Monday, April 30, 2007

Child's Play

After morning Mass, he sidled up to me in all his three-and-a-half-foot glory, hands in his jean pockets, hazel eyes twinkling and said, "Can I come over to play at your house?" I looked down at his smiling face, freckles like brown sugar sprinkled across his nose and cheeks, how could I say no? Though there were a thousand things clamoring for my attention, somehow the prospect of children's happy noises was a welcome one.

I bent down toward him and said as solemnly as I could, "Would two o'clock this afternoon suit?"

"Oh, yes," he answered emphatically. And the smile that I thought would break his face, grew even larger. Off he bounded to his brothers, curly paprika-red hair bouncing with each step.

"She said yes!" he declared triumphantly to his brothers. The three boys rushed toward my daughter standing at my side, grabbed her hand and dragged her outside to celebrate. His mother, mortified, came up to me and asked tinged with not a bit of desperate embarrassment, "What did he say to you??"

I laughed as I reassured her. Relieved that her son didn't ask anything embarrassing, she was pleased to have some time to herself while the boys were at our house.

The doorbell rang a little after two. When I opened the front door, the three boys were pressed against the glass of the storm door with grins that could have melted the sheet of glass between us. Within the blink of an eye, if that, the shoes were discarded and they had flown up the stairs to the second storey. Did their feet touch the floor at all? Oh, to have joy like that to make the mundane task of going up and down the stairs into a exercise in defying gravity.

Soon, the floor is strewn with Playmobil princesses sitting down to dinner with Confederate soldiers. Unicorns trot alongside bunny rabbits. Union soldiers guard the Magi's box of gold for the Baby Jesus. Whole worlds and stories are lived out in my livingroom. I return to the kitchen to bake the children some cookies.

Soon, all is hushed and I hear the oldest boy say, "The Lord be with you."

"And also with you," answer the rest.

"The Gospel according to John," he continues solemnly, "now Jesus went into Galilee and he saw people there. They were hungry and he told them to sit down and then he fed them."

I slowly creep back to the livingroom and surreptitiously peer in. This is deeper child's play, these children who attend daily Mass, their souls nourished by the liturgical action that is now being mirrored.

"This is a miracle, you know. God does that. Miracles. Like feeding lots and lots of people."

Indeed. Our Daily Bread, give us this day.

What do children miss, when they're relegated to the nursery? From their infant days, my children were always with me in church. I had my Mary Poppins bag full of books, crayons, papers, little soft toys, and we would sit in front so that they could see what was going on. They learned quickly what was acceptable behavior. People used to come up to them to compliment them on their exemplary behavior.

Recently, there was discussion why our parish didn't have a nursery or a crying room. I was gratified to hear mothers speak up to say that children belonged in the church learning the liturgy, and that children who don't participate grow up to be adults who don't participate.

So, at daily morning Mass, it gives me immense joy to see very young children right alongside adults, the whole spectrum of generations come to greet the Lord on this new day.

2 comments:

DimBulb said...

This reminded me of a debate I got involved in at the closed cafeteria on the subjects of crying babies in church. Here are some of my posts in support of screaming babies:

Crying rooms ought to be banned from Catholic churches.

"Blow the trumpet in Zion, proclaim a fast, call an assembly; gather the people, notify the congregation; assemble the elders, GATHER THE CHILDREN AND THE INFANT AT THE BREAST..." (Joel 2:16)

"When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him (the new born lord) to Jerusalem to present him before the Lord." (Luke 2:22)

"People were bringing even infants (Greek: brephos=one in the arms) to him that he might touch them, and when the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. Jesus, however, CALLED THE CHILDREN TO HIMSELF AND SAID SUFFER (Gr. aphiemi=yield up) THE LITTLE CHILDREN (paidos=infant, by exten. half-grown)to come unto me, do not prevent them, for the kingdom belongs to such as these.(Luke 18:15-16)

Why is it we put up with old people whispering loudly at mass? How about a talking old peoples room? How about a poorly dressed and scantily clad room for adults? How about a coughing and wheezing room for the two pack a day smokers?

Here's another:

You people do know what goes on at mass right. How our risen Lord is present with the always fresh wounds of his sacrifice? You go to the mass where He who suffered is present, yet you can't "suffer the little children?"Jesus, as he carried the cross said to some women weep not for me but for your children, Yet you want to be free of children at his mass? As he laid down upon the cross to receive the nails he forgave those who were about to drive them into his hands, yet you can't tolerate children who are a handful for their parents? You cant tolerate babies crying as you celebrate the sacrifice of him who endured mocks and insults during his sacrifice? He didn't do it just for you, you know?

In Corinth the wealthy people couldn't stand to be with the low class, so they started a schism, holding separate meetings, or at least beginning their worship without the low class. Paul doubts that what they are celebrating is the lord's supper because of this. Yet you want to segregate the lowest in our Church just so you're not annoyed? Good Luck come judgment day.

And, of course, I had to do some sarcasm:

"For David did not go up into heaven, but he himself said: The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit at my right hand till I make your enemies your footstool.'

Therefore, let the whole house of Israel know this for certain...ummm, excuse me, madame! Kindly take that snot-nosed whiny baby out of here. why I can hardly here myself speak of the Lord...know this for certain, that god has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified...Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the Holy Spirit. FOR THE PROMISE IS MADE TO YOU BUT NOT YOUR GRANDCHILDREN...(Act 2:34-39, Cranky old people's edition)

Argent said...

There's this little girl who comes to daily Mass with her Nana, who always talks and wants to know what's going on. She'll whisper so loudly that the person at the other end of the church can hear her.

But you also hear her say all the proper responses. Hearing her say: Blessed be God forever....or We lift them up to the Lord...or Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts or Our Father in her lisping speech....it's worth her squirminess and incessant chatter. There's a lot going on and she's catching it. That's handing on the faith in a real concrete way that didn't involve gluing any felt or pre-cut pink butterflies, but the Real Presence of Christ.

What better teacher is there than the Mass itself?

Which reminds me...I must replenish my holy card stash that I have in my purse to give to squirmy children.

Oh, did any of the cranky old people offer to hold the crying baby to give the harassed parents relief?