It’s a beautiful morning here at St. Bambino parish, folks.
Our celebrant, Fr. Shep, looks to be fresh and well-rested, the altar servers are limber and alert, we’re ready to begin another 9.30am Mass in a healthy and thriving parish that is absolute chock-a-block full of babies.
And they’re off! With an opening chord from the organ, Fr. Shep is proceeding down the aisle at a good pace and now he’s made it halfway, but the eighteen-month-old twins have already pulled ahead of him. It’s hard to see how anyone with such short legs could move this quickly, but they’re speeding toward the altar like they’ve been eating rocket fuel. Their mother must be so proud!
And yes, here’s she is now, and she’s looking a little red in the face, really pushing herself in her long skirt and mantilla, but not moving nearly as quickly as those little guys. She’s moved up from behind and has managed to edge around the procession and scoop up one of the boys and is lunging for the other but no! He’s made it to the Easter candle and is shaking it with both hands while screeching maniacally.
What an amazing spectacle. That thing is really wobbling, folks, it really looks like it’s going to fall over, but just in the nick of time, Fr. Shep has made it to the altar and he’s grabbed twin #2, pivoted halfway around, and returned him to his mother just as the entrance hymn came to an end. That was a really smooth maneuver; I don’t think the old ladies in the front row even noticed what was happening. Maybe no letters to the bishop this Sunday, eh, Father S.? Let’s hope not.
And now we’re moving through the Gloria. Always a popular time for babies of all vocal abilities to show their stuff, and today is no exception. Some of them are shouting, some of them are hooting, and that one kid with the one big eyebrow has jammed her head under the pew and discovered a really resonant spot for guttural growling. Man, that kid sounds like a wild animal! I wonder if Fr. Shep can hear — oh yes, he seems to be snickering into his missalette.
Now everyone is seated and the lector begins the first reading. Good thing it’s the lector with the booming voice, because Baby Unibrow has gotten her head unstuck and is now singing– yes, she appears to be singing ‘Poker Face’ and we’re getting a classic doppler effect as her dad hurriedly carries her down the aisle. It’s taking a while because these parents have made the classic rookie mistake of sitting way up front so the kids can watch what’s going on, which just means it takes longer to drag ’em out when they go out of their gourds, folks. When will they ever learn.
And I see the child has grabbed a sheaf of holy cards from the end of the pew before she was evicted, and she’s strewing them over her dad’s shoulder like confetti as she’s dragged away. Poker Face is right! That man should win an award.
Folks, the liturgy of the word has just about come to an end and we’re headed into the second half. The narthex and vestibule are absolutely bristling with extremely short Catholics and their slump-shouldered moms and dads, and I think I can make out –yes, that crunching sound definitely signifies that the twins have found the collection baskets, and have sat in them. What a spectacle. At least it’s not the holy water tank again.
Well, the sun is streaming through the stained glass windows here at St. Bambino, folks. It’s just streaming in, and it’s lighting up the tired faces of so many parents who are probably wondering why they even bother to show up, when they spend their whole Mass chasing their kids up and down the aisle, wrestling them out from under the pew, taking them to the bathroom and back, and pulling half-chewed collection envelopes out of the mouths. It’s a spectacle, it’s a sporting event, it’s a three-ring circus. It feels more like an ordeal than a time of worship and prayer, that’s what they say.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve been doing this for forty seven years, and I’ll tell you one thing. Every single time a priest says Mass, I hear him say “This is my body, which will be given up for you,” and I know it’s Jesus talking, folks. But it’s all those parents, too. All those moms and dads — yes, especially the moms, but also the good dads — who gave up sleep and gave up sitting down and gave up peace and quiet, gave up doing what they liked and gave up looking how they liked, all for a stubby, wild little child who runs them ragged, and won’t even let them kneel and pray because they have to go potty, again, even though they just went potty.
It’s a beautiful sight, folks. It’s a beautiful sight and a beautiful noise, and every single time a baby comes to Mass, it’s a beautiful thing, a good thing, the best thing a parent can do for the Church. The Church needs them and they need the Church. Keep coming, folks. Keep coming.
Just . . . look out for the little guy, there, I think he found the matches.
Image: Christ Blessing the Children – by Lucas Cranach the Younger and Workshop Wikimedia (Creative Commons)