Tag Archives: altar server

MomDay Monday – When Religion Gets in the Way of Faith

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We’re Catholic. And The Kids are being raised Catholic. And sometimes, it’s really hard.

The Catholic Church is steeped in centuries of tradition. And I love the traditions. Give me a three-hour Easter Vigil Mass that takes us through the history of our salvation & ends with new members of the church being brought it – the old & the new meeting – and I’m in. It’s like celebrating not just what God has done in the past but what He’s still doing today.

But the rules. Oh, the rules.

As a kid, I was a rule follower. The Cat in the Hat pissed me off. How dare he come into Sally & Conrad’s house & mess things up like that?! Don’t even get me started on Curious George. A monkey performs brain surgery & everyone just thinks it’s cute?!?

But apparently my rule following has its limits.

This past weekend The Girl started Confirmation classes. As Catholics, we are baptized as babies. Our parents make that choice. When we’re old enough to decide, we are faced with Confirmation. Apparently, the age of 15 is supposed to be mature enough to decide if this is the faith they want to follow for life. Even though they’ve never experienced any other faith.

I was confirmed when I was 12. There was really no formal “Confirmation Classes” like The Girl is facing & there were certainly no community service hours that had to happen to be eligible. It was more like they had an extra robe that happened to fit me & KK, who is two years older than me, was already doing it so why not get it done & save the expense of having two family parties. So I don’t know that I really learned all the rules of the church. I don’t know that anyone would be able to learn all the rules. There are just so many of them. And faced with a life that often leans toward crazy, I won’t be learning them any time soon.

Case in point – Last Christmas, “Oh Holy Night” came on the radio as I was tucking The Girl into bed. I mentioned that is was my favorite Christmas song. The Girl then said, and I quote: “My religious ed teacher said that we shouldn’t listen to this until after Christmas because we’re in Advent now & Jesus hasn’t been born yet.”

I think I stared at her like Patrick Starfish for a solid minute, slack-jawed, I was so dumbfounded. The only reply I could come up with was: “Technically, yes. But we still have to live in the real world. You try to find a radio station that’s playing “Oh Holy Night” on December 26th. You’re not going to. So if we want to hear it, we listen to it now.”

The Girl, in all her infinite wisdom: “Oh I know, Mom. I just tried not to say back to her, ‘Hey, wasn’t Jesus actually born 2014 years ago? I’m gonna listen to the song’.”

Oh the rules. And Oh… the people who know them all.

Part of The Girl’s Confirmation requirement includes 20 hours of service to the church or to the community this year & next year. The Girl has been an altar server for more than 5 years. It’s a service to our church that she actually enjoys. Those three-hour Easter Vigils? She volunteers to serve them. She also swims competitively – a sport that has her in the pool five nights a week. And therein lies our dilemma. Add to that her first year of high school – new building, new teachers, new everything! She has very little time and she already serves her church waaaay more than 20 hours by serving on the altar.

So when we were told that her service on the altar didn’t count toward her Confirmation requirement… well… cue Patrick Starfish again.

“If they’ve been doing it all along, it doesn’t count. We want them to branch out & find a new service.”

“How is that fair?” I asked. “Someone who is just starting as an altar server will have it count toward their service hours. But someone who has been faithful to this service since 4th grade….. Not so much?”

It’s a case where the rules and the “religion” are getting in the way of the faith. I want The Girl to branch out. There’s a soup kitchen near us that we are both planning on serving at. That will count toward her hours. I’m not asking for her to only get credit for serving on the altar. There is more she can do. But she’s feeling discouraged hearing that her faith that has grown on the altar with this service isn’t worthy of being counted.

I talked to my 85-year-old Auntie Jo last night. This is a woman who regularly lunches with nuns. She is a paragon of faith & loves her church. As I explained what was happening & how The Girl wasn’t getting credit for her altar serving, she said, “You fight. You fight for your kids & you stand up for what’s right. I’ll be praying for you.” Did I mention she lunches with nuns? That’s heavy artillery right there.

So I fight. Because it’s the right thing to do for my daughter. I want her to love her faith & to not be discouraged by the rules. Because despite not knowing all the rules, I still love my faith. And as we go along, I want The Kids to know that, too. That you don’t have to know all the rules to be a person of faith.

And know, too, that your mom will always fight for you.

 

 

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MomDay Monday – Crazy Boy

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I sat down at church today. The Kids were both serving so it was one of those Masses where I could actually pay attention to what was being said &  maybe, just maybe, reconnect to a God I have been feeling fairly out of touch with. The procession came in & there were my two, robes on, hair combed as much as possible, candles lit, looking calm in a way they never look at home. Each of them glanced over at me & gave me the ‘Sup? nod as I sang along to a version of “Morning Has Broken” but with different words that got me wondering if Cat Stevens borrowed it from an old Christian hymn or if someone trying to update their church’s music borrowed it from Cat Stevens.

Then she walked in; hurried & hassled with three kids in tow. They looked to be about ages 8, 5, and 2. And they sat Right. Behind. Me. Not even trying to obey the “leave one pew between you” protocol that most Catholics observe when there’s room and there’s always room except for the CAPE days… Christmas, Ashes, Palms & Easter. My immediate thought was, “Crap!”

This two-year-old – I’ll call him Crazy Boy  was every bit a two-year-old. He was happy mostly. Two-year-old boy happy. Which means lots of yelling, kicking, throwing & jumping.

And something in me snapped. Not in a bad way like you’d think if you knew me. But some little part of that God I’m always trying to connect with snapped His fingers & said, “She’s right behind you for a reason.” And I remembered another blonde-haired, chubby faced, big-headed boy who acted the same way. Who used to bring me to tears trying to keep him calm & quiet in a church full of people who just have to turn around & see what the commotion is. People who have made me think more than once, “Listen old lady… when you’re dead & gone, who do you think is going to be in this church? That’s right. This loud-mouthed boy. Someone has to be the future so turn your sour puss around & stop your scowling.”

That was right before Crazy Boy grabbed my sweater & I felt a wet, sticky, little hand on my back. I turned around & said, ‘Well, hi there!” He grinned from ear to ear as his mother quickly pulled him away, apologizing & explaining that she usually leaves him with his grandmother for Mass but couldn’t this morning. As the foam book about elephants sailed past my left ear, I said, “He reminds me of my youngest who’s up there now.” I pointed to The Boy sitting on the altar & continued, “Don’t ever feel bad about bringing them.”

I’d like to say the spirit of God overcame Crazy Boy at that moment & he spent the rest of Mass calmly sitting, but that didn’t happen. Crazy Boy just kept on being crazy.

And I started crying.

She was right behind me for a reason & it wasn’t just so that I could console her. It was so that I could see how far I’ve come. Crazy Boy was my boy not that long ago. And there he was, sitting on an altar, serving at Mass. After the hours trying to keep him calm; after the miles worn in the carpet at the back of the church walking him around; after bringing him screaming & bleeding to the hospital for stitches because he ran head first into the corner of a pew, there he was. Robe on, cross around his neck, carrying a candle, & helping the priest. Calm Boy. A friend came up to me after Mass & told me that she was so proud of The Kids, that they looked so reverent when they were serving. Reverent. Not a word I would use for them especially after I swear I saw them hitting each other up there on the altar.

Back when my boy was Crazy Boy, I didn’t think it would ever end. But it does end. It gets better. So much better. The Boy & I have been butting heads a lot lately. A. Lot. Want to know how much? He gets $10 for allowance on Sunday. During the week, if he doesn’t do what I ask him or if I get smart-mouthed, he loses a dollar. We start fresh on Sunday. It’s Sunday night & he’s already down to $6.

Today was a reminder that it gets better. That in a few short years, he’ll be out of this phase & onto other things. Today’s smart-mouthed kid who owes ME allowance money will be in high school, college or off onto a career as an Evil Genius.

Because it always gets better. And I thank God for that.

This is how we do reverent.

This is how we do reverent.