Last spring, I was waiting in line for confession with my two children. Battling 1st trimester nausea and fatigue, I waited for around 40 minutes in a silent church, desperately trying to keep my 3 year old daughter, Gianna, and 15 month old son, Charlie quiet. I held Charlie tightly, whispering in his ear, bouncing him around. Gianna clung to my legs as I swayed, bounced, and hoped that the line would move faster. I dread taking my children to confession.
The silent church is a real stress elevator for a mother of multiple young children. Sometimes I go to confession with a friend and we take turns watching each other’s children outside the church. Once a kind elderly lady offered to hold my place in line while I took my children outside. On this day, there were no such offers.
As the minutes passed my son got progressively more squirmy and loud. He did not want to be held any longer. With aching arms I finally put him down and asked him to stay close to mama. He tested the waters a bit and wandered about in the pews, he eventually traveled a little too far way for my comfort zone—about 20 feet. In a loud whisper I said, “Charlie, come back here.” He gave me a huge smile and ran back into my open arms.
Instantly a woman I had never seen before, standing two people behind me in line, snarled at me in a raspy voice, “He shouldn’t be running in the church!” Shocked, I looked at her with a blank stare. She repeated her protests about my son’s behavior. Defensively, I said, “I put him down because he was getting very loud with me holding him and I didn’t want to be disruptive. She said, “If you can’t control your children, they don’t belong in here.” Again, shocked, I said, “I’m just trying to be a good Catholic, come to confession, and raise my children in the church.” She may have rolled her eyes at this, although I can’t be sure.
I was fuming mad. Humiliated in front of a whole line of confession seekers, I slumped back against the wall and held my son as he protested. Over and over in my head I just kept thinking, how dare she yell at me. I’m trying to do something good here—and look at the thanks I am getting. I thought, “does she have any idea how hard it is to take young children to confession.” Not to mention, the irony of yelling at someone while in line for confession is simply amazing.
Pridefully, I wanted to scream, “I’m a good Catholic, I know the priests, I lead a Mother’s Rosary group, I help with Pre-Cana, and you are a hypocritical old witch who drives good families away from the Catholic Church.” I said none of these things. I remained silent and I waited in line as it was soon my turn for confession. Once inside the confessional I was confronted with a visiting priest who was less than patient with my whining son. I apologized again and again for Charlie’s whining, but rather than make me feel better about this situation, by saying something like, “it’s just great that you are putting up with all this to come and receive the graces of this beautiful sacrament,” the priest actually asked if I had considered getting a babysitter to come to confession!
Defeated, I left the church furious and almost in tears. I instantly called Juris Mater, who may have been angrier than I was about the scene I had just endured.
I had temporarily forgotten about this tragic incident until this past Sunday when I saw THE woman again. She was sitting 2 rows in front of our family. I whispered to my husband—“that’s the lady who yelled at me while in line for confession.” I may have been imagining it, but she seemed to give me a dirty look on the way back from receiving communion. I was trying to think charitably, and so I really thought that I might have imagined this.
Well, after Mass, Charlie (now age 2) drifted out of the pew and started wandering toward the back of the church. My husband called for him, and Charlie turned around and jogged about 15 feet back towards my husband. Instantly, the woman snarled at Charlie, “No running in the church!” Shocked, my husband just stared at the woman. She then added, “Children need to learn manners, you need to teach them!” My husband, still shocked and unable to speak, just stared at her as though she was insane. The woman then began to exit the church, saying again as she walked past my husband and son, “You need to teach them manners!”
Really. Thanks for enlightening us.
Now, it seems that this woman was just waiting for our family to do SOMETHING so that she could censure us. And after she spoke in such a nasty tone to my husband and my son—I was convinced that she HAD given me a dirty look while in line for communion! Simply amazing. And I would like to add that our children had been very well behaved during the Mass and Charlie’s short jog after Mass was nothing that we felt merited any discipline and I am someone who is very particular about my children’s behavior during Mass.
I assume we will see this woman again. I also assume that she will find something wrong with our behavior and let us know about it immediately, loudly, and in the company of numerous bystanders. Any suggestions on how we should handle this? While part of me just wants to ignore her, taking the criticism as an opportunity to humble myself before a totally nasty woman, I fear that she may be making comments like this to other young families and maybe discouraging them from coming to Mass? It took me at least 4 months to return to confession after my experience—and I am someone who isn’t normally deterred by what other people think of me. Your thoughts?