Sacred Silence

Silence is something I don’t get a lot of around here.  I have to laugh when people call my house and ask if we are having a party.  My house is just loud.  Combine a bunch of kids, small living space and tile floor and you have the recipe for a constant clamor.  So last night, when I had the opportunity to take my son to confession without little kids in tow, I jumped at it.

My husband and I had already been to confession with the little kids earlier in the day, but one son wasn’t around.  Jay offered to put the little crew to bed while I took Ben and spent some time in church alone.  Double bonus!  I didn’t even have to take the baby!

We arrived a few minutes early, but there was already a long line for the one priest.  “Perfect!” I thought.  “More time for me to pray!”  Ben got in line and I sat down in the front row, as close to the tabernacle as I could get and began to pray a rosary.

I can’t tell you how long it has been since I have been in a church without one or more children under three with me.  I breathed deeply the scent of the incense that has soaked into the brick walls.  I read the meditation for the first mystery and marveled that I only had to read it once to understand it.  More deep breaths and I prayed the mystery.

Then it happened.

A family came in.  Three adults and one – probably 2 year old – girl sat in the pew just behind me.  The three adults prayed and made very little effort to contain the antics of the 2 year old.  And I, the very person who travels along with my own circus, was annoyed.  May God forgive me, I was annoyed.

I justified it by the fact that I do at least attempt to control my children in church.  They were making no effort at all.  But maybe they had a very sick relative or something and really needed to pray for them.  I tried to come up with a situation that would make me not feel annoyed, I did.

I read the second meditation several times before I understood what it was about.  “Really, God? I’m trying here.  I get away from my own kids and you bring another one by to yank my attention away?”

And I knew, I just knew that if I dared to turn around and even look their direction that my own kids would be nightmares at mass for the rest of my life.  You can call that superstition if you want but I had a good chance of being right either way.  So I did my best to pray (it was hard) and took it as a lesson on what my own kids do to others who are trying to pray.

The family left after I prayed two more mysteries, and I finished my rosary in peace, a little chastened about children in church, and a little more humble about my own precious little people whose antics, dare I say, I sometimes consider cute.

I have always been one to fight for my children’s right to be with me in church, and I work with them carefully from day one to teach them how to behave.  I scoff at the old biddies who would dare to give me and my brood a dirty look for making a little noise.  And while I haven’t changed that position, I have seen more clearly the need to properly train my children for good behavior in church – not only in mass, but in other quiet times in the building as well.  I have been to the other side, just desiring some quiet prayer, and have seen that it can be frustrating.

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