Monday, February 18, 2008

My Lenten Journey with a Toddler

I love Lent. I really do. I love the quiet, reverent atmosphere of mass. I love the season's encouragement to repent and begin anew. I love the somberness yet fulfilling nature of Holy Week.

Everyone approaches Lent in their own way. In years past I would offer up an extra day of daily mass into my schedule. This usually was pretty easy since there was a church two blocks down from my office. Last year I had a newborn, which provided a bit more difficulty in having an open and flexible schedule, but I still managed to bring him with me to Adoration, usually while he was fast asleep in his car seat carrier.

But nothing in years past has been quite as challenging as having both a worshipful Lent season and a one-year-old. On Friday Brian and I had planned to meet at Stations of the Cross and then stay for the soup supper. Brian called me just before I left to let me know he was still at the office and that he didn't think he would make it on time. So I had to fly solo.

As I followed the procession around the perimeter of our church to each Station I quickly realized that I wouldn't be getting a lot out of this. Well, at least not in the traditional sense that I'm used to. William by no means was being naughty. He was just being one. He wanted to walk -- wait, scratch that -- he wanted to run to each Station. He wanted to talk and sometimes yell. He wanted to smile and giggle at the lady next to me. He wanted to play with the two little boys in front of me.

When it was over and I was struggling to get both our coats on and get out of church as fast as I could I thought to myself, with just the teensiest bit of anger at Brian for not being there, "Well that was a waste!"

But once I was in the car, where William was strapped into his car seat being just as quiet as could be (go figure), I thought, well at least I made the effort. And I think during Lent, especially with a toddler, that's all God really asks of us. It's so hard to get the peace and tranquility I love when I walk into church lately, but right now, at this stage in my life as a young mother, that's my cross to bear. Even though I was thinking my effort was a waste it would be hard to imagine God looking down on me shouting, "Get out! William is too wild and you can't pay attention anyway!"

So how do I teach my children the awe of mass and the reverence of the Lenten season while still allowing myself to grow as a Catholic? The answer for our family, while our child is still too young to comprehend, is to make the effort. Even when I know there is a great chance he will be disruptive and possibly even tired or hungry we still need to get up every Sunday and go to mass. I still need to try my best to get to Stations of the Cross, Adoration, Penance or whatever it might be because that's what our family is all about. And though right now it might seem like we're just going through the motions I still have the hope that one day all this effort will instill in our children what it means to be Catholic. And hopefully they too will come to love this Lenten season.

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