I remember when my oldest son was two years old. I was trying to watch him at Mass by myself, and he was all over the place….toddling, touching, talking and curious about absolutely everything. I remember being envious of those parents whose children were of an age to be able to control themselves and sit quietly during the liturgy.
Being the control freak that I am, I was restless and frustrated and beside myself trying to get him to “behave”. I was so upset and it must have showed, because a gentleman approached me after Mass. “Your son is fine. He is a child. He is not a bother like you think he is.” Doubtful, I looked at him and he reassured me. “If others are disturbed by him, they are not focusing on what is most important. Here at Mass, their focus should be on the Eucharist. If their hearts are in the right place, nothing should distract them from what is taking place on the altar, from their prayer. And, even if they are distracted, that is their issue with God. It is not of your concern, nor is it your responsibility.”
You would think, eight years and 4 more children later, I would have let that sink in by now. I remember his words so often, and yet – I so often worry about how others view me as a mother. I am irritated and feel entitled to my time at Mass. I worry about dirty looks and our family being a distraction. I worry that my children are lacking in faith when they are not fully attentive during the homily or during the consecration. It only goes to show how very inattentive I am for paying more attention to my children's behavior than the homily, or readings, or Eucharist myself!
I know in my mind that the Holy Mass is a joyful, celebratory time! A prayerful and community-oriented time! A slice of heaven here on earth, graces abounding, glorious praise with the angels and saints and entire Body of Christ! I want my children to feel welcomed and most at home around the Holy Table. But I am Control Freak. And I struggle with my own perfection and thus the perfection of my loved ones.
I often feel so frustrated during the Holy Mass because of so many distractions by my children: the squirming; the whispering; the bickering over seating arrangements; being poked; being asked for a tissue, or a snack, or a hug; the tantrum of my three year old; the fussiness of the baby. I used to think, “If only I went to Mass by myself…then I could pray, then I could be at peace.” Not too long ago, God heard and answered that prayer. I did go to Mass by myself and you know what? I couldn’t keep my eyes open! I was distracted all by myself. I didn’t need my children to distract me. The truth is, if it were not my children, then someone or something else will distract me. At least with the children I can focus on returning to a state of attentiveness, desiring to hear the words and being filled with God’s grace. So praise God for these misbehaviors! They make me hungry for Him and encourage me to call upon the Blessed Mother. “Blessed Mother, please love these children through me, so they recognize You. Please be gentle with them through me, because on my own, I want to punish them for disrupting me.” As I go up to communion I pray: “Blessed Mother, please desire the Holy Eucharist for me. Await with me. Receive and be received with me. Please catch all the graces that I waste and put them to good use. Please be the reverence for me that Your Son truly deserves.”
I must say I received somewhat of a wakeup call on a retreat some years ago. The priest was giving a conference on parenting. And he was discussing the idea of mercy. Our God is merciful. He is awaiting for me to be open to it, so He can unleash His flowing fountain of mercy upon me. I will see one day the extent of how I wound Him, and yet He sent His Son to be my Redeemer. I cannot earn heaven. Will I trust in His mercy? This priest said it should not be my goal to have perfectly behaved children. It was better for my children to misbehave and yet learn to trust in my merciful love for them so that they could practice being open to God’s mercy. He said it was a great danger for children to feel loved only when they behaved, when they were “perfect”. Otherwise, at the moment of their death, they could very well reject the mercy of God, convinced that they did not earn salvation. Yikes! Instead, I should only (1) love them, (2) teach them, and (3) forgive them. What a gift to hear these words….priceless teaching for the souls of myself and my loved ones!
So here’s to being imperfect – may I grow more in trust of my Heavenly Father’s loving mercy – right here, right now.
Happy Father’s Day, Abba, Father!
 “When you strive to lessen the Self-humiliation of Christ by asking Mary to receive Him for you and through you, then you give praise to the kenosis of the True God and True Man. You link the attitude of humility, an attitude of acknowledgement that you are a sinner, with faith in His incredible love for you. (Tadeusz Dajczer, The Gift of Faith, 3rd. ed. [Fort Collins, CO: IAMF, 2012], 212.)
 “John Paul II said that in Holy Communion you do not receive Him as much as He receives you; He accepts you as you are. He receives you, which means He accepts and loves you.” (Ibid. 205.)