We have all been there – sitting in Mass with our children and just waiting for that moment when we may have to step in and distract, redirect, step out, or pray the moment passes where they feel like being loud at the most inopportune time. It always gives me a chuckle because as a parent, you just know. You know that moment when one of the kids might be reaching their threshold.
For us, that “moment” is basically constant with one of our children much beyond the usual expected toddler shenanigans. Our 5th daughter as you know was born with some congenital brain issues. This always makes Mass interesting. Don’t get me wrong, actually, she loves Mass. But she also doesn’t realize how to whisper, or be quiet on command all the time, control her brain overload, manage her physical limitations, or even acclimate to the environment…even though we are there weekly.
One Sunday at Mass we were doing the usual “holding our breath.” We were doing so more than usual because she had complained of her head hurting the night before (this is never a good sign with Meagan because it can mean something is wrong requiring a hospital stay or surgery). When she woke up, she still complained. I had offered to stay with her at home but then Meagan told me she needed to go to Mass. Of course I obliged and off we all went She laid on my lap in the pew and seemed to calm down. I remember thinking I hope her head pain was going away. As the choir started to sing the “Holy Holy,” all of a sudden out of nowhere Meagan sat up and belted out at the top of her lungs, “Hosanna! Hosanna!” I started to say “shhh” (while also thinking – wow, she remembered some of the words!). She continued to belt out “Hosanna” numerous times during the song….. and after. And I continued to hush and try to distract her. We luckily finished Mass as a family, and Meagan seemed to calm and handle the rest of her day well.
As we left Mass that day, I was surprised Meagan not only remembered the words, but also knew when to sing it. I also started to think about my initial knee jerk reaction – to say “shhh.” It wasn’t punative by any means, but why was that my first reaction to my child praising God? To the words finally coming to her lips? It really got me thinking about kids and prayer- if that stuck with Meagan, what else was swirling around in her head? What other parts of the Mass or parts of prayers was she retaining even if not repeating them out loud? What else was she hearing that maybe we weren’t?
The last few weeks haven’t been great regarding the news in our world. Unfortunately, we keep hearing about this tragedy and that conflict and these sad events…and the list goes on made much easier to repeat with all the instant access to information. Some of my older children approached me and expressed concern about some of the things going on. I understood their concern; it is so hard to balance. We want to be informed and aware, but how do we balance that with staying focused on God and the good in our lives? And what about all the good in the world? (That does exist by the way despite never hearing much about it…) Then I thought of Meagan’s “Hosanna” and remembered… prayer! I told the girls the story of Mr. Rogers and how his mother always said to look for the helpers in bad situations – because there is always good in bad. Light in darkness. Then I understood what my kids were asking – it wasn’t so much fear as much as they felt helpless. And they wanted to feel like they were doing something. Again, prayer came to mind.
That very night we had a long talk about prayer and how God hears all our prayers, especially those of children. We talked about the power of prayer and how important it is. We talked about how it brings peace and love and strengthens our connection with God – and yes, sometimes, even brings about action to help good overcome. The girls felt much better. At that moment, the four older ones got their rosaries, knelt by the beds, and started to say the rosary. It was late so I told them if they wanted to do one decade they could. And they did….but then they continued. And so my girls knelt there praying the Rosary and the whole room was calm. I could feel their fears and worries lift away, and when they were finished, I could hear their voices so much lighter and happy. They went to bed just fine and woke up with a new sense of calm and strength.
I heard a great homily recently that offered insights and perspectives on why we go to Mass. The priest related it to the greatest prayer. He talked about how for that moment, for that one moment at Mass where the Eucharist becomes Jesus Himself, we can free ourselves of our daily worries. The strife. The fear. The responsibilities. For that beautiful moment at Mass, we are free with Him as He comes to be present in the Eucharist and nourish us at Communion. The priest continued by saying that by us participating in the Mass and receiving Jesus, we are participating in the greatest prayer; we allow Jesus Himself to be within us to guide our words and our actions for the following week… and bring us peace from within as we go back to navigating our daily worries. The strife. The fear. The …. well, you get the point.
I think it is really hard to navigate tough times with children. They want so badly to feel action – that they are doing something or helping the situation or taking control of their circumstances. And so often, they just can’t. I’m so glad I was able to be reminded of the importance of prayer for our children. It is not only a way to talk to God, but it is in fact a way to take action! Prayer is something we DO – it’s an active communication with God, an active plea for peace and calm, and an active way to teach our kids to not just pray “for,” but pray “to accept.” We ultimately pray for His Will to be done. To teach this to our children is priceless.
It wasn’t too long after my mini reflections on prayer with our kids that we were back at Mass another Sunday. As soon as the Holy Holy started, sure enough it happened again. “HOSANNA!!!HOSANNA!” Meagan just as loud and proud as could be kept saying “Hosanna!” But this time I just thanked God for the “do over.” I looked at Meagan and instead of saying “shhh,” I whispered in her ear “That’s right! Sing!” So she did. And I’m sure God heard her prayer.