Face Down

Face Down

Face Down

I know I wasn’t the only one chuckling in the pew this weekend after hearing the first reading.  For those of you who missed it (due to potty breaks—the five-year-old or pregnant you; screeching—the toddler or you; or crying—the baby or you on the brink of utter disintegration), here’s how the first reading opens:

Elijah went a day’s journey into the desert, until he came to a broom (I think this is symbolic) tree and sat beneath it.  He prayed for death, saying: “This is enough, O Lord!  Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”

After a weekend at my saintly in-laws’ home with the children by myself and no husband, I, too, wanted to lie down and call it quits.  This weekend was especially important because I regarded it as a test run for when my husband will leave us this fall to finish his last semester of school in Canada.  And if this weekend was any indication of what this fall will be like, our home will be nothing short of a hell ship.

After the chuckle faded and before the tidal wave of self-pity hit, the lector finished the reading:

“He lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree, but then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat.  Elijah looked and there at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water.  After he ate and drank, he lay down again, but the angel of the Lord came back a second time, touched him, and ordered, “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!”  He got up, ate, and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.”

Now, I knew God wasn’t calling me to more hearth cake because I’ve tried that, and it hasn’t helped…neither have Pop Tarts.  However, I did feel immediately a call to daily Mass and simultaneously an anger that the apparent solution to my problem—daily reception of the Eucharist during my long journey while my husband is away so that I don’t descend beneath my children’s behavior—was cruelly out of my reach.  I have a five-year-old, an almost four-year-old, and a twenty-month-old who spends the whole ride to Mass daydreaming about the naughty things she can do after the opening prayer.  Daily Mass—again, the solution—was simply not an option for me due to my vocation…in which I so desperately need to be fed again and again.  How rotten.  I was mad at everyone.

As the day grew on and I caught myself giving my children dirty looks and talking to them in a way that would most certainly get them in trouble if they had tried the same, I began to wonder if perhaps daily Mass for me personally right now was not optional.   I sensed in my constitution that I was too weak to merely go on a weekly reception of the Eucharist–totally aware also that one well-received Eucharist could make me canonized saint material—and wondered if maybe daily Mass would give me a more Eucharistic appreciation of my life and a greater desire to desire and see Jesus during my day.  I then also remembered that my church has a cry room and a dear friend of mine who has seven girls managed to go every day.  I perked up.  Perhaps there was hope for this fall.  Perhaps it didn’t need to end in my being face down under our pine trees.

We’ll start tomorrow, and I so hope this is more than a passing whim.  So a question for you: have you been able to work out a successful weekday Mass schedule with your family?  Any tips on how to get past that first bad day when everyone is misbehaving?  And what do you do with your toddlers?

Copyright 2012 Meg Matenaer


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  1. Meg, I used to attend daily Mass at a parish 1/2 hr away from home when my 3 sons were very little…I spent nearly every Mass with an almost 3 yr old and 18 mo old each on one hip, including while I was kneeling! lol It was NOT funny then but, looking back, I can now laugh at it & know that, for me right then, it was, as you put it, “not optional” and without that daily reception, I don’t know where I would be today. Go on the faith that you know that right now, in this season, this is what you *need* to do and don’t let anything stop you (well, sickness of either you or a child of course doesn’t count). Know that I will be praying for you in a special way…for me & our family right now (due to many circumstances), daily Mass is not at all optional but I try to get there at least once during the week in addition to Sunday…every little bit truly does help! God bless you & your family!!!

  2. You should have a serious chat with Fr. Nielsen, because he has expressed the opinion before that little ones (especially if they are distracting) do not belong at daily mass. I don’t agree!

  3. Meg,
    As one who is finishing seminary formation this year and has a unique perspective (literally and figuratively) from behind the altar, the best justification I have heard, is that a crying child at Mass reminds us that there is still suffering in the world(As long as it’s 15 decibels or less). Personally, I didn’t start going to daily Mass until I was at UW (You were there too!) and I can only imagine that some seeds will be planted in your little ones from being at Mass which may bear fruit later in life. Finally, if there’s a secure cry-room that would prevent any serious structural damage to the church in question, fabulous!

  4. Hi, Deacon! Thank you for your kind thoughts on little ones at Mass. I do hope that very special seeds are being planted in them. Just this past week, I’ve found that getting up and going to Mass together first thing in the morning sends a message to them (and to myself!) that I haven’t been able to communicate as effectively in other ways at home (that God is real and so important and loves us more than we can imagine and that our whole day should be directed towards Him). And then, beyond simply sending a message, receiving the Eucharist daily has helped flame the fire of love for Him in myself and has given me so much energy and hope and a much firmer understanding that my children’s well-being lies firmly in His hands and not in my own. It’s impossible to over-estimate the positive impact of daily Mass 🙂

    And, yes, our church’s cry room has been such a huge help, as my spirited toddler would have no qualms in climbing up to the sanctuary and helping the servers “organize” things!

    Thanks for your message–God bless you in your studies!

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