(posted a few days late - sorry! This was written on Tuesday, November 1)
Dear older gentleman at Mass today,
I don't think we've met before, but if we have, please accept my sincere apology. You see, I'm often alone at Mass with my three young, energetic boys, and to be quite honest, I'm usually quite flustered by the time we leave the church. I don't usually remember the faces - much less the names - of those who introduce themselves to me on holy days, like today.
I know it is hard to sit around my children during the most important time of our week. They fidget. They ask questions (loudly), and sometimes...they loudly announce their need to visit the bathroom.
I try hard to keep these interruptions to a minimum. We don't bring in toys (except for the 2 year old's illustrated Mass book). We don't bring in food or drinks. I try hard to focus their attention on proper behaviour during this holy time.
Some days are better than others, as I'm sure you can imagine.
You might be wondering just why I'm writing you this note. After all, you spent plenty of time with us earlier today, as we tried to celebrate All Saints Day together. I'm sure you're wondering just why I'm choosing to continue our interaction.
I'm choosing to write you this letter because of an incredible sense of gratitude I feel for you. You see, believe it or not, I didn't intend to rush into the sanctuary as the gathering hymn was drawing to a close. I'd actually left my house 15 minutes earlier than I needed to, so I could ensure a prime spot in the pews (next to the bathroom). You see, I've done this going-to-Mass-on-my-own thing with the kids many times before. There is only one of me.....and three of them. Basic math skills prove that I don't have enough arms to corral all them on my own.
But God had other plans for us this morning, as we tried to get to church on time for the holy day. He put a traffic jam of some sort - there didn't appear to be an accident - right smack dab in our path, causing us to rush in at the very last minute. That prime pew right next to the bathroom was already taken - by another mom, I noticed - and I was left with the only empty pew in sight: the one right behind you and some of our other elderly parishioners.
I sat down, terrified, and extremely anxious as to how this Mass might go. I was so worried that you and your companions would act just like other elderly Catholics that I've come into contact with. My children might be "shushed." I'd be treated to dirty glances and "tsk-tsk" noises if the 2 year old asked a question......or even worse......decided to fill his diaper during the homily.
I'm writing to thank you for proving me wrong. I'm writing to say "I am blessed to have been late for Mass" today. God put that traffic jam in my path to bless me with your smile as we sat down to listen to the readings. Your comment about my "well-behaved little gentlemen" caused my little rascals to sit up taller, to pay attention more closely, and to participate more fully in today's celebration.
What may have seemed inconsequential to you was monumental for my children. Your warm smile, your two-handed sign of peace to my kindergartener, and your clearly expressed approval at their (enthusiastic) singing made a huge difference in their participation at Mass today. You affirmed their presence....and they felt the love that was radiating from your pew, and showed it with their behaviour.
I thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for helping to make today's Mass to be a beautiful celebration of All Saints Day. I walked into church, apprehensive and worried about my children's behaviour....and walked out feeling drenched in God's grace.