I stay or Should I go now?

It is Sunday morning.  Our Sunday mornings are always the same.  In a little while, we will all pile in the mini-van and set off for Mass.  The girls will be dressed in cute little sundresses with sandals on their feet, the boys will be sporting collared shirts and khakis.  We will bless ourselves with holy water as we enter the church, our five year old sticking his whole hand in the font and dripping the water everywhere as he attempts the Sign of the Cross.  We will each genuflect as we quietly file into a pew about 4 or 5 rows back from the altar, on the left hand side of the church.  The kids will switch places a few times as we line them up with Tim and I in between, in order to find the best possible seating arrangement for respectful, reverent behavior.  The five year old and seven year old cannot be next to each other, though they try to trick us into it every week.  The 11 year old and nine year are best kept apart also, though they really do know how to behave in Mass by their ages.  The baby almost always has to be with me, because if not she is not with Mommy she will squirm and fuss.  Once settled we will kneel down to pray before Mass begins.  It is a beautiful quiet time of reflection as we put ourselves in the presence of God and prepare for the beauty of the Mass…for about a second.
    At some point, within seconds of entering the sanctuary and bowing our heads in prayer, someone, despite our well planned seating arrangement, will poke someone else.  Or there will be a fight over who gets a Missal.  Or someone will start to complain about their shoes being too tight.  Or the baby will decide to screech just for the sheer pleasure of hearing that loud ear splitting noise shatter the silence of the holy place.  Usually, just about the time the opening notes of the gathering song begins, I start questioning whether I can stay in the church any longer or should already set off for my inevitable retreat to the cry room.  As the priest leads us in the Penitential Rite and we pray for Christ’s mercy, I am usually only half praying as I watch the baby walking back and forth on the pew smiling at the people behind us and distracting them, and her siblings, from their prayers as well.  When it is time to listen to the readings I sit down only to find the diaper bag has been emptied of the few little toys we always bring along in the hopes of keeping baby occupied and I have sat on a plastic monkey or pirate or car or whatever.  I remove the toy from my seat only to find the baby is screeching again, or babbling, or fussing because now that we are all sitting she has no clear place to walk back and forth and see what is going on.  Tim and I meet eyes and I silently ask whether now is the time to leave.  But, thankfully the baby usually can be distracted by the Missals or the envelopes placed in the pews for visitors to use for donations at the time of the Offering.  She will happily pull everything out of the shelves on the back of the pew in front of us and except for the sound of rustling papers and books being dropped she’ll be quiet again for a minute.   We stand again for the Gospel reading and somehow the baby will end up back on the pew but this time instead of walking back and forth she’ll find a purse sitting within her reach and start checking out everything the old lady sitting next to us has brought along this Sunday morning.  Mortified, I try to discreetly return the reading glasses, wallet, and various papers to the purse as everyone behind us stifles a giggle without drawing the unsuspecting owner’s attention, and again meet Tim’s eyes to inquire if now is the time to leave.  But as the priest finishes the Gospel and we sit to hear the homily the baby is now sitting happily with her big sister and I, too, will relax to finally get something out of Mass.  But, of course, that doesn’t ever last long.  And at some point during the homily, it will be so obvious that it is time to get that loud, fussy baby out of the church that I won’t even need to glance at Tim to get his opinion on the matter.  I will grab my eleven month old and her diaper bag, just in case, shoo off the 5 year old and 7 year old who think the cry room is something akin to the church playground, and head to the tiny little hallway with the big window and a pew squeezed in, that serves as our parish’s cry room.  Of course, there will be a couple of other families there, with all their toys spread out and their children talking or crying or climbing the pew and I will spend the remainder of the hour stuck in the only free space left, a corner of the teeny, little room completely unaware of what is going on in the sanctuary.  I will, thankfully, be able to escape for a moment to participate in Communion with a squirming baby in hand and feeling like the eyes of the entire Church are on us as we are last to receive.  And at the end of Mass as we are sent off with a blessing, I will feel like somehow I missed most of the Graces of the morning, along with missing most of the homily.  And yet, Christ will be with me and I will be ready, like it or not, to face another week of my beautiful vocation of motherhood.

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