You see, yesterday I had this great idea. I was going to finish all of the laundry.
I have a major laundry problem in my house. The washer and dryer are in the basement, which is absolutely not Maggie proof. And since most of my time involves at least a basic level of supervision that is required for our daringly brilliant three year old, my time in the basement is minimal. Even at night, I don't really feel comfortable going down there because I worry about what's going on upstairs. Has she figured out how to open windows? Has she destroyed yet another baby gate? Is she dumping every pin in my sewing area onto the ground.
Needless to say, the laundry situation was dire. I'd try to play catch up, but it was never done. And it hasn't been anywhere near caught up with since Patrick was born.
Then this morning arrived and I realized that I'm not twenty anymore and that my mind had written checks that my body wasn't thrilled about cashing. It hurt. Everything seemed to hurt.
I started to reason my way to a solution that felt a little more bearable. It was cold outside. And still dark. The sun would be up by the time we walked to Mass, but I still couldn't convince myself to bundle everyone up and go. I have an idea, I said to myself, knowing that the thought in my mind was actually a horrible idea. We'll go tonight. We'll make it work. I'll feed everyone. They'll be all ready for bed. And we'll go to the six o'clock Mass. And even if it's horrible (which it is half the time anyways) at least we'll all be together.
I knew that it was a bad idea. I did. But it seemed better than anything else I could come up with.
Four o'clock rolled around and the bad idea turned into a near impossibility. Maggie and Sadie ran into each other and Maggie hit her head hard and while a part of me felt relieved that she was actually crying about something like bumping her head (because she would have been laughing about it three months ago), I was faced with the slow, dawning realization that there was no way I could take her to Mass when she was feeling the way she was clearly feeling.
|I knew so much more then...|
Which is when the internet sucked me in.
Back in the day I was much more likely to be drawn into internet debates. If someone was wrong somewhere on the internet I was ready to argue about it. Maybe I've mellowed with time. Maybe I just don't have quite as much energy to spare as I used to. Whatever the reason, it doesn't happen as often as it used to. In fact, it hardly happens at all.
But tonight I came across a conversation in which the question was posed, "can a mother miss Mass to care for a young child."
And the answers I saw smarted.
Hold on, I thought. I mean, if you've been around here long, you know I encourage parents to take their little ones to Mass. I was limping into Mass 8 days after I had my first c-section. In fact, I've been in Mass the Sunday after each of my three c-sections, cradling a baby in my arms. And I absolutely do believe that my children have benefited from it. Sadie's love of and desire for the Eucharist warms my heart. And I was grinning ear to ear after Maggie popped her binkie out of her mouth and attempted to rush up to the priest while signing "more, more, more" a few weeks ago.
The idea, however, that the care of children isn't a valid reason for missing Mass simply isn't true. It brought to mind the phrase "more Catholic than the Pope." We can't take our personal opinions about issues and elevate them above what is actually taught.
I went back to last week in my mind. I'd been trying not to think about it.
We walked into Mass and Maggie was suddenly excited. She tried to bolt forward and go into the church. For once she actually wanted to be there. But Patrick was already fussing and I knew I couldn't take him in while he was in a mood. When I stopped Mae, she went completely rigid and fell to the floor screaming. My hands were full with Patrick and I struggled to scoop her up and pull her onto my lap to quiet her, while people nearby tried not to stare at the scene that was unfolding. Finally she quieted down, but Patrick was unhappy. I stood and jiggled him. Finally he fell asleep and I relaxed. We'd be fine, I told myself. We'd survived and the kids were calm.
Finally it was time for communion. A young woman in the back had come over and offered to help me bring the kids forward and I accepted her help as we walked forward through the doors. And then the wall of incense hit me and I stopped and backpedaled, kicking myself for not realizing earlier, and suddenly acutely aware of the fact that the inhaler wasn't in my pocket. I retreated to the narthex.
Incense... the reason we can no longer attend the latin Mass... the "other thing" that Patrick (and Sadie and Maggie to varying degrees) is very much allergic to.
Thankfully I was able to receive the Eucharist (the young lady who had offered to help arranged it)... but I have to admit, the experience, altogether, left me shaken. I thought about writing about it last week, but I couldn't bring myself to put my thoughts into words. Perhaps it's because while struggling through Mass here I can't help but feel completely and utterly alone, even when a kindly stranger offers to help. I guess Mass is, in a way, the place where I come the face to face with the fact that here in Michigan I am far from my friends and family and with the exception of Paul, who's at school or work the vast majority of the time, I'm on my own with the kids. Before therapy began it wasn't unusual for me to go a month without speaking to another grown up (other than Paul who's usually gone about 16 hours a day...).
For the most part it's been okay. It's been this way for over a year. I knew law school was going to be hard for all of us. It's a sacrifice. Besides, most of the time I'm too busy to notice.
Having an extremely introverted personality makes it easier. I'm not a fan of getting together with big groups and it seems to me that more and more that most friend-making-activities as a grown up involve big groups.
About 90% of the people involved in the conversation I was in said that caring for young children isn't a reason to miss Mass. Lots of people named large numbers of kids and said that if they could do it with five or six or seven, anyone could. And part of me wanted to say: Here, take her for an hour. I guarantee it will change your entire perspective (although I wouldn't do that to Mae!).
Thankfully, I don't have to measure up to some super mom's idea of what a mother of little ones should be or do. I have to follow the teachings of the Church. And while I do strive to go above and beyond, while I hope that I'm being led stumbling towards heroic virtue, there are times when I'm very, very grateful that in her merciful understanding of our vocations the Church recognizes that there are times when we struggle to reach the bare minimum.
Maybe that's why she gives us a bare minimum. And perhaps, like the story of the widows mite, God will recognize in these times, that the little that we had to give actually meant far more than outward appearances reflected.