Christmas Eve we went to Mass – the 6:30 pm mass to be precise, not the 4 pm Children’s Mass.
We chose the 6:30 mass because the teen girl was singing with her youth group choir then. And also, after years of having to do the Children’s Mass for various reasons, it’s nice to go to the grown up mass.
However, one of you Older Crowd didn’t feel the same way about us apparently.
We got there early. Really early. As in “got a parking spot really close to the door because we had to show up 45 minutes early for choir practice” early. We killed some time in the car, then went into the church, picking out a spot on the side with the choir, waving to Miriam, showing Maura (who was distraught at her sister’s disappearance) where Mim was. Maura was not being quiet, and not being very cooperative at first. She didn’t like the idea of being confined to the pew. But the church was buzzing, everyone was chatting and saying hello, the choir was doing sound checks with the microphones. It was just after 6 pm – there was lots of time to kill before mass started. There was no need to be quiet. In a way, it was ideal because it gave Maura time to get her outbursts out of the way before she settled down.
However, our presence wasn’t ideal to the three people in the pew directly in front of us. The elderly couple and the middle aged woman got up and moved five minutes after we sat down behind them.
They didn’t try to get closer to the front, or away from a cold breeze (there was none), or because they spotted family/friends and went to sit with them. No, they got up and moved across the church from us. Same section of pews, just across the church – away from our child.
My husband and I looked at each other. “Did they just move because of us?”
Yes. Yes they did.
They moved because our child wasn’t being quiet. At a time when quiet wasn’t necessary. She wasn’t flailing about, hitting people and throwing things. She was just saying “No” loudly a couple times. Then she settled down. She actually settled down about the time they decided to move. Maybe their presence was bothering her.
But my husband and I did sit there, slightly giggling at the thought of those people moving because of Maura. That laugh you do when you’re not sure how else to react. “That would have never happened in Ireland.” I said.
It’s true. Maura could be all sorts of obnoxious at church in Ireland, and the older crowd there would stop us after Mass to tell us what a beautiful child she was and what patient parents we were. I remember once, sitting behind a row of older women, and wondering what they must be thinking. After mass, they told me – “Oh she must keep you busy! But what a beautiful child! You’re a beautiful family!”
Recently, Pope Francis has made headlines by meeting with families of children affected by autism. The point of the meeting was to help break down the isolation many parents feel, to help break the stigma so many feel. The Pope has been quite vocal about accepting people with all sorts of special needs, treating them with kindness and showing love to them whenever he encounters them, being the example we should follow when it comes to how to treat people with any sort of special needs.
I don’t think the Pope would approve of the trio in front of us moving off in a huff because my child was being a bit loud.
In fact, I think he’d be a bit…
Luckily, I am less judgy than the trio that moved away from us. And the people who took their spots were much more welcoming, admired Maura’s dress when she pointed it out, smiling at her.
So, to the Older Crowd at any church, do me a favor. If there is a tall child being loud and maybe even obnoxious behind your pew, turn to the family of that child and tell them what a good job they’re doing. Smile at them, at their child. Give only words of encouragement. Because an encounter like what we had on Christmas Eve would be enough to make some people never enter that church again. We’re hardy and more stubborn than to let a few cranky people get in our way. But on the wrong day, actions like that – actions that reek of non-acceptance and are chock full of silent criticism – can cut even me to the bone.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14) – He didn’t say “Except for the loud and unruly ones, those must be left behind until they learn how to behave better.”
Or, two quote two friends when they heard about what happened to us –
“Jokes on them, they gave up the best seats in the house. I mean, sitting right next to the kid who is the closest person to Jesus.
Fools.” – R. D.
#sheishisvoice – M. D.