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Sometimes parenting feels like you do and do and do and do, and nothing that gets done takes on any weight. The laundry we do today needs to be done again tomorrow. Same story for the dishes, errands, schedules and bills. So much of the everyday caring for children is maintenance, and that means the purpose of parenting — loving them and bringing them to the God who is love through both family life and the sacraments — can get forgotten.
Fortunately, we have Sunday. This past Sunday, we took our children to the early Mass because one of the older ones had a ministry fair. The first Mass of the morning feels more contemplative to me, and I kept noticing the quiet. It wasn’t a static dullness, it was a willful listening, a peaceful silence born of a whole people seeking to enter into the mystery of the Mass.
It seemed to affect my children well: I noticed three of my daughters saying the prayers aloud. Normally, I have to give a gentle reminder to them, but the silence had caught them, and they were participating. My youngest daughter normally counts down the Mass by the number of songs left, but since there were no songs, she said the prayers, and she sat with stillness. Happily, I also found that my own proclivities to drift were cut short.
As the Eucharistic prayer began, my youngest son Paul moved from his seat next to me, past his three sisters, to climb up into his father’s arms. I watched as he draped himself on his dad’s shoulders so he could get a better look. He watched the consecration, and put his head into his father’s neck with a contented sigh. Later my husband told me that he’d felt like the tree holding a little Zacchaeus, because Paul climbed his dad to get a better look at Jesus, to see Him.
I loved that image; it conveyed all we are supposed to do as parents. We are to be steady, strong, able to hold them, and to allow them the opportunity, should they so desire, to see Jesus. We can’t force them to climb the tree, but we must be there waiting, hoping they’ll know we are always there for them to climb.
When Mass was over, and we went in peace, we took the kids out for breakfast. They giggled and colored and played tic-tac-toe. They traded bananas and bacon and begged for more chocolate milk. They were the same people who’d been so present for an hour.
I’ve written other stories about how my kids rebel in Mass, or how I manage to flunk being present at the Mass — but sometimes in the midst of all that doing, you get a perfect moment — when the Cubs win the Series and the kids behave at Mass and it’s a gift of grace worth preserving.
It’s a reminder from God: all of this is good. All of them are good. All you have to do is love them. This is why you are here, and it is very very good.
And we’ll have to try that early, quiet Mass again. It seems it was good for our be-stilled bodies, and our awakened minds and souls.
Read more: The Mass of the Very Old Men
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