Wombat and I went to Mass yesterday, for the first time in two months - with Wombat teething and the horrible weather, combined with Yeti's dislike of me driving in heavy rain, I just haven't had the chance for ages.
I have a choice of three churches I can attend:
- the closest at 8am is a beautiful old building, but very small and claustrophobic. There is no room for Wombat to sit at my feet, so he has to stay quiet and held on my lap for the whole hour. This means we hardly ever get to stay for the whole Mass, as he gets increasingly wriggly until finally I have to take him outside. It is also very cold at that time of the morning, and I have just gotten Wombat used to sleeping in until 8, so getting him up and ready at 7 so he can sit still amongst a group of strangers is a bit much to ask.
- the second option at 10am is a big church, with a congregation of over 500. There is wonderful singing, but the crowd is really too much for Wombat. He gets scared and refuses to go in the door. If I get him inside he cries. Even if I get him settled, I am not happy, as there are a lot of children there who don't behave in a respectful manner - running up and down the aisles, talking loudly, throwing things, eating constantly. I find it really gives Wombat the wrong message.
- the third option, also at 10am but in the opposite direction, is a very plain, no-frills kind of place - appropriately called St Joseph the Worker. There is no beautiful stained glass. The few statues are simple, with chipped paint. But the congregation is only around 80 people - which while still scary, is survivable for Wombat, and there is a crying room - a small room at the side, separated from the main church by a glass wall, where parents can take children if they get restless so they can still participate in the Mass without disturbing everyone else.
This last church is obviously the best option for Wombat, so that is what I chose - but with a heavy heart, because there would be no singing. For me, music is an integral part of worship. I love singing the parts of the Mass, and the hymns, and Wombat loves it too. As I drove along, I kept praying, "Please, Lord, let there be singing. I know it is a lot to ask, and I really don't expect it, but it would be so nice."
We got to the church, and Wombat - still traumatised from his experience at the big church at Easter when there was over 1000 people trying to cram in for Mass - started pulling back before we even got in the door. I carried him in, but as the seats filled, he started to get upset, so we moved to the crying room, which we had all to ourselves. I noticed with curiosity that there seemed to be more people there than normal, and many of them were of Asian appearance - very unusual in that little rural town, where most of the congregation are retired coal miners & their families.
What do you know! God had arranged for a special visit from a Phillipino choir - just for me! I know it was just for me, because the sound system in the crying room hadn't been turned on. I really had to strain to hear the priest, but I could hear the music and singing clearly. When we went out to communion, I discovered why. The volume in the church was painfully loud. No-one else could have been enjoying the music as much as I was because in the crying room it was muffled to exactly the right level!
It took Wombat about half the Mass to settle down and it was VERY cold in there - he was rugged up, but next week I will make sure he wears his scarf and llama jacket as well. Eventually he relaxed and had a lovely time reading his books and looking at all the people through 'his' window. It helped that we had the room to ourselves. I will be trying to go back there each Sunday so Wombat gets some consistency and gets used to the smaller crowd. I won't expect music next time, but it was very nice to have my prayers answered.
No... I don't think God transported 20 people from the Phillipines that morning just for me - but He is omniscient and omnipotent, so He would have known in advance what I was going to ask and arranged it months ago... I start getting all tangled up in thinking about answered prayers and free will - but perhaps it's like a tree structure - I am standing at point A with, in this case, 4 possibilities stretching out in front of me - three different churches or stay at home - whichever one I choose will have certain consequences and questions associated with it - I guess God just plans for them all!
As Sister Mary Martha would say:
we don't know how it works. We Catholics have a saying for these kind of questions: "It's a Sacred Mystery." "Sacred Mystery" is "Catholic" for "let it go."
So I'll just say - THANKS, LORD!