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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Party Hardy

Today's paper had an article examining the idea that there are three types of New Year's Eve people. Those who go out to a party or otherwise doll up and toast the New Year. Those who stay at home with some popcorn and a good movie and ring in the New Year by watching the ball drop or banging pots together, and finally, those who don't make it past ten pm.

We have all three right here in our house. Sister St. Aloysius is in the middle group. She is always at the ready to bang some pots together, but since no one else around here does that, she is afraid of offending group three, so she just blows on a noise maker and calls it a day. Sister Mary Fiacre is asleep on and off pretty much all the time.

I have been known to hoof it down to the bay, where revelers gather to drink champagne from the deck of a fancy hotel down there. I stand under the deck on the walk way. We are all watching fireworks over the bay. It's like I'm at the party, but I'm not. Believe me, I am always invited in by anyone who spots me down there, but it's nothing personal. I think they just like the idea of hauling a nun into the party. The same thing would happen if I was dressed in a giant bunny suit or as Frankenstein.

Speaking of dressing up:

I keep seeing pictures of our ecclesial prelates decked out like Liberace on one of his worse days. I mean, Jesus and the Apostles never would have been seen dead in outfits like this. (Me neither.) So why do the princes of the church?

I'm not sure what you mean. I'm assuming you mean the priests at Mass. Or the Pope.

Yes, they are dressed in some pretty fine and fancy vestments once in a while. I have yet to see any of them fly into church wearing a boa, but I have seen many things I thought I would never see. Liturgical dance, anyone?

Anyhow, these lovely outfits are nothing new. It twas ever thus. Here's the priest at St. Patrick's in New York.

And here's some saint or another. Not sure who. I believe it's St. Phillip of Neri.

It really looks like the priest at St. Patrick's might have gotten a deal on a saint's vestment on ebay, doesn't it? Or someone did.

Also keep in mind that it's not as though the priest cracks out a vestment once and then never wears it again, like some designer gown for the Oscars. Vestments get worn over and over again.

Why so fancy? A couple of reasons. In the Catholic church, we spend every second reminding you about God. God is spectacular and we are going to dress to the nines any time we celebrate at God's supper. The supper is available all the time, just like on a cruise ship, and just like being invited to the Captain's table, we're going to look extra spiffy. You may show up in your ripped jeans with your midriff hanging out, but the priest is going to dress very nicely.

Plus, it's just not all doom and gloom and hell fire and bloody martyrdom and suffering saints and people roasting in Purgatory. At the end of it all, God is spectacular. We like to remind you about that. So the priest wears some spectacular outfits. What? God doesn't deserve at least what you'd get at the Grammy's? I think He does.

No, Jesus and the Apostles didn't dress up ever, as far as we know. That doesn't mean we shouldn't dress up for them. As soon as we leave Mass, priest and parishioners, we are back to our everyday clothes from KMart and Target and the sale at Macy's and the Sears catalog.

If I were you, I wouldn't sweat the vestments. Let it go.

And while we're on the topic of Mass:

I would like your opinion on the issue of young children at Mass. My husband once knew a priest who would stop Mass if a child was crying and ask the parent to remove the child...so he's been "trained" if you will to hold steadfast to the belief that children do not belong in Mass.

I tend to agree, only because I often have trouble hearing the homily for all the fussing, talking and crying. We have a 20 month old whom we would never expect to sit quiet and still for an hour. We take turns going to Mass on Sunday while the other spends time with our child--of course it takes twice as long but it gets the job done! We have taken our son to Mass once in a pinch (vacation) and I was so busy trying to keep him occupied that I didn't really participate in Mass. I don't know how other people do it (or do they?).

I love your insight and want the honest truth: Are we being too wet-blanket-ish or do you, too, think it's a good idea to keep young children at home until they can reasonable sit still for at least an hour without needing coloring books or Cheerios?

I've talked about this before.

Verdict: Wet blanket.


Claudia said...

When I was child, my mother and father took all six of us to mass. We were well behaved because all it took was THE LOOK from our dad. We knew we would get it when we left. Today I guess it would be considered child abuse. The babies stayed at home and were exempt. I think all churches should have child rooms.

Anita said...

Thank you! This is exactly WHY my husband and I think that it is so important to take our 1 year old son to church each and every week!

Suzanne said...

I have three children (soon to be four!) age 5 and under and I take them to Mass several times a week. During the week I use the cry room b/c we're the only ones in there and I can "train" the children...and the reverent people attending daily Mass don't have to hear my almost 2-year old crashing about:P

But going to the much shorter daily Mass has really helped my children - they've gotten used to the priest who says Mass, they try to guess who the altar servers will be, they've gotten familiar with some of the other "regulars" in the parish.

I know it would be MUCH easier to go to Mass sans children, but it's so much nicer to have our Church's future there at the get go.

Plus, it's soooooooo stinking cute when my youngest kneels and tries to do the Sign of the Cross, genuflect, and stop at the St. Joseph statue to say hello:P:P

Jade Dunlop said...

I think bringing your noisy kids to mass is a good idea - it's a perfect time for me to practice self-control and proper judgement! It's like a fun little pop quiz from God...it would also make for a good game show - "Can you ignore the screaming baby to your left and tune out the little girl playing with the squeeze-me-and-I-make-a-sound toy, all while remembering the words to the psalm your singing?" up next on FOX!

Anonymous said...

Praise be to God...I have 5 Daughters. 8 years to 1 year. They do pretty good...sometimes our little 2 year old can get a bit questionable towards the end. Our Priest told us...Jesus would never push away someone because they are tired, hungry, sad and therefore fussy and neither should a Priest, Parish ect. It's comforting to have a Priest like that! Now we've moved and we hear our new Priest is just as wonderful. However, our Parish is a hall. Literally. Think portable building. I couldn't help but chuckle and tell my girls "Everyone will know if you act up now!" Pray for us!!! :0)

Anonymous said...

I agree with all of the above assessments as to why it's okay to bring your children to Mass, and would like to add the most important one:

As baptized Catholics, the Mass is their birthright.

It's not just okay for them to be there. They have every right to be there as you or I.

As far as the vestments go, Sister is right. Also, the vestments are one more rubric that takes away from the personality of the priest, so it can hardly be labeled as clericalism. As Sister pointed out, you or I could show up in torn jeans, but the priest has to wear those silly looking robes. It takes the attention off of him and puts it where it rightly belongs: God.

SL Hansen said...

Always, always, ALWAYS bring the kids to Mass. Not only are they invited there (by Jesus), they will never learn to behave properly at Mass if they don't go.

I find it helps to feed the kids well directly before Mass and to choose a Mass time that coincides with "quiet time" at home. If you don't have a quiet time at home -- when the baby sleeps and the older kids are quietly looking at books or coloring or what not -- you can start that today. Same time, every day train the kids to be quiet for an hour, every day, whether at home or at Mass.

Also, we have special clothing for Mass, and that helps. It doesn't have to be fancy, but it's just the stuff that the kids only wear to Mass and nowhere else. Helps give them a cue as to the specialness of it all.

Anonymous said...

Ugly vestments? Perhaps the questioner meant something like these:



Anonymous said...

One parish that I used to attend had glass doors that led into the church. Women with little children used to sit and assist at Mass from behind those doors and then go inside for Holy Communion. There was also a sound system so that you could hear the sermon. It was a very good idea.

I personally believe that one should bring one's children to church. If the child is taught at home how to behave, then it should be easy. Christ said that the children should come to Him. Why not bring them to church?

God bless,

Brother Juniper

Mrs. G. said...

Happy New Year, Sister!

Anonymous said...

Happy new year. I'm definately a sit and watch TV sort of person myself but gee I love those fireworks!

Unknown said...

Happy New Year, Sister M&M. Hope you were able to see the fireworks this year. We managed to stay awake till midnight(and when I say "we", I mean "me"--hubby and daughter were wide awake--probably hopped up on chocolate covered expresso beans)watching Pride and Prejudice and banging pots and pans at the witching hour.Hope everyone here was able to ring in the new year with their favorite people.

Ouiz said...

Can I jump in here? As a mother of 7 children, let me say that I KNOW how hard it is to bring children to Mass, and how tempting it is to try to keep 'em home.

For the first 3 years of our "parenting career" (we had 3 kids by then) we never even made it in to the sanctuary. We sat in the lobby (and jokingly called ourselves the official greeters of the parish). We had three squirmly, wiggly kids on our laps who couldn't get the basic concept of "whisper" through their heads. While those years were hard, what we did PAID OFF.

The rules were simple: they could NOT, under any circumstance, get out of our arms (or our laps) until Mass was over. Period. There was no backing down from this... and let me tell you, I have endured more than my fair share of "wrestling with an octopus" for the entire Mass. I KNOW how hard this is! (my 1 yr old is going through this now, and she is the hardest one we've ever had).

The pay off: At a very early age, they catch on that Mass isn't a time to run around. It's a time for snuggling, hugging, and keeping quiet.

Just know that "full concentration" at Mass isn't going to happen. Accept that and you'll be happier.

That said, my husband and I sit our entire crew (11 down to 1) in the front row at Mass. No toys, no food, no distractions. They ALL, with the exception of the baby (who we take out into the lobby) sit still and participate at Mass.

In fact, they are SHOCKED when they see other little kids wandering around, or standing on the pews. They'll look at me, wide-eyed, and whisper, "Mommy! That little girl isn't staying still!"

None of it is easy. We were so tempted to give up it wasn't funny. But those years have paid off, and I know that the time I'm spending with my baby out in the lobby now will pay off as well.

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year Sister!

We have a six month old and we've brought her to mass twice a week since she was eight days old. Sometimes it's a challenge and sometimes she sleeps through the entire Mass without making a sound. Most of the time it's somewhere in between. Now that she's a little bit more conscious of what's going on around her she stares at the front quietly for most of the mass. I hope this lasts, but from what I've heard and seen I think the toddler years will definitely be more of a challenge. I'm hoping that it will be made somewhat easier by the fact that she's gone to mass so much, so she knows what's expected from the very beginning.

We have a small parish in a small town and everyone refers to her as the "parish baby." There hadn't been a baby at our parish in a few years and even when she makes noise she gets mostly smiles from the people around us.

It's definitely important to take kids to mass! It can be hard work (on a fussy day I thought I might burst into tears!) but it's worth it!

Anonymous said...

And then there is the payoff for struggling every week with 1 and 3 year old boys in church when my barely 3 year old son who has NEVER understood the meaning of whisper, and has the hardest time sitting let alone sitting still stopped his commotion last week just in time for consecration because he knew that "Jesus is coming", and sang the Amen, said the Our Father, and sang the Lamb of God....and then proceeded to cry all the way back from communion because he wanted "body of Christ." Even when they are being naughty their surroundings are sinking in. They know there is something very important going on. When it is at it's worst we just keep reciting "parenting is prayer, parenting is prayer, parenting is prayer" over...and over...and over again... :-)

Anonymous said...

I whole heartedly agree with the many others who have urged people to bring their children to church. It is not an easy task, but oh so worth the benefits. Another tip I find useful is to quietly whisper in their ears what is going on, and help them participate. I have learned so much, and gained such an appreciation for our faith by teaching my children.
Hang in there, it is challenging, but oh so worth all the effort!

Anonymous said...

All this discussion of children at mass makes me wonder whether you all shouldn't take a page out of the protestants book. Our children have Sunday School during the first part of mass and then come up into the church just in time to say the Our Father and receive communion or a blessing. They sit in the pews at the front of the church and join their families as they go up the aisle and then go back downstairs directly afterward. This way they participate in mass but aren't in the church long enough to do much besides be cute and well-behaved. Coming in while all the adults are already quiet and kneeling seems to have a better effect on their behavior than coming in at the start when so many adults, who cannot seem to behave themselves, are fidgeting and going around the church saying hello and whispering to their neighbors when we're supposed to keep quiet before mass. Coffee hour is the time for talk!

Anonymous said...

YES kids belong in mass! I have 4 under 10 years and it does take training and is wonderfully worth it.
My caution to Alexis: Children belong ++with their families++. Not in same-aged herds, not with the teenaged volunteers, and not at some special and minimally liturgical entertainment. Every force in our society seems to be trying to separate kids from parents and siblings. We need to be aware of the temptation to minimize the role of family and the pro-life message the existance of a fully inter-dependant family speaks.

Anonymous said...

Alexis, in some Catholic churches, this is an option. But it's only an option. My nieces and nephews below the age of Communion have been once or twice but would rather be in Mass with the family.

Anonymous said...

As we have about seven children between the ages of 1 week and twelve years, this could hardly be called "same-aged heards." And our venerable Sunday School teacher would smile at being called a teenage volunteer. Also, it's not as though the children have been debarred from attending the entire mass and sitting with their families. I genuinely doubt that anyone has taken away an 'anti-life' impression from children going to Sunday School. Families come in many shapes and sizes and hubristically making 'mother, father, two kids' families the sine qua non of family excludes so many: war widows, for instance, and single mothers (who are still human and are still allowed to take their children to church) or grandparents raising grandchildren whose parents don't or won't take care of them.

Anonymous said...

Besides, are we not all brothers and sisters in Christ?