I woke up this morning and did not feel like going to Mass. Madeline had a sleepover at Nana and Pop’s (Dave’s parents) and Dave was on-call last night, so it was very tempting to just skip out of going. I decided I’d go to the earlier service to “get it over with.” As soon as I was sitting in church, I was ashamed by my attitude. Mass should never be something I just want to get over with. It should be something I gladly approach with joy and gratitude.
I found myself looking around the congregation and watching all the other moms of young children and wondering if they ever felt as defeated and exhausted as I felt this morning after dealing with a fussy infant and staying up far too late once I finally got her asleep, so that I only mooched two hours of sleep before waking to Rachel Marie’s hungry cries.
A mom sitting next to me with twin girls had to excuse herself twice, once with each twin, to, I assume, assist with potty time. The second time she was passing by me, one of Rachel Marie’s socks fell to the floor and as I was picking it up, I dropped a spit-up-saturated burp cloth. I smiled at the mom who reached down to retrieve the burp cloth for me. “I’m always dropping things,” I told her.
“Believe me, I understand,” she whispered back. I smiled gratefully at her and thought that this fellow mom and most likely all the other mommies scattered throughout the congregation – the ones hushing antsy toddlers, rocking tired babies, hugging older children or just being there for sullen teens – did understand. They understand how tired I feel all of the time now. They understand how just picking up a runaway sock can seem like a taxing, tiresome task. They’ve probably all had nights when they said aloud – even though the only one with them was an inconsolable infant – “This isn’t fair,” desperately hoping that God was listening and would hear their whining, take pity on them and magically soothe the aforementioned needy infant. (I was definitely feeling sorry for myself last night since I’d planned on having a nice, quiet evening without our dear but nocturnal Madeline around. Instead, I found myself watching the blaring red digits on the clock grow later and later as I repeatedly rocked and nursed an uncomfortable, crying infant who usually is asleep by 7:30 or 8 p.m.) I wondered if any of them had at one time or another begged, “Please just go to bed” to an unsleeping child. (I did this last night and had to finally put Rae down and walk away for a few seconds, I ruefully confess.)
I watched the other moms tend to their children while trying to pay attention to Mass and figured they’ve also probably all had a morning or two when they just didn’t feel like schlepping themselves or the kids to church. Yet, here we all were, tired and distracted perhaps, but present and preparing ourselves to to receive the Eucharist.
I wish I could say that I always look forward to Mass, but I’m only human and I readily admit there are times, especially lately, when I have to make myself go. Earlier this week, in fact, I’d experienced the same dread as I did this morning. I would have completely forgotten about the Feast of the Assumption had I not read my daily meditation. Honestly, I found myself wishing I had forgotten, but now that I knew about the Holy Day of Obligation, I felt, well, obligated to go. But I was tired and disheveled, reeking of spit-up and longing to just sit on the couch and do nothing. Yet, I forced myself out of the house and later returned home feeling infinitely grateful for the gift of the Eucharist.
Herein lies the irony: I often get the most out of Mass when I really don’t want to go. After attending Mass on the Feast of the Assumption, I not only felt renewed, I knew God had used this quiet time sans kids (Dave’s mom watched the girls for me) to speak to me and to encourage me in my calling, which I have admittedly been questioning lately. (A dearth of sleep has made me wonder if I can truly be open to life, have more kids and be the kind of mom God calls me to be.) After Communion I began to read an excerpt from a book I’d randomly grabbed just before heading out the door that summarizes some of Pope John Paul II’s quotes on Mary. One paragraph jumped off the page at me. It read: “One must accept the call, one must listen, one must receive, one must measure one’s strength, and answer ‘Yes, yes.’ Fear not, fear not, for you have found grace; do not fear life, do not fear your maternity, do not fear your marriage… This certainty, this consciousness helped us as it helped Mary.” (Insegnamenti, Pope John Paul, March 25, 1982). I stopped reading and literally felt God’s grace flow through me. “I can do this,” I thought. “This” being the whole mothering-homeschooling-homemaking-spousal thing.
Today’s Mass was no different. The choir sang a beautiful, contemporary song called “Strength for the Journey,” and I felt it was written for me. My eyes filled with tears as I sang along. There is a road meant for you to travel. Narrow and steep is the shepherd’s way, and as you say, “Yes,” letting me guide you, I will be strength for the journey. There is a cross meant for you to carry. There is a cross meant for you alone, and as you bow down in humble surrender, I will be strength for the journey. How many times have you doubted my word? How many times must I call your name? And as you say, “Yes,”_letting me love you, I will be strength for the journey. (© 1988, Michael John Poirie)
Really, isn’t that why we all come to celebrate Mass together? To find strength for our journey – whatever that journey may be? And isn’t receiving the Eucharist a bountiful source of strength for us all?
I know the celebration of the Eucharist is a beautiful gift – one I should always be eager to receive. Still, I can’t promise to never dread dragging myself and the kids (and sometimes even the hubby) out of bed to make it to Mass, but I pray I’ll always muster up enough strength to make the journey to church because once I am in the presence of the Body of Christ, I am sure to find even more strength for the tougher journeys in life.