A Parish that Cries

“A parish that doesn’t cry has no future.”

I told this to my mom a few Sundays ago, apparently when I was in a more charitable mood than I was this morning.

This morning I couldn’t pray. There were thousands of wailing children at Mass this morning. Or at least it sounded that way. And they were seemingly all being tortured somehow. (For some reason, “crying it out” is a naughty phrase for young parents when it comes to bedtime or nap time. But it seems that isn’t the case at Mass.)

I came to blog about it. I know I’m not supposed to have an opinion about any of it, because I have no idea what it’s like to raise children. I have no idea what it’s like to have your child wailing uncontrollably in church. I have no idea about any of it. I’m a single girl that should never open her mouth (or her keyboard?) about something she knows nothing about.

And neither does Father. So he can’t say anything either, of course. Despite the fact that we couldn’t hear parts of his homily because of wailing children or the words of consecration were eclipsed by a scream or two, he can’t offer words of advice. (Such as, “I put a close-circuit television downstairs so you don’t have to miss Mass if your children are getting a little antsy…”) Someone will call the chancery and tell the Bishop that Father told them they weren’t welcome at his parish. Better yet, someone will accuse him of hating babies or being pro-choice.

But I decided I was tired of feeling like a second-class citizen just because I don’t have children. So I came to blog and vent.

But then I opened my computer up to this quote from John Paul I.  I’m using it in a talk I’m giving this week.

“Love in little things. Often this is the only kind possible. I never had the chance to jump into a river to save a drowning man; I have been very often asked to lend something, to write letters, to give simple and easy instructions. I have never met a mad dog; instead I have met some irritating flies and mosquitoes. I have never had persecutors beat me but many people disturb me with noises in the street, with the volume of the television turned up too high or unfortunately with making noise in drinking soup. To help, however, one can not take it amiss, to be understanding; to remain calm and smiling (as much as possible) in such occasions is to love one’s neighbour without rhetoric in a practical way” John Paul I

And then I realized I had failed. I had the opportunity this morning to remain smiling, despite the screams and the wails and the fact I couldn’t hear half of the Eucharistic prayer. But I let it distract me. I let it get under my skin.

I still have a lot of work to do in the holiness department. And it’s not about heroic bloody martyrdom. The heroism is a lot smaller… and a lot harder.

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8 thoughts on “A Parish that Cries

  1. Mom of three monkeys says:

    HA! And my attitude after mass today was ” if Father’s homily wasn’t so damn long the kids wouldn’t be so restless!”

  2. Our friend, Fr. Matthew of the Diocese of Peoria, went to help his sister while he was on break from his studies in seminary. His sister had been put on bed rest while expecting her fifth child. Matthew told his little nieces and nephews that he would be going to Mass every morning, and anyone who wanted to could go with him. The little ones love their Uncle Matthew and wanted to go with him, so Matthew got a priceless education: dressing little kids, getting them loaded into their car seats, and wrangling them at Mass. His eyes were opened to the challenges of parenting, and he said that after this experience he would never again look at fussing kids with frustration; instead, he would thank God for the parents who had made it to Mass with their children 😊.

  3. Molly Sullivan says:

    Another good one from Pope John Paul I! You just made my day. And it’s quite natural to be irritated by screaming children.

  4. Amy says:

    This is very timely. I have a different, but similarly “small,” thing driving me crazy. Your quote reminds me of another quote I once heard attributed to Paul VI, to the effect that he indicated that other people are his hair shirt. Smaller IS harder, because I can’t even be encouraged by thinking “what a great job I’m doing dealing with this big thing”…in fact, it’s more like “what a lousy job I’m doing even in this small thing – how will I ever handle the big stuff?” Which is a great reminder that it’s by God’s grace, and my cooperation with it, that I ever make any progress.

    On a practical note, this is one reason I use a missal. There are many reasons I have a hard time hearing during Mass: poor acoustics, people coughing or sneezing or even talking, crying children, my own hearing loss. When the new translation came out, I gave up the ghost and bought a missal. Now when my hearing is compromised, my vision can make up for it. (Except during the homily – I haven’t got a solution for that yet.)

    Always glad to read what you write!

  5. Which is why I think there’s value of thinking of Mass not as much as a “me and God” experience . . . it’s about coming to meet the Body of Christ . . . in both its meanings.

    $0.02 from the person with no theology degrees. But anyway. 🙂

    • Thank you, Laura– that is a great insight. Our relationship with God is never just about “me and God,” which is where so many “spiritual but not religious” people err.

      I suppose on Sunday I was frustrated because I was only able to experience the Body of Christ in one of its meanings, haha. I was lacking the interior prayer… partly my own fault, but also partly due to some parenting choices…

      In the end, I simply hope it’s a give-and-take on all sides. While I struggle to offer up my experience of that body of Christ :), knowing that it’s not easy for small children to last through long Masses, I also hope that other people understand that their parenting choices affect others and they also may be called to offer things up, like cry rooms or splitting up Masses when they don’t want to 🙂 🙂

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