My family’s Catholic, but it’s only been within the last year that The Wife and I have gotten serious about it. Although our faith is far from absolute, we both agree that the promise of an hour each week to be together as a family enjoying a brief respite from the burdens of our daily lives is well worth the cost of getting up early on a Sunday. Mass provides The Wife and I an opportunity to slow down, to reflect on our lives, and to simply steal a quiet moment to gaze sidelong into each others’ eyes and appreciate everything that we have in each other.
At least it would if we didn’t have children.
We made the decision to become regular church-goers in part for the benefit of our daughters. It seems like with each passing year, life not only gets more hectic and more wearisome, but it does so for younger and younger children. I spend every day with ninth- and tenth-grade students who are already burnt out on both school and sports, and who spend too little time sleeping and even less actually enjoying themselves. I have friends and family alike whose children – ages ranging from 6 to 16 – have weekly calendars that read like the demon-spawn love child of ESPN’s and The Discovery Channel’s daily programming line-ups. And I have a pair of wonderful little girls who the world tells me I’ve already doomed to a life of perpetual failure because the five-year-old only goes to preschool and dance class while her two-year-old sister stays home with their mother all day. We want our daughters to grow up knowing that no matter what life throws at them, there will always be a place they can go where they will face no expectations, no pressure, and no judgment. There will always be at least one hour each week where they can simply be, and they can know they will always be loved simply for being.
In a similar vein, The Wife and I wanted to make sure that there was some kind of spiritual element in our daughters’ lives. We’re raising them Catholic because we were raised Catholic and neither of us has found another religion that we preferred to our own. However, our faith is neither so strong that it has no room for new ideas nor so weak that it has no tolerance for scrutiny. If, as adults, our children find a different path that leads them to a more meaningful place than ours would, then so be it. Whatever spiritual road they choose to follow – even if it leads them away from organized religion or away from faith in a higher power at all – will someday be their own. I just want them to grow up understanding that there are things in the world greater and more important than themselves.
Unfortunately, I feel like we’re failing on both fronts.
The Wife and I spend more time wrangling our children and correcting their behavior than we actually spend taking part in mass or listening to the priest. Frankly, we spend more time praying for the strength and patience to endure sixty minutes trying to keep our children quiet and contained than we spend reflecting on and giving thanks for how heavily our lives have been blessed. By the time mass is over, the only thought going through my head is usually something along the lines of Both of you sit down and shut the hell up so everyone can have a few minutes of God damned peace and quiet! More often than not, I walk out of mass more stressed and bemused than when I walked in.
To wit, this little gem today: We had finished giving each other our usual hugs, kisses, and I Love Yous and our neighbors the customary handshakes in the name of peace and goodwill. The Eucharistic Ministers had come to the altar and were being served communion in anticipation of serving the rest of us. The music had momentarily faded as the organist turned to the Communion hymn in her book. The church was awash in stillness and silence as we prepared ourselves for its most solemn and sacred ritual.
And so it came to pass that, like a roar of thunder echoing through the heavens above a sea of tranquility, The Younger announced, I HATE MASS!
We’re all going to hell, aren’t we?
As always, thanks for reading. I hope to see you again soon.