Today, the first Sunday of Lent, was the first time I brought “D” into “big church” for mass. Since July, when we first became her foster parents, we have faithfully dropped her off at the nursery on our way to mass. There, she got to eat Fruit Loops, watch a Cinderella DVD, and play with new and interesting toys.
It seemed like a good idea. David and I liked having at least one hour to ourselves without having to wrangle a squirmy 3-year-old. We could sit and listen to the homily without distraction. Plus, before I had a child, it always bothered me when parents insisted on bringing their little ones into the service. The kids seemed to scream at just the wrong time, disturb those around them, and make me anxious. “Why couldn’t they just take them to the nursery!” I’d whisper angrily into David’s ear….not caring whether the family in front of us with loud children heard us.
But today, with David sick at home, D told me, in a teary voice on the way to church, that she didn’t want to go to the “noosewee.” ”But you’ll get to eat a snack and watch a DVD!” I reminded her to no avail. “I don’t want to go to the noosewee!” She cried from the backseat. I sighed. She’s been very clingy lately, not wanting me to leave her sight, and wanting either David or me to hold her constantly. I think this is a positive sign that she is attaching to us. I considered my options. I could drag her to the nursery screaming, or take a risk and bring her to mass.
I took a risk.
“D, if you go to big church with me you have to promise to be quiet and sit still,” I warned her. “I promise,” her tiny voice said from the back seat. I had no idea how it would go. Would mass be ruined for me, if she ended up being squirmy and loud? Would I be one of those annoying parents who others in the pews would like sideways at and wonder why I hadn’t taken her to the noosewee?
We parked and I carried her into the sanctuary.
We sat up in the balcony, next to a father and his tiny tow-headed toddler. D promptly crawled into my lap and stayed there during the entire mass. She put her head on my shoulder and I rocked back and forth, hoping she would go to sleep. But she didn’t. Instead, she was mesmerized by the singing of the choir, she put a dollar in the offering basket, and shook hands with everyone around us during the sign of the peace.
She charmed the ladies in the row behind us, and later they told me how cute and well-behaved she was. “Thank you,” I said.
During the eucharist, I carried her as I walked up to receive the body and blood of Christ. I accepted the wafer, and put it in my mouth. She looked incredulous as we started walking away. “But I want some!” she told the minister. He smiled and instead made the sign of the cross on her forehead as a blessing. That wasn’t enough for her. “I want some!” I want some!”she kept saying, as we walked to the ministers holding the wine. I sipped from the cup as she kept saying “I want some, I want some!” The minister holding the chalice also blessed her on the forehead, and we kept walking back to the pew. I was half sushing her and half smiling.
Why did I wait so long to bring this beautiful child to mass?
I want some. That’s my cry during this Lenten season too. I want more of Christ. I want more of the peace that I can only find by getting glimpses of God in the nooks and crannies of my way-too-busy life. I want quiet, and perspective, and love. Father Foley in his homily said that maybe Lent isn’t about deprivation, but of taking something we already have and giving it away to those around us. In emptying ourselves, we can give something to those around us so that they can feel God’s love.
I thought of my angry response at David this morning when he said he wasn’t going to church. I knew he didn’t feel well, but I was still perturbed that my plans for the day had been ruined. I wanted us to all go to church together. I wanted to go with David. Going to mass helps us feel more connected to God and each other. It’s like a long cool drink during the dry desert of our busy week. When we don’t go for a long time, we get off-center, lose our perspective, and snap at each other. I had been doing anything but loving him lately.
But a beautiful morning with D, and the words of Father Foley, reminded me that “I want some.” Not only that, but I need some — desperately.