Sara: Thursday, we celebrated the Assumption of Mary, a Holy Day of Obligation. Due to a stressful week which included getting our car hit in a parking lot (thankfully Gus and I were inside the store at the time), Gus deciding he is too old to take two naps even though he needs them, and an out-of-town doctor’s appointment, I was less than enthusiastic about attending Mass as a family on Thursday evening. I knew Gus was going to be handful, and I felt we didn’t need another abnormal evening.
However, despite my tiredness, we packed Gus up in the car and headed to the parish down the street. Per our typical pattern, we sat up close so Gus could at least have the opportunity to see what Father was doing. Amazingly enough, when the opening song began, Gus started “singing” (well, babbling is probably more accurate) throughout the entire song. Gus was also very interested in his rosary, sitting on my lap, and reading his Noah cloth book.
During the Responsorial Psalm and the other musical parts of the Mass, Gus also “sang” along, singing and stopping in all the right parts. However, most noticeable to me was during the consecration, Gus stopped playing and was quiet and still – just for a moment. While I usually do try to pause the playing during the consecration, usually Gus gets frustrated we are stopping. Especially helpful is when we are at a parish that rings bells during this point. It causes Gus to look around and know something special is occurring.
I was impressed Gus was so good during Mass. As Justin mentioned as we were walking out of church, Gus really participated in Mass this Thursday to the best of his ability.
Justin: When Vatican II put forth the proclamation to celebrate the mass in the language of each country rather than Latin, it was so that people could practice “full and active” participation in the Mass. Watching Gus during Mass made me really contemplate what those words mean, especially in light of bringing a child to Mass. Many times, I am present at Mass without being truly present. It is so easy to be distracted, often by unimportant matters. Sometimes, I find myself thinking about yesterday’s football game or a movie I recently watched rather than thinking about God.
This is often magnified by trying to control a toddler throughout Mass. Distraction is a natural part of life and full and active participation does not mean that we will not experience distraction. Watching Gus made me realize that we all have the ability to fully participate in the Mass regardless of our state of mind. All we need do is simply to engage the action of the moment.
What so many affectionately call “catholic calisthenics” are really bodily actions designed to engage us in the Mass. We talk about body language all the time, but all the sitting, standing, and kneeling are nothing more than body language. Just try kneeling for a moment. Can you think of any other body position that makes you feel more like praying?
In fact, so much of what we see at Mass is designed to engage the five senses. Beautiful stained glass windows engage the sight. Reading of the scriptures engages the ears. Incense engages the sense of smell. Standing and kneeling engage touch and finally at the climax of the Mass reception of Holy Communion engages taste.
When we become distracted we need do nothing more than return our minds to the action at hand.
Sara: Sure, Gus’ participation was louder than I would have liked at some points of the Mass, but at least during that particular Mass, Gus seemed to enjoy being there. He seemed to want to sing without worry with how his voice would blend with the others (it didn’t). Gus just worshiped and experienced the Mass to the best of his ability.
As we walked to the car, I realized I have so much to learn from my son. How do I make it a point to be present and participate in Mass to the fullest of my ability?