Heathens Heard on High

Growing up our family went to mass every single Sunday. We never missed, you had to be dying to get out of mass – and even then it was assumed you could still make it. We were what would be considered regulars.

During the Christmas holiday’s the church would swell from a few hundred to thousands. It set my mother free. She would huff and fluff about the heathens taking up prime seats in the church, after all we were there every Sunday. Our family would have to arrive at Christmas Eve mass an hour and 15 minutes early to ensure a good seat together. If we were late and had to sit in the overflow church – the school gym…hell would be a better place to be then having to listen to her go on and on about how we had to sit amongst the heathens.

Fast forward 20 years and now I have my own family and we are the heathens – those people my mother cursed. But there is a reason we have become the heathens, and it was a gradual process.

I remember one Christmas Eve mass in the crying room of our church when the kids were small. We were packed in like sardines, the hubs was sweating through his dress shirt – giving me the look. Our son squirming, demanding to move, our daughter fine as long as I held her, the entire time. Then there was the Christmas Eve mass that our son was in preschool and a severely handicapped child was seated behind us. Her wheelchair was tilted back to assist with breathing; machines beeping throughout the mass. I leaned over repeatedly urging him to “Turn Around!” “Stop Staring!” “You are being Rude!” as he peered over the pew with only his big brown eyes showing and his little fingers grasping the edge of the back of the bench. The constant handing of crayons, breathe mints, and looks of annoyance did little to resolve the curiosity.

When he was in kindergarten, at a Catholic School, his teacher told me, “an hour of church with him is the longest hour of my life.” Cry me a river lady, at least you are getting paid to take him. That was when the school gifted him with being excused from the weekly mass because he couldn’t sit still. Even after I volunteered to go to mass with him they said No. Digest that for a minute – a Catholic School actually told my kid he didn’t have to attend mass. We left that school shortly after that lovely conversation.

Even though he is older now, little has changed. He still can’t sit still, and is capable of sending Mother Theresa running for the hills. This is why we were and still are heathens.

This year at Christmas Eve mass we will again be searching for a spot for our family in the overcrowded church. I will feel the eyes on us, watching us struggle. Yes, we could arrive an hour and 15 minutes early to get a seat – but the chances of surviving 2 1/2  hours in a church with our son…well everyone around us will know what hell is. Instead we will stand in the back, feeling like outsiders. We will hold our jackets and try to watch and listen, knowing that an implosion could happen at any moment.

I will make a million prayers in that one hour to just make it through it without any meltdowns. I will look at the other parents that are in similar situations and nod, relieved to not be alone in a scenario we are so often alone in. 

So if you are a church regular, watching a child implode – try to be understanding and realize that there are reasons that these children are not normal church attenders. But God is in their heart, and I hope you can open your mind to accept that everyone comes, or doesn’t come, for their own reasons. The important thing is that they are there at that moment. And just think, next week they won’t be at mass and you can have a reprieve until the next high holiday.

Merry Christmas.

HeathensHeardonHigh Taking a Spirited Child to Mass

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  1. Church has got to be the most boring thing in the world for little kids… especially if it is at a large church where it just feels like you’re sitting around doing nothing for an extended amount of time. I’ve seem some churches try to do family-friendly services on Christmas where they’d have more interactive things for the kids. But otherwise, BOOOORING!

    • theshitastrophy.com says:

      I remember sitting in mass as a kid counting the lights or the windows, watching people, basically anything to keep busy bc it was very very boring – it hasn’t gotten any better in 30 years.

  2. Shay says:

    I love this post for so many reason. I have been there! Once I had a man turn around and say something nasty to us–in the middle of a Holy Day of Obligation service at 6 PM that I insisted we make it to. I mean, seriously, how does that help anyone? Luckily that was the only bad experience we’ve had. All of our priests and the rest of the congregation are really sweet when it comes to fussing toddlers. And I happen to love it when other peoples’ kids are fussing. Sometimes I even make faces at them to get them going again–because when they’re fussing, it takes the attention off of my own little guys doing the same thing. (Just kidding about the making faces part–but I do love a fussing child that’s not my own in church! Haha)

    • theshitastrophy.com says:

      I can only hope the look of complete hatred to the man that turned around and said that to you resulted in complete vaporization on the spot.

  3. God bless my wife, she converted to Catholicism when we were getting married because she wasn’t really attached to any religion before then and our kids were going to have to start in a Catholic school because the public school system was failing and she wanted to know what was going on or some shit. Anyway, she has been trying to get us to go to church for years, but it really is sooooooooo boring! I can’t do it. Besides, I’m hungover many Sunday mornings so there’s that too. I remember cry rooms! Do they still have them? Our church doesn’t so there’s no place to take little asshole kids who won’t shut up. Anyway, Merry Christmas!

    • theshitastrophy.com says:

      Merry Christmas!! Yes, still have the cry rooms…still just as painful as you remember it. Your wife sounds like a saint.

  4. Michelle says:

    Funny I too can relate. One fine example just resently. Older lady refusing to budge at the end of pew to let us & our 4 kiddos in the open spots next to her. My husband politely asked if she could move down so we could be seated for Mass old lady’s response…”I WON’T!!!” So here we are squeezing past her with a sleeping infant in car seat, 3 toddlers, me & hubby…what a scene. Merry Christmas!