As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Dear Man Giving Me Dirty Looks At Mass

I've started writing posts on this topic many, many times.  I think it's something all parents of small babies encounter at least once when bringing their dear little ones to Mass.  It's so frustrating, and I always want to tell that person exactly how I feel, but I never finish the post because it always ends up sounding really obnoxious.  I think probably that's because it is.  I often, in an attempt to explain myself, come across as thinking myself better than the other person because I am more "tolerant", like my presence at Mass is more valuable than theirs because mine involves more of a "sacrifice".

I am often very thankful that I didn't post any of those previous posts.  But I thought of them again after Mass this week. Some dear missionary sisters were invited to speak after the homily about their missions, and it being a suppertime Mass my littlest ones had had just about enough sitting still and being quiet.  Even the little sister at the podium was taken aback, and joyfully said, "oh, that little baby has strong lungs - she must be meant to be a missionary and proclaim Christ to the ends of the earth!"  Another gentleman was not so kind.  He turned around and gave the most condescending look to my one-year-old and I. I caught his eyes and gave a big smile, which normally diffuses the situation, but it didn't work this time.  He stared me down for another solid minute, and then turned away disgruntled.  And I shrugged it off.

I ended up taking my two littlest ones to the back of the church for the remainder of the homily.  My husband had to leave with our three-year-old shortly after I brought them both back into the church, and as I sat there with the rest of our children, doing my best to keep them both still and quiet, I decided it best not to take my kids' behaviour personally.  I can't control the fact that my three-year-old is bent out of shape.  It is frustrating to not get your own way, and he can't possibly reason yet that this is not a good time to voice disapproval, and that he should wait until after Mass to plead his case.  Nor can I control that my new walker wants nothing to do with being up in arms, and can't understand why independance that is praised at home is stifled at Mass.  I can't control that an extra twenty minutes is a long time to sit still for fidgety boys, who are active by nature, and hungry by supper time.  And I can't even control that the poor soul a few rows in front of us was counting on some quiet time with Jesus, and that my family just happened to ruin that.  I can't control that he did not accept my offering of a smile, nor what he thought of that offering.  All I can control is my heart's disposition.

The Gospel reading this week speaks of this exact thing:

Jesus addressed this parable
to those who were convinced of their own righteousness
and despised everyone else.
"Two people went up to the temple area to pray;
one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,
'O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity --
greedy, dishonest, adulterous -- or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
But the tax collector stood off at a distance
and would not even raise his eyes to heaven
but beat his breast and prayed,
'O God, be merciful to me a sinner.'
I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former;
for whoever exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted."

How often do I say to myself, "I thank you Lord, that I am not intolerant like that person."  Or "I thank you Lord, that I am forgiving, and loving."  Are my offerings of peace genuine?  If I smile at the person giving me dirty looks, and then come home and post a nasty facebook status about them (which I have most certainly been guilty of doing a time or two) is that what the Lord wants of me?

Facing disapproval of our children when we're trying our best is really, really difficult.  But that's not an excuse to mistreat or belittle anyone who hurts our feelings.  We are called to be just as loving towards them as we wish they were of us, even when we feel they don't deserve it, even when we want sooooooo badly to just give them a piece of our minds, if for no other reason than for them to just know that we are trying (and that they're wrong!)

And so, dear man giving me dirty looks at Mass, thank you for teaching me how to love properly.  For picking at that desperate desire I have to be approved by everyone, for showing me that I am not (and probably will never be) and for helping me to understand that it's okay.  I hope that you prayed for me, and I will most certainly pray for you as well.

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