Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Church: The Most Difficult, but Most Important Hour of our Week

Josh and I work hard to take our three kids to church.  I will honestly say it might be the longest, hardest, most difficult hour of our week.  

We will attend whatever church seems to have the most convenient time for us on any particular week, but would choose every time, if we can get up, dressed, fed, and ready on time, to go to the 8:00am church at St. John's Student Parish in East Lansing.

We started driving there, from Holt, when Nolan and Judah were probably six months old.  The 8:00am mass was a perfect for us at the time: We could totally be up and ready to go (boys were waking up at 6:30 on a good day) and we'd be home in time to put them down for a morning nap when we got home.  We went there for convenience, but stumbled upon an amazing "church family" there that we now love very much.  There are several families that have been sitting in the same spot, at the same mass, for years and years.  We, on accident, picked to sit by them and have been there ever since.  They have totally takes us in.  They go out of their way to talk to the boys, ask us how we are doing, and have truly made us feel welcome since the first time we showed up at that mass... seriously, the first time.  We left there that day knowing we would drive out of our way again and again to be around that atmosphere.  One older couple in particular, "Mr. Bob" and "Ms. Elaine," really watch over us and even used to hold the boys when they were little and now try to get Nolan and Judah to sit with them during mass.  

The BEST thing these families do is accept us fully when our kids are NOT perfectly behaved.  Let's be real: I have three very active boys under three; they are NOT perfectly behaved in church.  This community giggles when Nolan tries to take money OUT of the baskets or when Judah tries to run away from us after communion, or when Carter is squirming wanting SO badly to just be put down so he can crawl and explore.   They also look at us with understanding when Josh and I have had to shuffle people in and out of the chapel because someone was crying or having a temper tantrum.  

Taking small children to church is a lot of work: it is exhausting, embarrassing, and Josh and I are not getting that much out of mass ourselves at the moment.  I'm lucky if I can remember one of the readings and Josh and I often have to check in with each other to make sure we understand the message of the homily since, chances are, we each only caught bits and pieces of it.  Our Catholic faith is important to us, but is this torture worth it?  We often drive home frustrated and wondering why we even bother. 

But then...Judah will put his hand in the holy water and try the sign of the cross after mass is over.
But then...Nolan will kneel down next to me during mass.
But then...Judah will sing the "Hallelujah" hymn at home.
But then... Nolan will walk up to the huge crucifix hanging on the wall, touch the feet of Jesus and tell him "hi." 
But then...Carter starts "singing" (more like screaming) when others in the church are as if he's trying to participate.
But then...all three of my boys see others looking at them and interacting with our family with love, compassion, kindness, acceptance, and understanding. 

To me, that's so much of what being a Catholic really is anyways, those five words: love, compassion, kindness, acceptance, and understanding.  My boys not only hear that in the scriptures, songs, and rituals of mass, but they see it in action from the people who go to that mass and fill up that church each week.   

The more time has gone on, the more our boys confirm to us that going to church is the right thing to do.  Even more than that, we know that trying to go to THAT church at THAT time is the right thing to do.  So we scramble and rush... throw on clothes, scarf down a breakfast, and rush out the door as often as we can to show up at 8:00am at St. John's Parish in East Lansing.  Even despite the nice people who sit near us, Josh and I still get embarrassed and frustrated and it still is a whole lot of work, but we show up and that's what's important. 

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