Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pass the Eraser

Today is Ash Wednesday.  In the back area of the Church there is a wall separating any who sit there from the congregation. This is in leiu of a cry room. I hoped by sitting there we would draw less attention.  It was not to be.  First, they dumped their coats.  Then there was the mad scramble to sit on the kneeler only to discover one of the kneeler's cushions could be removed if you sat there and bounced.  After fixing the cushions, the girls kept bringing me flyers from the table.  I would replace them from one, only to be resupplied by the other.  Their favorite was a pink pamplet "PURE WOMANHOOD," they handed me six of those.

My son was in his stroller and kept throwing a plastic pink pig which the girls thought great fun to pounce on and throw back.  I took away the pig and got crying in stereo.  The baby then began to cry too.  I fixed her bottle and tried hugging the girls into compliance while letting Paul play with the pig.  It lasted five minutes.

When my older daughter who should know better started dancing as if she'd chugged a whole Mountain Dew, I admit, my resolve to be loving went out the window.   Right then, I just wanted quiet compliance!  I snapped at her to sit down.  She sat, crumpled, took a deep breath and howled. The sound echoed.  I considered packing it in but the irony of me trying to get her to be still and quiet so I could pay attention to the fact that all of us are sinful, noisy and distracted....pounded in my brain.

As the kids in front of us went up for ashes, I couldn't help thinking, "I've just proven how I still don't quite get it." and this is why I so need that black cross on my head.  I watched as my daughters skipped up the aisle, eager to receive. The rest of mass after ashes ran pretty much the way it had up to receiving ashes. I did have to give the "Behave or We'll leave" speech after receiving the Eucharist but the anger and irritation and "Why is this happening to me" type thinking that plagued the earlier part of the mass wasn't there.

This is why God handed so many souls to my heart to manage. They'd hopefully crowd out the "I" with their love, and if not, they'd at least distract the "Id" with their own needs. Blessed Mother Theresa understood the more people we serve, or the more we wholey serve people in our midst, the less we become attached to our own opinions and thinking and feeling and the more of what we are not, (Christ), shines through. Most are graced and talented enough to do this with less than ten. 

But human nature being what it is (fallen), we can turn any grace, even a lavish one into a source of sin...resting on laurels, presuming at all times that whatever we are doing, it is sufficient or has merit. But God is not satisfied with where we are because where we are isn't with Him.  Just as I didn't want my kids just to be at mass, I wanted them to behave and attend mass, God didn't just want me to show up with my kids, He wanted me to love even through all of that; (and I wanted not to be taxed to have to love through all of that).  

As sinners, we say "No more." and draw lines around our hearts, insisting that God cannot push beyond this point. But we are called to imitate the Saints who spent their lives trying to erase those lines around their own souls so that there is no space  in their minds or hearts or lives where God is not allowed. Any response I had outside of love was incorrect.   Ash Wednesday is about remembering the lines we have drawn around our lives to keep God out.

Pass the eraser please.


Natalie said...

I remember my parents telling me we to be good or we leave and since I hated going to church (again as a child) I did not see that as a punishment, but more like "great, I can go home and do what I want" selfish attitude. Now that I have my boys I've already decided that we will stay the whole Mass 1) because I know they just don't want to be there and 2) because I need to be there the entire time. It's not the most reasonable arguement, but there it is.

I have a mom friend who has restless kids during Mass so she started taking them to daily Mass and informed the priest of the situation. He talked to her kids and they became much more well behaved when they knew the priest was watching them every time they went. They somehow understood that upsetting him was worse than upsetting their Mom. Weird, but it worked for her. Maybe your priest could do the same.

Joanne said...

I am always getting a lesson in humility when I go to Mass. Just yesterday there were 2 women sitting in front of us who occasionally started chatting, quietly. I found myself getting annoyed and thinking that these women didn't have any respect for the Mass. At the sign of peace they turned and gave me a most sincere smile and handshake. I felt stupid as I sat there with my ashes on my head....who's the judgmental sinner now?

As for the children....I teach the Baptism prep class at our parish and I always tell my parents 2 things that were told to me while at Mass with my ~1 yr old granddaughter. 1)I was the lector and my g-daughter and daughter were sitting in the pew about 3 rows back. The little one kept calling out to me and making general baby noises. After the Mass our pastor commented on the boisterous child. I started to explain and he stopped me. "Don't apologize! I love to hear children out there. They are the life of our church. Without them, we have no future!" 2)She loved to do her baby version of singing: loud, screechy and off key! There were 2 nuns sitting in front of us and at the sign of peace they turned with big smiles and declared the "she was certainly making a joyful sound unto the Lord!"

Natalie said...

I agree with Joanne, but there is a big differece between a young toddler who really doens't understand or know better and older kids who should. If a 3 year old can sit through a whole Disney movie, then they should be able to sit reasonably still through a 1 hour Mass.

MightyMom said...

I have a friend who told her kids "be quiet or we'll stay for the NEXT Mass!...and the one after that...till you show you've practiced enough and have learned to behave."

That threat has actually worked...on both ME and my kids!

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