And here's what got me thinking about it.
The morning Paul left in the Uhaul we all got up very early. We'd been planning on going to Mass the night before, but with the triple digit heat, all of us disgusting and sweaty and the truck still not completely packed we'd agreed to rise early, drive the hour and a half to Mass at the parish we've been attending, and go together. After that the girls and I would meet Nani and Grumpa to go to a park and Paul would continue the drive south for another fourteen hours.
We got up at six a.m. for the nine o'clock Mass and all got ready quickly, but with the stop for gas and picking up a dolly we hadn't been able to fit in the car the night before, we ended up getting to the church just as Mass began. I quickly took Sadie to the restroom to avoid disaster and then switched with Paul and took Mae, since she had been acting a little needier than usual that morning (she ended up having a tooth cut through). We opted to stand in the back, because the front was already pretty packed on the sides, and I was a bit relieved, because I new I could stand and hold Mae and that she would likely be pretty quiet.
Paul usually holds Mae, and he had commented in the past on the looks he would get, just for standing in the back of the Church with her. I'd noticed the week before that there was a particular group of people, three couples who were probably in their sixties who always sit in the back row, who had turned to glare at them (and the four or so other families who had to take little ones out) every time she so much as breathed a giggle. When we first arrived and stood at the back, before I had switched to hold Mae, I saw one of them turn, spot us in the back, say something to her husband, and then search for Mae and Paul with a sour, angry look. Mae hadn't made a peep. This may have contributed to me holding Mae that day.
Mae was having a rough day, but was still doing passably well. She fussed a couple times and I immediately took her back into the bathroom lobby, where there's a small room with a rocking chair. She wanted to nurse, which was unusual, because she hadn't tried to nurse at Mass since she was two weeks old.
There's no sound pipped into the room we were sitting in, but if the two doors are left over, the moms who've taken refuge in the room can hear almost everything. Mae was quiet. A line of women trooped by, to use the bathroom which is well out of sight of the door, even open, and behind a third solid door, and I would ask those of them who closed the far outer door to leave it open so we might hear the Mass. Each person would smile and say "oh I'm sorry! Of course!" or something along those lines.
Then in came a brightly smiling woman, who closed the first door and then the second door and looked at me as she stood in line. "Do you think you could leave the doors open so we might hear the Mass in here?" I asked. "No I don't think I can." she said with the same bright, fake smile as she leaned forward and tried to touch Mae (major act of self control to not bat her hand away). If I'd realized, right away, who she was, or had been less surprised by the response I might have said something back. Instead I got up and opened the door, finally commenting about how some people are rather rude (I don't think she heard me). I stood by the door so she couldn't close it again and watched as she returned to her seat, with the glaring group.
Mae had a rough time during the rest of Mass. She could tell that I was upset by the incident and that made her upset and far more fussy than she usually was. I took her out around four times (most Masses she makes it through without having to be taken out once). The group kept glaring, except the woman, who seemed afraid to turn around. I was particularly disappointed, when we were waiting in the communion line and I realized that the man who had turned to glare at us throughout Mass was one of my dad's colleagues, a community leader and Catholic educator who's constantly on TV in the north state, who I'd known most of my life life (who I'm certain didn't recognize me).
Most of the glaring group left immediately after taking communion (trying not to comment on how not shocked I am by that...).
I can't help but wonder how many people they've chased away from the Church. I can imagine a lot of young families being chased away from the Church by that group, with their constant glaring (particularly since two of them are supposed to be "pillars of the community"). Having been the object of their scrutiny I can say that it's stressful. Mae's pretty good at Mass. She giggles occasionally. She would sometimes try to sing along to the very loud music. And when she fussed we took her outside and held her until she calmed down. If I was a mom, looking for just looking a place to go to Church, without really knowing what I wanted, these people would have convinced me not to enter the door of the Catholic Church a second time... and the idea that this sort of welcome could chase people who are considering converting away is very disturbing...
I'm praying we can find a welcoming parish here in Florida, where the priest understands that the beauty of the Mass doesn't need to be altered or added to...