All [the Church] have their own active parts to play in the celebration [of the Mass], each in his own way: readers, those who bring up the offerings, those who give communion, and the whole people whose “Amen” manifests their participation. – CCC#1348
And those who are trying to keep rowdy children quiet and well-behaved during mass. (Do I hear an AMEN?!)
Here’s our typical Sunday mass ordeal: After the 100-meter dash (that feels more like a marathon) of getting the kids and ourselves ready, we hope to be early enough to find good seats. It varies from Sunday to Sunday–sometimes we make it early enough to get good seats in our usual corner, other times we wish we’d made it earlier to get any seat. Our eldest likes the music, and is quick to try and sing along with all the hymns, familiar or not (mostly not, but never stops him). He does get bored eventually, and will start on his litany of “How many more minutes?,” “Is this a long mass or a short one?,” and “I want mass to be finished already.” Our second, on the other hand, seems bothered by the loudness of the choir, and clings closely to either Mama or Dada, as if she’s just heard the footsteps of a monster under her bed (sooo looking forward to her outgrowing this scared-of-everything stage). And to give the definition for everyone’s benefit, “clings closely” means wrapping her arms and legs around any part of the body (legs, torso, hips) so tightly that even if I don’t put my arms around her for support, she’ll stay glued onto me (no need for a baby carrier, this is all hands-free!). Latest addition to this circus is our 4-month-old who, surprisingly, is the most well-behaved of the 3–although still not completely low-maintenance, especially when she demands to be nursed during mass.
With the kids being kids during mass, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find it hard to really pray and listen and participate during Mass. Of course, I’d always try–and there are some Sundays wherein those sacred moments would manage to get through the chaos on our pew. But for most weeks, Peter and I are just doing our best to survive that one hour every Sunday with nary a tantrum, a sibling squabble, or a piercing look from a neighboring churchgoer.
Because I want the kids to grow up knowing that Sunday Mass is an integral part of our lives as Catholics, and for them to have memories of going to Church every Sunday for as long as they can remember, I try not to make leaving the kids at home a convenient option (a temptation on really bad days). And my kids do have their golden moments–raising their hands when you tell them to worship, throwing kisses at the huge image of Jesus in our church, my son always running to the altar at the end of every mass, wanting to be the first to receive the priest’s blessing (I think he considers this a worthy olympic event, stretching his legs in his own cute way, then jogging in place up until the time we’re singing the final hymn and he sprints for first place/blessing).
They just make participating fully at Mass a little bit, er, challenging.
At different times in my life, I’ve been pretty much on-and-off with going to mass on weekdays. But lately, I’ve found this to be the perfect solution to me missing out on immersing myself into the highest form of worship. Stepping out of the house for just 30-45 minutes in the evening to attend mass at our parish has done wonders for my day to day–I feel re-energized for whatever curve balls get thrown at me, I can close my eyes and truly worship with abandon with all angels and saints present–I can lose myself, find myself, and offer up myself all within a little under an hour. Sure, it takes a little extra effort to go to mass outside of the required Sundays, but the benefits clearly outweigh the energy expended.
Christ has made the first step by making Himself physically available to us everyday. Is it really too much to ask of us to exert that little effort, to make that little side trip, to take a breather from our daily grind to just stop and acknowledge the transforming power of His presence? That extra mile need not be one giant leap; we can take little baby steps–reflecting on the readings for Sunday ahead of time, seeking out a particularly inspiring homilist, or like me, taking the chance for truly reverent participation in the Mass during weekday celebrations (you don’t even need to commit to go everyday…God knows how many times I’ve discouraged myself, overwhelmed by an attempt to commit to too much, too soon…remember, baby steps).
I look forward to the day my kids will be old enough to enjoy and appreciate the beauty of the Mass–not so I won’t need to attend mass outside of Sundays, but so we can all go together every day of the week.
Ask yourself: what baby step can you take this week towards a fuller experience of the Mass?
P.S. I’ve just acquired my very first ever Daily Roman Missal (containing the new translation of the Liturgy), and I can’t wait to teach myself to use it! I’m so confident I will be abundantly blessed by this tiny little baby step closer to my Savior.