I hate the Sunday mornings when I am in such a bad mood as we leave the house until it has me questioning why we are even going to church in the first place.
Our morning starts off good enough, but then Leo gets into the cereal, spreading it all over the kitchen, while another one won’t share the brush, and someone else looks like they wore their church clothes to bed and then slept in them for three days, despite me telling them the night before to let me know if they need anything ironed. And then there is the argument that nearly causes World War III because someone looks at someone else in a wrong way. Then I come unglued and I start to yell. Meanwhile, as we are finally ready to get out the door (later than I had hoped), someone has lost their shoes and is in tears.
When the shoes are finally found and we get into the car, there are cries about how a car seat is tight or someone doesn’t want to sit in the middle; someone is too close to someone else and another one is “too hot”. Again, I yell. And then I wonder if it’s worth going to Mass at all. Why go if my mood is one of anger, disgust, and disappointment?
This scenario was our morning a few Sundays ago as we got ready for church. I yelled at the kids after we got in the car and then we rode to the church in silence. For many, maybe that wouldn’t be so bad, but when you have a good 20-minute drive, or so, to get to church, that silence really allows you to stop and think.
By the time we arrived at church, I had composed myself. The kids seemed more composed, too. As we got out of the car and started walking toward the sanctuary, I noticed one of my girls, Caroline, had stains on her sweater. My anger flared up again.
“Why? Why do you have stains all over your sweater? Wait, don’t answer. I already know. You don’t take care of your clothes, so of course they will get stains on them.”
Caroline turned around and looked up at me. When she did I noticed a big stain on the front of her dress, too. “Are you kidding me? Look at your dress! What happened? Why is there a stain there too? Why would you wear it if it was dirty?” I went on and on.
She looked up at me with such sadness in her eyes. I knew I was breaking her down, but my anger got a hold of me and wouldn’t let go. I felt terrible for so many reasons.
Two Hearts Healed
As we entered the sanctuary, we quietly took our seats in the pew. It happened that Caroline would be seated next to me. I knelt to pray and felt her tiny body kneel down beside me. I bowed my head; tears threatened to escape my tightly clenched eyes. I prayed, “Lord, please forgive me. I am not worthy to mother these beautiful children. I don’t know why You trust me so much when I fail so often, but please help me to be a better mother to Your children. Grant me patience and please let Your love shine through me.”
I sat back in the pew and took Caroline’s hand. I looked down at her. She gazed at me with such sadness. I bent over and whispered that I was sorry. She softly started to cry. Oh, how my heart broke into a million pieces. I kissed her head and quietly told her that it was wrong of me to yell at her, that I was sorry, and that I love her very much. She simply nodded her head at me as tears slipped down her cheeks.
Mass began. I let go of Caroline’s hand so I could hold my hymnal. We sang and responded in the proper places. Soon we came to the Confiteor. We paused to think about our sins and I glanced down at my precious daughter. I fought back the tears that wanted to spill down my own cheeks. We began the prayer and I repeated the words I knew so well. It felt like a dagger through my heart as I struck my breast saying, “…through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.”
My most grievous fault was that I was responsible for this terrible pain in my heart. I was the one responsible for tearing down my daughter. I was responsible for constructing a barrier not only between Caroline and myself, but also between God and myself. I wanted to shout, “Forgive me!” Instead, I finished the prayer and hoped that God knew how contrite I truly was.
As we sat back down and prepared to hear God’s holy Word, Caroline slipped her hand in mine. I looked down at her and she smiled. Her face lit up with a glow that I can only describe as angelic. I felt forgiven; not only by her, but by God, as well. She spent the rest of the Mass snuggled close to me, holding my hand, and smiling from ear to ear. I felt God’s hand intertwined within our clasped hands.
The Power of the Mass
St. Padre Pio said that “Every Holy Mass, heard with devotion, produces in our souls marvelous effects, abundant spiritual and material graces which we ourselves, do not know.”
That day in Mass I witnessed the effects that the grace we received from attending Mass can have on us if we are willing to accept them. My heart was softened and my daughter’s heart was as well. Through Christ’s forgiveness and through the great sacrifice of the Mass I felt forgiven, renewed, and loved.
When we are at Mass we are surrounded by countless angels. We stand side by side with our fellow Christians to profess our faith in Jesus Christ. We eagerly receive His Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist. We come to be forgiven, fed, and renewed. We cherish the graces God pours out on us as we celebrate His Son’s sacrifice on the cross.
Pope Paul VI said that the Mass is the perfect prayer. To help us resist sin and grow closer to God and each other, it is important that we pray this prayer as often as possible. There will be times that we have stumbling blocks in our way to prevent us from going to Mass and there will be times when we get there and know that our sins stand in the way of our relationship with God and one another. But God desires us to be in His pews to give our worries and heartaches over to Him, to pray for forgiveness for our sins against Him and those we love, to show our honor and love for Him, and to thank Him for the gift of salvation.
The Mass has power that we simply can’t understand. The graces it bestows upon us can help us to get through the hardest times. We can’t allow our pride and our sins to stand in the way of receiving those graces. If we stand humbly before Him, our hearts opened to His love and forgiveness, He will bring us joy and peace through the sacrifice of the Holy Mass.