Mass this morning was an adventure. Theoretically, since I was up at 5 and the girls were up at 7, we should have had no problem making it to 9:30 Mass en famille. However, when there are four tiny people under the age of 5 involved, nothing is simple by the time we get through with it. Mr. Man and Baby Guy awoke at about 8:45, and after a mad preparatory dash, which included trying to find some breakfast food that would interest Mr. Man more than his sisters’ Lite Sprites, we hustled the tribe out the door at 9:20 a.m. After wrestling the highly uncooperative Beanie, Mr. Man, and Baby Guy into their car seats (thankfully, Bugaboo jumped right into Fran the Van and buckled herself into her seat), we headed off for worship and, we hoped, fellowship. Our parish has a coffee-and-donuts social after the 9:30 Mass, and more than once, we have extorted good behavior from our elder three with the promise of a Boston creme.
We arrived just before the Liturgy of the Word began, and one of the ushers helpfully directed us to the only pew that would accommodate our family of six . . . directly behind where the altarboys sit, in the very front of the church, very close to the altar. Baby Guy was pretty happy, since there was another very small person in her car carrier at the end of the pew directly behind us; her parents faced her car seat toward his, and they had a grand time making faces and smiling at each other. Mr. Man was happy to sit in the pew next to Bugaboo and watch the flickering candles, while Bugaboo was busy being a big girl, sitting quietly and listening to the readings.
And then, there was Beanie. Resplendent in the fuzzy, pale pink coat she proudly picked out all by herself, she quickly discovered the smoothness of her fuzzy coat made it ideal for sliding on the polished wood of the pew and the polished linoleum of the floor. My poor husband tried every sotto voce tactic in his considerable repertoire to get her to sit quietly in the pew, several of which were met with wails (she has a remarkable ability to time a loud whine at the exact moments where pauses occur in readings or hymns). I have never been so relieved to hear her ask to go to the potty in the middle of Mass.
Unsurprisingly, around the time my husband shuffled Beanie out the side door, Mr. Man wearied of watching candles and motionless ceiling fans, and decided he should, perhaps, explore his surroundings. I was able to divert him for a few minutes by letting him give Baby Guy a bottle; he loves to have a “big guy” job like helping feed his little brother. Unfortunately, Baby Guy wasn’t nearly as hungry as I had hoped. As our priest was finishing his homily by reading the bishops’ letter about an assault on our faith by the federal government (please, if you don’t know what this is, click the link and pray for us), Mr. Man decided that the ramp heading up to the altar was simply irresistible, and took off up it.
I lacked the intestinal fortitude to meet the eyes of any of my fellow parishioners as I retrieved Mr. Man from multiple attempts to investigate the altar and its environs, and when he started throwing his shoes, but I was thoroughly grateful to see my husband returning with a not-even-remotely-calmer Beanie. Since Baby Guy was still cheerfully rocking himself in his car seat, and Bugaboo was intently following the consecration, I scooped up a wriggly Mr. Man and headed for the back of the church. By the time Communion was beginning, he was sufficiently calm to risk returning to the pew — where we discovered Beanie merrily making dust angels on the floor.
Under the circumstances, the biggest advantage to where we were sitting for Mass was that we were the first ones to go up to receive Communion. When we returned to the pew, we made a brief effort to sing the Communion hymn, then realized that we were in danger of being drowned out by Beanie, Mr. Man, and the increasingly distressed Baby Guy. It seemed to be wisest to pack up our tribe and depart as quickly as possible, which is precisely what we did. Once we cleared the sanctuary, Mr. Man and Beanie were informed that there would be no donuts today.
I have omitted plenty of behavioral details, such as attempts to skin-the-cat over the back of a pew, but it was definitely not a Mass that led itself to peaceful contemplation of Christian mysteries. My husband and I had a brief discussion, as we usually after do after mornings such as these, about the wisdom of trying to take all four children to Mass at the same time, which was resolved, as it always is, by our agreeing that we just need to leave early enough that we can sit near the rear of the church.
Today’s prayer: Lord, You gave us the instruction, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. (Mt 19:14)” Thank you for a church that welcomes Your little blessings, even when they make a less-than-joyful noise in Your house. We will keep trying, Lord, but please grant us enough wisdom to find a way to explain to Mr. Man that he may not dash onto the altar to request what, to his very young eyes, looks for all the world like a cookie.