Every week now I experience the constant agitation of fidgeting, squirming, loud outbursts because someone doesn't want to sit or stand or be held, incessant whispers, "potty breaks" just before communion, broken sippy cups formerly filled with water (if you know what I mean), shredded hymnals, bruised foreheads from falling off the kneeler - again; and those are just the ones that don't make us have to scurry to the back of the church. I have to admit, until recently, the thought of going to Mass with the kids has been evoking a certain amount of dread.
I've always heard two real valuable pieces of advice when it comes to kids and mass:
1) Attend daily mass when you can with them. This way they learn more quickly and readily how to enter into the mystery of liturgical worship.
2) Read the Readings ahead of time so that you're not hearing them for the first time in the midst of all-but-guaranteed distraction.
Those are both very helpful habits, but there's something much deeper I've discovered which has proven tremendously powerful for me as I work to remain focused and at peace as a father. Hopefully you can help me spread the word.
I'm calling it The 'sacrament' of the Diaper Change. Every time I bring my kids to mass now, I quickly get past all the distractions (which haven't ceased, I assure you; and, as we hope to have more children, I don't anticipate this experience abating anytime soon).
How do I do it? It's a habit of thought really, and like all habits it begins in my more mundane duties at home. The more I understand and meditate upon what it means to live a life in Christ, the more I realize my life is meant to be lived "eucharistically." In other words, I'm realizing (in a tangible way) that I was created to make of my entire life...a gift, and Christ is helping me to do it. I'm coming to see now that the little inconveniences, as well as the more intense ones, are opportunities to make the love of Christ present through me in the lives of those I love. In other words, my life can become liturgy! (Is that a new idea for you?)
First I have to get past the idea that I have any chance at all of properly loving my family without God's help. But then, I can give myself - eucharistically, as it were - if only I go deeper with regard to how I see my responsibilities as a husband and father. This is what the liturgy's all about! We access divine life and love, then we let it overflow in the ordinary activities of daily life. "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).
There's so much meaning now as I strive to love my family. Whether I'm doing dishes, or helping with dinner, or even changing a 3:00am diaper, my life is becoming a sacrament of Christ's love in the world. That's the truth.
Which is all the more reason to get to Mass.
If I'm going to respond to the call of love, I need the grace of the Eucharist. Sure, I don't always feel the same consolations that I used to when I could quietly enter into the Holy Sacrifice free of distraction and responsibility, but I experience the power of grace now more than ever as I strive to live for my wife and my children.