Right after my conversion I thrived off hanging around Catholic circles. I loved being around people who understood what it was that I was going through in my life after conversion. I have some really great and amazing people in my support system at my parish and online. I am very grateful to have so many people who love and support me. People who loved me right where I was, didn’t put demands on me and who did and still do anything they can to help me when I need it.
There was a time right after my conversion where I worried about how everyone in my family looked and acted at Mass. I am guessing that it stemmed from how I was raised. I was not raised going to Mass every Sunday with my mom, but I did attend Mass when there was a family event of some kind, like funerals or weddings. My mom recently told me that I went to Mass every day of my life until I was 3 years old with my babysitter until we moved and she didn’t take care of me anymore. I’m guessing that she probably had a lot to do with why I know how to make the sign of the cross, how to act during Mass, how I knew to sit, kneel and all that, and I’m sure that she also instilled in me the fact that you do not act up in Mass. Who knows where it came from, but I had this insane fear of people looking at my family and thinking that we didn’t dress/sit/act right and judge us. My kids were told not to make a peep anywhere inside the sanctuary. Not a PEEP. They were to be quiet, sit straight, fold their hands prayerfully when it was time to pray, and take out the missal to follow along. No slouching, no noise, no sighs, none of it.
My heightened sense of people looking at us and sizing us up made me aware of all the ways that those around us were not going to mass “right”. Every child moving, babbling, talking, crying, or the people behind me who talked throughout Mass or the people behind me who sing every part of the Mass so loud that I can’t hear myself think and on and on. Once we even sat behind a family with 7 kids with the parents sitting together at one end of the pew and the boys at the other end farting on each other. True story. I judged them so hard.
I judged everyone. What they wore, how their kids behaved and the list could go on and on. At some point it became clear to me that the problem was not everyone else, the problem is me. How someone else acts at Mass isn’t my business. It is not MY Mass, it’s Christ’s mass. Every person sitting in those pews is someone that HE has called to be there. That’s how Grace works. I have no clue what they are going through in their life, or what they will end up doing with their lives for the Love of God. I really don’t. I have no idea how exactly God is working in their lives at all, but I do know that He is working in them, because if He wasn’t, they would NOT be there. Point blank. Nobody goes to Mass because the idea of going began with them. It all begins from the Grace of God. It’s how He dupes us. We think that we came up with the idea when in fact, it is God all along.
This week at Mass I had the pleasure of eating humble pie for all that judging. Like I said, I had this idea of how parents should control their children at Mass. I had all these lofty ideas about how I would be so much better at handling a baby in Mass than most of the parents around me.
Then I took my 1 year old grand daughter to Mass yesterday.
She didn’t cry, but she wiggled all throughout Mass. She smiled at me. She tried to sing with the songs and the cantor. She answered Father with “Yaaaahhh”s and she squealed when I made her laugh. I know I shouldn’t have been playing with her during Mass, but this child is the cutest. After the creed she grabbed my face with both of her little baby hands and smacked me on the lips with the biggest kiss ever. It was the first time that she has kissed me and I melted. I just held her and cried. I was so thankful to God for this little life in my arms. For this soul that is my grandchild. Who was at Mass with me. I heard three words of the homily. I got the stink eye twice. Once with the baby drank her juice and slurped then let out an “aaahhhhhh” and a burp. (what 1 year old knows proper social norms on this stuff?!) and then another time when she was babbling during the consecration. I considered taking her to the cry room, but I didn’t. Why? Because she belongs there. Not in the cry room, but in the pew watching her aunt and uncles cross themselves, sit and listen to the readings, looking at the picture of Our Lady on the missalette and hearing what is going on. She even walked up the Communion line for the first time. That is how children learn that this is something special, by being a part of it. So no, I didn’t take her to the cry room, and I never will unless she is screaming bloody murder, which she wasn’t. She is as much a part of the Mass as anyone else who is there. In fact, she is part of the future of our Church.
I am pretty sure that the greatest thing my babysitter ever did for me was take me to Mass when I was a baby. My heart knows that it is at home there because that love of the Mass was branded on me as a baby. I am not gonna let a few stink eyes keep me from passing that on to my grand child. Children learn how to love the Mass, by being a part of it.