It is Monday of Holy Week, and we are about to embark on the holiest and most special time of the year in our Faith. I awoke this morning feeling slightly overwhelmed by all the obligations of Holy Week. As I opened up my calendar and e-mail to make a plan, I had the most lovely note in my inbox.
A little background first –yesterday, we attended a beautiful Palm Sunday procession and Mass at our Parish. This year, our Pastor asked the First Communicants to bring a loaf of bread to the Mass. My son was given a label for our loaf of bread, saying “Hello, my name is Charlie and I’d like to give you this loaf of bread. I am making my First Communion on May 3rd. Will you please pray for me?” Just reading the label brought tears to my eyes. We arrived early and sat in the first row, only to be asked to move by a very rude woman. But God’s ways are not our ways. We moved further back (making it a bit more stressful for my 3 young children in the procession to find our family), and sat in front of a wonderful family. Charlie then gave his loaf of bread to them, asking them to pray for him. The mother of that family was so moved by his request that she tracked down my e-mail and sent me a lovely note this morning.
She let me know that our presence at Mass is a joy to her. She loves seeing our children, they bring back memories of her own family. She told me she was moved by the sincerity of Charlie’s request for prayers, and wrote that she thought it was divine that we wound up in the pew in front of her. She let me know that she would be including Charlie in her daily intentions and rosary, and thanked us for the bread. What a wonderful way to begin my week!
To be blunt, Holy Week is the time of year when I am most likely to lament my large young family. Taking my 2 year old to Mass is like mom wrestle mania. And whether in Mass or at home, there is very little time for prayerful reflection and focus. I tend to look back on my college days and remember the spiritual wonder of Holy Week and the Easter Triduum, and my current spiritual life seems, well, pathetic compared to that. But it is not pathetic! Having small children and very practical obligations is not something to lament. In fact, this life stage is a time to cherish.
Our family will do our best this week. We will spend some extra time in prayer, we will split up for the Triddum, we will all attend the Good Friday procession (nothing like a good outdoor procession for toddlers!) and we will skip the late night Easter Vigil, opting instead of the Easter Sunday Mass. Our experiences this week will be very different from what Holy Week was like for me in college, but this year I will not lament the change. I will not wish I had more quiet time for prayer and reflection. Rather I will live in the present, and embrace what we have right now. I will cherish this Holy Week in all it’s messiness.
When my son gave that bread to the woman behind me in Mass, I got all teary-eyed because it was a beautiful way of building community in our Parish. We were sharing our faith. And the kind note I received this morning made me realize that we often build community without realizing it. The presence of our family each week at Mass is a beautiful way of sharing our faith with others. We are not evangelizing with our knowledge of apologetics, we are not sponsoring new Catholics at the Easter Vigil, but we are reaching out in our own little way. And our little way, when done with love, is just as good in the eyes of God.
And so this week I will try to see the little, and often not so obvious ways, we are serving God. I will try to look at each small sacrifice and offer it up to God. Getting each child dressed, searching for a missing shoe, giving a sympathetic smile to that other mom in the vestibule with a poorly behaved toddler, each one has meaning. I will not be fasting for all of Good Friday, or staying up late Thursday night in adoration, nor will I be completely attentive to each Mass and service I attend. Rather, I will accept with humility that I can only offer very small things right now. And I will thank God for the gift of other believers who can offer more, and who have shared their faith with me, encouraging me that my small acts really do matter. I will thank God for this life phase where I can only do little things. I will live in the present.
And on Easter Sunday, I will take great joy in my adorable children in their Easter best. My 2 year old Josie will be glowing, the old ladies will be ooing and ahhing, and my joy in her dress will be a very little piece of the joy we all have in the Resurrection. It will remind me that we are very little. And that’s just how God wants us to be.
~ Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. In truth I tell you, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. Mark 10: 14-15