The young woman walks into the dim church and quietly genuflects before taking her place at the kneeler. Making the Sign of the Cross devoutly, she begins her usual prayers before the Mass begins. A hushed reverence fills her soul, and she smiles, knowing that here at last she has found the peace her soul has been yearning for all week. Here at last she will be able to set aside all her worries and cares for an hour, and concentrate on the love from the Holy Eucharist. The simple bell chimes, signaling to the people that Mass has begun. She opens her Missal and bows her head.
Doesn't that sound ideal? Perfect even??
Now let's take a look at reality:
The young woman walks into the dim church and awkwardly genuflects. The baby bag that is slung around her shoulder has gotten caught on the pew, and the glass bottles that she thought were so carefully tucked in the pocket have fallen to the floor...completely disrupting the quiet reverence within the church. After craming herself, the baby bag, the baby carrier, hubby and coats all into the pew, she peeks under the blanket to make sure her daughter is still asleep. Nope. Wide awake. Naturally. She thinks, "Well, maybe if I give her the bear she will entertain herself for a few moments so I can at least greet God for a few minutes!" Nope. That doesn't work. She hurries to undo the belt while her daughter joins with the choir shreaking and screaming. With the baby now attached to her hip, and "semi-quiet", she hopes maybe she can say a few prayers before the start of Mass. However, looking at the altar, she notices Mass has already begun and the priest is already at the altar. Okay then....scratch that! The priest recites the prayers, and she tries desparately to calm her squirming child who is at this moment, flailing arms and legs, kicking a shoe off under the pew and sending her binky flying at the lady in front of her. The young mother has had enough. Scurring to grab a bottle, she quickly genflects and exits the church, heading toward the cry room....only to discover that, in her haste to leave, she has left behind the burb cloth, binky, and extra formula...and there is currently spit up running down her hand and black skirt.
Yep. That sounds more realistic. (though perhaps slightly exaggerated!)
That has become my new reality. And though I understand (and continually have to keep reminding myself), that God understands and I receive graces just for my efforts...it does get frustrating and discouraging not being able to fully participate at Mass anymore. But then again, I'm forced to consider...Our Lord is present regardless of whether I'm able to kneel there in deep devotion, or I'm hurrying in and out with a screaming child. My presence of mind must remain with Our Lord...and I can participate at the Mass through my cooperation with my motherly duty. I have a child. That child needs to be tended to. God understands this, and this is where my true Faith is tested. Even though I don't FEEL like I've had a "good Mass", I have made the effort to go, I have done my best to participate, and I have received the Holy Eucharist. God will take care of the rest.
St. Catherine of Siena said, "When I am not able to receive my Lord, I go into the Church and I look at Him....I look at Him and I am satisfied." I don't think she would mind if we also applied this to mothers at Mass. "When I am not able to attend Mass the way I wish, I sit in the cry room and look at Him. I look at Him and I am satisfied."