An Unexpected Lesson From the Pope

This past Sunday my husband and I were able to experience a truly rare occurrence. No, we did not get to meet the Pope or see him in person, but we did get to do something that doesn't happen very often: we attended church alone, together.

Alone together might seem like an incorrect oxymoron, but let me tell you, it's not- it is a very real thing. When you have kids, it gets harder and harder to find time to spend alone together, but this Sunday we got an hour of just that. 

My oldest son missed Mass to enjoy some quality time with his grandparents and my younger two kiddos are now both old enough to attend children's church during Mass, so there we were. Alone Together, in a wonderful place, and it was really, really nice.

We held hands (not tissues full of boogers or a fists full of crayons). We listened to our Priest (not giggles from our kids or shooshes from each other to our kids). We looked at one another lovingly (not with glances of desperation and mutual embarrassment). 

We spent meaningful time alone together and since we were child-free, we could actually listen to the service.

Our Priest spent a significant amount of time discussing the messages of Pope Francis from his recent visit to the U.S. As I listened, I focused hard on what Father was saying. I listened to his interpretation of the messages Pope Francis has shared, and I agreed wholeheartedly. For me, I was touched the most by the suggestion that we be more loving, accepting, and kind human beings. This made complete sense to me and as I listened, I felt compelled to try to live my life with much more devotion to these ideals.

As I listened, I was inspired to make a change in my life.

And you know what? I was tested during church, that very day. I am saddened to say that at first, I didn't fare as well as I had hoped I would. 

About ten minutes after church started, a woman walked in late with her two rowdy boys, both of whom had to be under the age of 5. She did not have a spouse with her and I immediately felt empathy for her. 

But that didn't stop me from judging her.

I have three kids and I've never walked into church that late before.

Why are she and her boys so under-dressed? Are those PJs? Casual jeans and tennis shoes?

That boy has got to be at least 2 years old and he still has a pacifier.

Can't she try to get those boys to settle down a little more? Why doesn't she take them to children's church like we do, or even the cry room?

Once I got going, my judgment was like a slippery slope of unkindness, one that kept distracting me further and further from the important messages I was no longer listening to from the altar in the front.

Then the two boys crawled away from her, sprawled out and played in the aisle, loudly crashed cars into one another and banged their toys noisily on the tile floor. This continued for several minutes, almost like they were in their toy room at home and not in Mass in public. 

That's when I noticed their mom again. Her darting eyes apologetically glanced at all of us around her. As strands of hair escaped from her sloppy ponytail, she tried to get the attention of her boys but they looked back at her blankly. With blushed cheeks, she quietly pleaded with them to get back into the pew, but they absolutely ignored her. She seemed so defeated. Almost too tired to try and nearly to the point of uncaring.

She was having a really difficult moment, and all I could think to do was judge her.

A wave of embarrassment hit me.

I felt tremendous guilt, and then remembered the words of Pope Francis. Loving. Accepting. Kind. Like magic my judgments immediately left my mind and I started to notice other things about his poor, tired mother. The way she gently twisted her fingers into her boys' blond mops of hair when they finally came back and stood by her. The way she smiled with forced excitement and novelty at the younger boy when he showed her his toy car (for likely the millionth time I'm sure). The way she carried one boy on her hip and held the hand of the other as she stood, singing the words of songs during the service.

At that moment I understood. I remembered.

It is really, really hard being a parent. Really hard. It is very important we stop judging one other. Even more important that we start supporting one other. And nearly vital that we start loving, accepting and being more kind to one other.

I learned more in Mass on Sunday than what the Priest had planned for me. More than I have learned in a long time.

I don't think I would have learned as much that day if my own children had been with me. Spending time alone together with my husband was just what I needed for so many reasons.

I am really, truly going to try harder not to be so judgmental and to be more supportive of others.

...Even though that desperate mom did leave ten minutes early from service, too...   ;)

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