I was sitting in church this morning with my family, waiting for Mass to begin, when I felt my neck and jaw tensing up. Chiara, who is 2 ½ years old, was in rare form. She slept late this morning, meaning that we whisked her from her bed to the breakfast table to the pew. No time for running off energy or singing her little songs or spinning around the family room. It was going to be a long Mass, for us and everyone else within spitting distance.
Don’t get me wrong, Dennis and I are not the kind of parents who sit there serenely while the children throw food and pull the hair of the people in front of us. I’m usually ready to send Chiara packing at the first sign that she’s going to do anything other than sit there reading Goodnight Moon. If we went by my rules, she wouldn’t make it to the entrance hymn. Fortunately, Dennis is a little more laid back and so she usually hangs in until the Liturgy of the Eucharist, at which point any sound at all is cause for being bounced to the Gathering Space.
This sort of thing is the constant dilemma of families with little ones. Do you go to Mass separately, something we choose more often than not, in order to be fed spiritually, or do you go as a unit and risk becoming the family that everyone tries to avoid?
I have to admit that I really enjoy going to Mass alone, or with one of my older children, on Saturday nights. It’s a treat for me to be able to hear an entire homily without anyone asking for a tissue or pulling my hair or dropping the “worship aid” repeatedly beneath the pew in front of us.
Lately, however, as I struggle to nudge myself out of the spiritual stalemate I seem to be in these days, it’s becoming more important to me to go to Mass en masse, not only because Chiara needs to learn the ropes but because our family needs that time when we are all focused on God at once. I don’t count our nightly grace before meals, which is usually a race to get to the eating at hand before the food gets cold or Chiara gets cranky.
So what does all this ruminating mean? I think it means that the good folks at St. Thomas the Apostle Church had better choose their seats wisely from now on.