So as a mother of four, perhaps it shouldn't have taken me this long, but I've finally gotten asked to leave the sanctuary (with a child in arms) during mass. The irony--there's always irony--is that it was my smallest, most friendly, and I THOUGHT least disruptive child.
"I'm going to have to ask you to step into the training room," the usher said. Just moments before, I saw a teenage boy across the church looking at Frances, in my arms, and whispering to his father. I was floored, completely surprised, and generally awestruck, because it never occurred to me that (1) Frances was disruptive or (2) by sitting in the sanctuary we risked being asked to leave.
I followed the usher to the door of the training room. (It should be called the crying room, WE call it the crying room, because no training really occurs there, but plenty of crying does occur there.) It's generally impossible to think there, let alone pay attention to mass. You might as well bring a magazine, some toys, and cut the kids loose. When we got to the training room door, I said, "I'm going to go to the narthex. The sound is piped in out there, isn't it?" The training room was packed. There was nowhere to sit.
"Yes, but if your child is noisy, I'll have to ask you to go to the training room."
I hung out in the narthex for the remainder of mass. At communion, the usher peeked out: "You are welcome to come in for communion," he said.
If I had thought our parish was mildly intolerant of children, here was my sign; our parish is, in fact, very intolerant of children. In particular, our pastor is very intolerant of children, as I'm certain he issued the signal for the hook, finding Frances' audible presence very unsettling during the homily.
After communion Frances and I moseyed outside to sit beside the statue of the BVM and little JC to get their take on the whole thing.
So how do I feel about it? Frankly, very relieved. I've had a feeling of "this-parish-just-doesn't-fit-us" for, oh, about two years. Now I have a very clear sign that this parish does not in fact fit us. Specifically, the parents-with-children part of our family. I'm so glad to have the permission slip, afforded by this experience, to seek out another parish.
Honestly, I don't know where to begin with my response to Father Paul. I like him; he has a tough job, I respect him, and I cannot know the depth of his daily frustrations. He has a job to do.
But I have a job to do, too: raise four young Catholics, and do my very best at it. I want them to grow up in the Church, and to keep the Church in their hearts, or their hearts in the Church, as they grow. We're just coming down off a powerful week of Vacation Bible School. On Tuesday Ezra said, "Mom, I've been loving God and Jesus all day long today." There have been conversations about God's love, about Heaven, about forgiveness. It has been amazing. Elliott, my seemingly aloof oldest son, has been moved by the experience. They all have memorized the VBS music (with dance moves), which is as touching as it is overpowering. (How many times must we listen to "You are Powerful" and "Power Shuffle" in one day???)
My children are becoming alive with the wonder of God and his creation. It's not my job to snuff it out on Sunday mornings by hissing, "Be quiet or we'll have to leave!" Uh, where's the incentive at this point? Didn't Jesus welcome the children to come to him? Which way is he? We're trying to find him!
I am reminded of this helpful essay, originally passed along to me by way of a bulletin insert from an awesome friend at our awesome former parish (that's a lot of awesome!). I read it again this morning, and it helped me feel a bit more confident and less shamed.
And yes, our weekly offering did go into the basket this week...