Thursday, October 3, 2013

"Hope for the future of our Church"

+JMJ+

Earlier this week I wrote about our weekend trip to Miami that we took to celebrate our one year anniversary (which was Sunday, September 29). In that post I mentioned that we attended mass at Gesu Catholic Church - the oldest in all of southern Florida (note: this obviously means there is no such thing as a "cry room" that exists in this church)! I wanted to dedicate an entire entry to our time at this parish because through those experiences God truly blessed us with a wedding anniversary gift like no other.

Don't worry - I snapped this after mass
The English mass was at 11:30am but we showed up at 11 for confession. It turns out that we got there just in time because the 10am Spanish mass was still wrapping up and immediately after Michael and I had each had our turn in the confessional the mass ended and a long line began to form.

Michael focused on keeping Gabriel (who was 100% wide awake) calm while he generously allowed me to kneel and pray my penance first. Right as I finished up, Gabriel began getting extremely squirmy from hunger so I then took over "baby watch" and began to nurse him so Michael could complete his prayers (now that's marital teamwork - helping one another get to heaven - in action!).

Unfortunately the timing of nursing Gabriel was such that I couldn't stand up to physically participate in the opening of the mass (my favorite is when Gabriel conveniently needs to eat during the homily and everyone else is seated, too)...but babies need to eat when they need to eat.

Before I continue I should mention a few tidbits of background information:

  1. My husband and I both feel that babies have every right to be at mass and we have no problem with taking our son...and we don't sit in the cry room (I know there are all sorts of philosophies on this, but the purpose of this post isn't to debate them - I'm simply stating where we stand on the issue). Of course if Gabriel ever began full-on crying we would then utilize a cry room or step out into the gathering space, depending on the church's layout...and would then rejoin everyone else once the episode was over.
  2. I have no problem with nursing (with a cover) at mass. I know people have varying levels of comfort with this issue as well, but as I said earlier - babies need to eat when babies need to eat (and, might I add that Jesus was once a baby with a human mother who nursed him so I'm sure God understands that I'm in no way being irreverent by doing this thing He designed my body to do.... I wish to be present for the entire mass and don't feel that I should have to leave simply because my baby needs to eat).
  3. Gabriel has (in his 8 weeks of life outside the womb thus far) been a pretty stellar baby in church. The first 2 weeks he slept through the entire mass but considering he tends to eat every hour during the daytime I - more often than not - end up having to nurse him at some point. Even though he wakes up to eat, Gabriel is a quiet baby in church. He might make a few small noises as he wakes up, but to this day he hasn't really cried for more than one second during mass.
Okay, moving on.

So this past Sunday I nursed Gabriel at the beginning of church. Right before I nursed him he was getting fussy, but this was before mass had even started so he certainly wasn't interrupting much. Normally eating would make him tired and he would proceed to doze peacefully through the end of mass...but not this week. For some reason he stayed wide awake and (I don't think he ate well the first time) he wound up needing to eat again. Even with all of this happening, he was still a very good, quiet baby - except he did do a little, one-syllable, baby call/shout of "HOW!" leading up to his second feeding...which tends to be the noise he makes when (I imagine) he means "Hungry! Now!"

Overall I suppose I would say that this past Sunday was the most vocally distracting Gabriel has ever been at church (even though realistically he was about as quiet as a baby can get without sleeping the entire time).

Remember how I said that God gave us an anniversary gift like no other at this parish? Well, at the end of mass there were a few announcements...then the deacon went on to say something along these lines (if I could quote him verbatim from memory I would) while staring directly at us:
"At this time, I'd like to take a moment to speak to all of the parents - the parents of young children and especially babies. I'd like to say 'thank you' for bringing your children to mass. It's always nice to see them with you at mass because it gives us hope for the future of our church. And just a reminder to everyone that even when a baby cries it's not a disruption - it's a sign of life within our parish and it's truly a blessing. We don't have a cry room or anywhere to go here - we're all just one big family...so parents, please continue to bring your children with you and thank you again."
Did I mention that he was looking directly at us?? Then, the priest took over to finish out the blessing and started with, "You know, someone once said that when a baby cries, it's God singing."

What the what? I had tears in my eyes. Tears...which I frantically blinked away before they could leave my eyes.

Now as if that wasn't enough, the priest said they have a tradition of recognizing all visitors to their parish and asked everyone who was at Gesu for the first time to please stand and be greeted (by applause). Obviously we stood up along with a handful of others - and I seized the opportunity to quickly glance around the massive church (seriously massive - as in 700 person seating capacity) to see how many other young children or babies were there. If my eyes didn't deceive me, I'm pretty sure we were the only people with a child under the age of five. And even then it appeared that there were less than a handful of children around age 5ish. No wonder the deacon made such a point in thanking us!

Finally the mass ended, we went in peace, etc. Then a couple (probably in their late thirties to early forties) approached and greeted me (Michael had run to the bathroom). We proceeded to have a lengthy conversation all about where I was from, what we were doing in Miami, how adorable my son is, what his name is, how old he is, the fact that we were headed to Vizcaya (and how they l-o-v-e Vizcaya!), how we heard about their parish, and so on and so forth. They were so incredibly nice and welcoming! Even though I rave about how much we loved our parish back in Ann Arbor nothing like this happened to us there...ever. It's happened a tiny bit at our parish in Palm Beach but never has anyone taken such an interest beyond complimenting us on our baby.

All of this left us feeling beyond rejuvenated and oh-so-happy as we left mass that day...on our anniversary no less! What a gift to be recognized, validated, and appreciated - on our anniversary - for our marital vocation and call to serve the church by creating our own little "domestic church." It was so refreshing to be greeted with such open arms, especially as parents of a little baby - which is how I think every single Catholic Church needs to be each week towards newcomers. After all, "we're all just one big family." 

Tangible hope for the future of our Church - nearly 2 months old!

And one more quick note: today is Michael's birthday! Please offer up some prayers for him if you get the chance. Thanks in advance! :)

"Children are our most valuable resource."
-Herbert Hoover

4 comments:

  1. Beautiful!! :) And, Happy Birthday, Michael!

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  2. That brought tears to my eyes! Certainly the way that you and your sisters were raised within the Church but I was never validated in that manner - how beautiful! Happy Birthday to Michael!

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  3. I just had a chance to read this, and how beautiful! Brought tears to my eyes too! And let me just say, the hope for the future of our Church is pretty darn cute!

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