Sunday, February 3, 2008

"Sometimes, Mass is boring, Aunt Vicki."

My niece, Molly, (almost 7) offered this observation in the middle of the Sunday Eucharist at her home parish. I just smiled at her and whispered back, "Yes, sometimes it is boring. But when you're in Second Grade, you'll learn all about it." Fortunately, my sister had packed a "Blue's Clues" activity book into her purse (along with the $5 bill for the collection.) Molly turned around and knelt on the carpet and worked her puzzle book on the seat of the chair. And I started to think...

Of course, the child is bored. We're wedged into the very back row in a SRO liturgy (standing room only) in a parish that is bursting at the seams. She can't see the big book, the candles, the table, the beautiful cup and plate. She can't even see the priest. His voice is just floating out of nowhere and, for the most part, right over her head. I consoled myself with the thought that Molly will be preparing for her First Holy Communion next year and things will begin to make sense. Will they really?

This action we call, EUCHARIST, is what makes us who we are as church and at the same time confounds us. We wait for children to reach some magical "age of reason" before they can receive Christ present in bread and wine. I wonder sometimes just how much the Apostles really understood that last night in the upper room. I think if we REALLY understood the mystery - could perceive Christ REALLY present in the assembly, the WORD, the simple signs of bread and wine, the priest - we'd want to stay around that table forever.

This morning we celebrated the Eucharist together. I found myself struggling to stay connected to the movement of this great prayer. All the responses - the places where I get to add my voice to the praise of God - were in Latin. I could feel my soul glazing over and my thoughts wandering from the chant notation before me. And then, the words of my niece came back to me. "Sometimes, Mass is boring, Aunt Vicki." That memory made me smile and attune myself to the ritual happening before me. I stopped trying to sing and allowed my eyes to pray - to settle on the beautiful cup and plate, the candles, the big book. And something of the Mystery touched my heart.