My Bad Attitude

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Originally published March 19, 2007, when my six-year-old was a two-year-old and the other two kids weren’t born yet. Amazing how much has changed…and how much has stayed the same!

I was just minding my own business at Mass, trying to remember the “how to not cry” tips I’ve gotten over the years (I had forgotten my tissues at home), when it came time for the Our Father. That’s the prelude to my daughter’s favorite part of Mass, “PEACE!”, so of course I was paying attention.

I glanced down at her, as she got up to join us (because to her it’s cool to participate, and that’s an attitude I want to encourage), and I noticed how intently she was holding out her hands, just like us. Bob reached down to hold her hand and she shook him off.

“No way, Daddy!” her whole posture said, “I’m going to do it the way YOU are doing it!” She closed her eyes tightly and talked along (causing the kind folks in front of us to turn around, yet again, and smile, yet again).

Then we passed peace, just like we do every week, except I was noticing how my daughter reached across two (or three, if we let her) pews to pass “PEACE!” She was putting the enthusiasm into it that many of us just…lack.

She was making it fun, and everyone who received peace from her smiled; they couldn’t help it. She didn’t care who she passed “PEACE!” to, and she was all for passing it twice or three times, well into the “Agnus Dei.” (She has a special fondness for babies and other children, though, so had we been in range of one, she would have been passing “PEACE!” extra-enthusiastically in that direction.)

Why is it that I don’t pass peace with this kind of excitement?

Do I look forward to Mass – to seeing my neighbor and showing my love – the way my daughter does? Do I skip to the front with my hands so carefully folded, because I know there’s something special waiting for me?

What is that I’m thinking as I putter through the motions? Am I gazing with love and amazement and wonder at the sunlight streaming through the stained glass, at the sparkling of the holy water, at the music hanging in the air?

My bad attitude could use a lot of work. I need to point myself home, and find my Father waiting for me with the fattened calf on the back burner. I need to forget about my jealousies and grudges and join the party for my forgiven brother. I need to accept the gifts I’ve been given with a hearty “THANK YOU, God!” instead of a grudging “That’s IT?!”

There’s a reason that children are a model for us, and I see it every night at dinner when my daughter says “AMEN!” with such ferocity the dog jumps. I witness it at crowded restaurants, when my daughter sees the plates of steaming food, folds her hands, and demands “PRAY!” without a thought of what other people might think.

I think of how she runs up to Padre and hugs him when he comes in the office, and how she demands a kiss and hug when he leaves. I see her practice blessing herself with the holy water, and I think about that baptism not so long ago, when I was holding her above the font and promising to do my best to raise her in line with the words of the Creed.

I may not see fireworks, but I do see plenty of evidence to gaze up with wonder. I may not be able to contain my emotions, and I may use doll clothes or my own sleeves now and then to wipe my nose, but that’s not going to keep me from it.

I may not feel like I’m “getting a lot out of Mass” when I’m there, but I’m going to keep at it, and I’m not going to give in to the myth of a Mass without that girl who makes me appreciate it more.

Copyright 2011 Sarah Reinhard

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  1. Thank you so much for this article! We have been having such a hard time lately at Mass with our three kids (ages 6, 4 and 20 months). Ash Wednesday was particularly awful and I left embarrassed and glad that we had gone to a parish where no one knows us and we wouldn’t see again for probably a long time. I was in tears as we approached the car and had a very “bad attitude” about having even bothered to take them at all. When we arrived home the kids were anxious to get pictures taken with their ashes on their foreheads and talked about how it wouldn’t be long until Easter. They don’t understand fully what Ash Wednesday is about, but they do know it gets us closer to Easter, which is about Jesus rising from the dead. I realized as I listened to them that while I don’t get a lot of Mass these days, and I’m not always sure they are, it’s so important to make sure they are going and learning what they can. It’s not always an easy lesson, and a bit embarrassing at times, but it will pay off in the end! I know it! God bless you and your family during this Lent season!

    • Oh, Kari! I’m so glad my little column could be helpful for you. I will keep you and your family in my prayers.

      I’d like to tell you it gets easier, but what I’ve found is that it only changes. “Easy” is the greener grass, which, as it turns out, isn’t so green once you’re standing on it…

      Many blessings for your Lent as well!

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