We are headed to Mass, and inwardly, I am a little anxious. I was able to get to Confession last week, but it was after Mass. It has been months since I received the Eucharist. I was weary. Empty. I needed spiritual strength. “Please Lord, let it be this week.”
After our 2-hour drive, we finally arrive. Harried and hurried, missals in hand, veils on heads or ties straightened, some make a beeline for the Confessional while others head into Mass which has just begun. I carry Brigid down the hallway as she wildly flails her arms in excitement. “Jejus! Jejus! Our Laaaaaady!” she shrieks at the top of her lungs.
“Lord help me,” I mutter, “I will be missing You again.” Armed with my book, Mother Love, I begin praying the Mass as I head to the cryroom.
The priest goes up to the altar: Jesus ascends the Mount of Olives with His disciples. “O my Jesus, Thou dost ascend the Mount of Olives, to begin Thy sufferings for us!...”
Thankfully, I am able to finish this first prayer. Excellent! It will be a fruitful Mass!
I enter the cryroom, already occupied by another mother quietly nursing her baby and watching Mass on the TV screen. My daughter, always the life of the party, immediately changes this calm to chaos. She pulls out some books off the shelf. OK, she pulls down ALL the books from the shelf, and proceeds to explain to anyone in earshot that every Saint is either Jejus or Our Laaaaaady.
Unable to follow the rest of the prayers associated with each portion of the Mass, I attempt to at least read the titles and must add my own quick prayers instead of the beautiful ones offered in my little book.
The priest prays at the foot of the altar: Jesus agonizes in prayer and sweats blood.
Dear Lord, You knew the sufferings that were to come. And I can tell, this Sunday will most likely be like last week. And the week before. Help me resign myself to Your will, not mine, this Sunday afternoon.
Brigid occasionally does the Sign of the Cross. “Fa Son, Fa Son, Fa Son. Aaaaaamen….” Then jumps up, heads to the holy card basket. And rips St. Anthony in 2.
OK, no way I am even going to get quick prayers at this rate. Just the titles…
The priest returns to the altar: The enemies of Jesus take Him prisoner.
I watch as the other mother serenely leaves the room, leaving Brigid and me alone. Glancing at the cryroom door, I am feeling rather like a prisoner myself. And so is Brigid. She bolts out the door before the woman could get the door closed and heads full speed down the hallway towards ‘the donut room’.
Denied donuts, she rebels. Loudly. I take her out to the van for about 10 minutes. We sing. We take a lap around the parking lot, and I try to bring her back inside. She protests. But I have to at least try to get close to the Mass, right? So I drag her back to the cryroom and past other parents with better behaved children who were able to actually partially participate in Mass as they quietly instructed their little ones in proper Mass etiquette. Some children, mouths agape, watch me as I march by them, carrying Brigid in a football hold. And only the Good God knows what the parents are thinking.
What did I miss? I see on the screen that everyone was already standing for the Gospel. I pick up my book, which I had violently tossed aside when Brigid made her escape.
The priest says the Kyrie, the Gloria, the epistle and Gospel: Jesus is led before Annas, Ciaphas, Pilate, and Herod.
Yup. Been there, done that, Lord. Just now.
The sound system only picks up what the priest says when he reads the Epistle and Gospel in English, and the homily. Brigid has respect for his booming male voice and settles down to a simmer for awhile, allowing me to hear but still kept me too distracted to really have a chance to understand.
2 mothers enter the cryroom at about this time which, to me, felt like a mixed blessing. Maybe she will play quietly with the toddler?
The priest returns to the middle of the altar and says the Credo: Jesus, in the white robe of derision, is led back to Pilate.
The priest uncovers the Chalice and offers the Host: Jesus is stripped and scourged.
Brigid decides sharing is a skill she does not yet have to master. And lets the toddler know. Loudly.
The priest raises the wine and water as an Offering: Jesus is shown to the people as a mock-king.
I try to distract her. “Let’s say some prayers,“ I whisper loudly. “Sign of the Cross?”
See? See? I can have a good child too! Or not…
The priest washes his hands: Jesus is condemned to the death on the Cross.
The mothers and their children leave us, deciding wrestling their own little ones is easier without the added distraction of the old lady and the hyper baby in the cryroom.
At the Preface and the Sanctus: Jesus carries His Cross and sinks three times under its weight.
Shoes on. Shoes off. Shoes on. Shoes off. Throw books. And peek-a-boo at full volume. I am on my knees. Exhausted.
The priest raises his hands at the beginning of the Canon: The executioners tear Jesus’ garments from His wounded shoulders.
Brigid climbs up me – her human jungle gym. I hold her, hugging her, feeling love, and a lump in my throat. She whips my veil off my head and starts messing my hair.
The priest prays for those present and for those absent: Jesus sympathizes with the sorrow of His faithful followers.
Thank you, Father. I guess I fall under both of those categories.
And now we prepare for the highest point of the Mass…
The priest makes the Sign of the Cross 5 times over the Host and Chalice: Jesus is nailed to the Cross.
Miraculously, Brigid is quietly looking at a book next to me. I am able to meditate a moment on the associated prayers.
The priest utters the words of Consecration over the Host and raises it on high for the faithful to adore: Jesus is raised on the Cross and hangs between heaven and earth.
My Lord and my God! I give you this moment. For 90 seconds I can focus on You – we are alone in here, she can’t really get into too much trouble. Brigid’s Guardian Angel, watch her. My Lord, be with me. See me at the foot of Your Cross as the Consecration begins…
A soft popping noise. I resist the urge to glance at Brigid. My eyes riveted on the screen. This moment is for You, Lord. Not Brigid.
The priest utters the words of Consecration over the wine in the Chalice: The blood of Jesus flows profusely to the earth
And the canister of formula dumps onto the carpet as a father comes in to change his baby’s diaper. Brigid bolts. And I utter a blasphemous phrase through clenched teeth as I chase her down the hallway once again. Horrified. I am beside myself over the sin I just committed.
We go outside to the van. I am crying. “You K? Mama?” she pats my shoulder, imitating how I tend to one of my children if they get hurt. “K?” I hug her.
I miss a lot of the rest of the Mass. We finally reenter the church, hand in hand, and return to the scene of the crime. The spilled formula, now covered with a blanket, hides my shame.
The priest covers the Chalice: The tomb of Jesus is closed.
I try to figure out how to make it right.
The priest leaves the altar: The friends of Jesus, after a last sad and loving glance at His tomb, return to their homes.
I anxiously wait just outside the cryroom door for my husband. He comes out, takes one look at me and quickly takes Brigid from my arms. “What happened?!”
Unable to say anything to him, I head to the supply closet and quickly vacuum up the powder and head down the hallway to Father’s office where the Confessional is. “Bless me Father, for I have sinned!” I sobbed, startling the poor man.
I confessed the blasphemous phrase I uttered at the Consecration. And he counseled me: “You feel as though you never have the frame of mind to attend Mass with your heart, and unworthy to receive Him because of it. I assure you that He knows very well what your situation is. You do the best you can. Offer it all to Him. Keep close to those meditations. Find your comfort in joining your sufferings with His and know that this is how you are called to participate in Mass at this time in your life.” He said many more things which I will treasure in my heart and will recall frequently as I participate in future cryroom Masses.
As I left Father’s office, Brigid came running up to me, all smiles and bubbles. “Mama!” she called and I scooped her up.
And the words "Ite, missa est," came to mind.