While it’s not the Superbowl of Masses, like the Easter Vigil, it’s typically a little longer than the normal one hour Mass and attendance is usually a lot higher. As the mom of five, I could write a book on all the things we’ve learned to do and not to do at Mass. It’s a tenuous balance and every child requires a different approach. Some Sunday’s we consider it a raving success if we make it to the homily with no major catastrophe. That’s why, when a friend recently emailed me and shared her Easter Mass experience, I wasn’t too shocked at a recent parent’s attempt at keeping the peace. Horrified, yes. But not surprised.
It seems as if this mom brought her two boys, ages 5 and 6, to the “cry room.” But, instead of giving them an opportunity to participate in the Mass before pulling out a few tricks, she whipped out two DVD players and hit play. Um, WHAT? It seems that when the movies got too loud, she was at least thoughtful enough to bring along headphones. Oh, and don’t forget the food! She brought along suckers for her two little guys.
When do we draw the line? Do we say something? Do we thank God they were there? Or, were they really? Should I be judging this mom without knowing the full story?
I’m not sure there are hard and fast rules to any of those questions, but I do have a bit of insight to share.
I think anytime someone makes the effort to come to Mass we should shout out an Alleluia. I’ve had some not-so-stellar Masses as a Mom and I’d hate to think another family nominated me for “Worst Mom of the Year” because of that one-hour observation. I do believe, however, that by coming to Mass you should also be preparing yourself to be in a state of grace. Even if you don’t hear one lick of the homily or barely make it to the communion line because you’ve been at the back chasing your screaming toddler, there are graces just for coming. Walk in with the right attitude and even if Satan hands you a beating, keep reminding yourself why you’re there. Perhaps switching off Masses with your spouse (if that’s an option) once a month and only bringing the kids who are old enough to sit still may be the reprieve you need. Try different Mass times. Offer your children an incentive for being attentive during Mass, say a walk through the church rose garden or 15 minutes of outside playtime with just you when you get home. Make it a gift of time, rather than a gift bought with money. And, recognize that this chapter of your life will not last forever. Pinky swear.
Oh boy, should you say something? My Palm Sunday Mass was a lesson in patience, my greatest test yet. An older couple in front of us was not enjoying the kid chatter behind them and they made it clear. But, what started as a miserable Mass ended up being my greatest gift that Sunday. I turned to prayer rather than words I’d regret. I don’t often choose right, but that time I did. Perhaps at the end of Mass you should invite that Mom to the parish mother’s group. Maybe she needs an understanding friend or some new strategies. Shaming her in front of others will likely only do one thing: assure she’ll never come back.
Judgment is a dangerous game to play. Our youngest child was born premature and has various medical and physical challenges, namely, eating and sensory processing. There were many Masses we brought two extra outfits and a blanket to catch what we knew would be a vomiting episode. For several months, they happened with no warning and at no specific time. Staying holed up in our house 24/7 for months on end wasn’t an option. We chose to live life, and with it came consequences. We learned to roll with it and make the disruption minimal for those around us. In fact, if you go to our parish, I’m betting very few knew that was even a struggle of ours for a while. Point being? Kids are messy and they come with all sorts of stuff that people don’t see on the outside. There’s the family who has a child with epilepsy, cerebral palsy, Down’s Syndrome, Asperger’s, autism or something else. Those parents deserve gold medals for making Mass a priority. Just give ’em a smile and tell them what a beautiful family they have.
Every Sunday is a new opportunity, a new birth, to experience Christ’s forgiveness. It seems appropriate as we begin this Easter season that we open our hearts to God’s teachings and see how he’s using us to bring people closer to Christ. Perhaps he’s starting with you.