Sunday mornings are not our family’s strong suit. No matter what Mass we plan on going to, no matter how early we start, we are usually rushing out the door and counting the minutes it takes to get to church. Other mornings when we go out to Mass, we don’t have this problem, but for some reason Sundays are more difficult.
Then there was the Sunday my husband was away at a conference. My mother was staying with me to help, but once again we got behind. As I pulled out of the driveway, we said a quick prayer that all the lights would be green, and then started the usual family-in-the-car-on-the-way-to-Mass-rosary. Then, as an answer to our prayer, every light turned green before us. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen lights let us safely through. We parked and went up the long flight of stairs into Mass.
Father was praying the opening prayer. We sat down and went through the process of unbundling during the first reading and the responsorial. By the time of the Gospel, we were settled, or so I thought. I strained to hear the priest reading it, and tried to glance at the words in my missal. But I was not really able to hear above the whispering and fidgeting of my three year old or see my missal around her head. My mother was holding the one year old who was starting to make noise as well. The four and a half year old started fluttering her book around and fidgeting in her seat. She whispered something to her grandmother. The Gospel was over and I still had barely had a chance to focus on Mass. Then above my children’s noise I heard the homily. Father was talking about Jesus sleeping amidst the storm; I felt like I was in the middle of a storm right there in the pew. I finally had a chance to glance again at the Gospel:
And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O men of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” – Matthew 8:23-27
After my quick scan of the reading, my three year old reached an unacceptable level of noise and I carried her to the back trying to muffle her fussing (which, of course, increased when she realized she was being taken out). I thought, Will Jesus save me today at Mass, I feel like I am perishing! In the back I managed to talk her into being quiet in Mass, I came back in with her in time for the Creed. The kids managed to keep themselves to whispers for the rest of Mass, but there was still the flurry of the movement of little arms, their little missals, and their little fidgety legs. I was surrounded by the small storm isolated to our pew. By God’s grace they stayed fairly quiet until Communion, though not without my heart racing whenever someone almost whispered too loudly or the baby got close to fussing. I tried to find calm, even though the storm would not settle. I remembered the Gospel and knew that even during this time of my life where Mass often feels like the flurry of a storm and I am being swamped by the waves, Jesus is still there and I still have my faith.
We went up to Communion and I knelt down at the rail. Father, in persona Christi, placed the Body and Blood of Jesus in my mouth. Christ was there during the storm. Back in the pew the storm was not calm, but I knew that Jesus was there. This time of life will pass, even if I have many more children, there will still come a time when I no longer have little children at Mass. But this is what I am called to do now, care for little ones, and endure the storm of little children in the pew. God will give me the grace and the faith to find the calm. Even if my children do not always obey me, the winds and the sea of my heart can be calmed by being open to God’s grace, even during the storm.