It was a few minutes before Mass was to start on Sunday morning. A woman and four young boys came in and sat in the pew in front of me. Two thoughts immediately struck me. The first was, “Wow. That woman must have her hands full!” The other was to note how well-dressed the boys were. They ranged in age from ten to two, which I know because I asked the mom after Mass. Each of the boys, including the youngest, was wearing a button-down, tuck-in shirt, although none of the shirts were actually tucked in. And each of the boys – again, even the youngest – had on a necktie. A clip-on, granted, but still. It occurred to me as they sat down and settled in that they were more dressed up than many of the adults I see in church every week.
Right before Mass started, the priest gave a special welcome – as he always does – to all visitors and newcomers, and invited everyone to stand and greet the people around them. Each of the boys turned around and gave me a big smile, a warm handshake, and an enthusiastic “Good morning!” It left me smiling well into the Mass.
It might sound like I was paying more attention to this family than to the Mass itself, but that was not the case. On the contrary, being in close proximity to them made the Mass feel even more sacred and meaningful. It felt as though we were all in a holy and peaceful place, gathered together in respect and adoration. Which, of course, we were.
Still, many things about the family kept catching my attention. Like the fact that the oldest son had a beautiful singing voice, and seemed to know by heart all the words to the hymns we were singing. And that, unlike coloring books and comic books that parents often bring to keep their kids occupied during Mass, this family had only books of Bible stories.
The mom was wearing a chapel veil, the kind I remember wearing when I was young a hundred years ago, when women were required to wear a head covering in church. I don’t recall exactly when that rule was changed, but I know that I now see only a few women wearing them regularly.
At one point, when the youngest boy started getting tired, Mom picked him up and held him with his head resting on her shoulder. Just then, a beam of light shone down on them through the skylight in the church, and it suddenly made me think of a statue of the Madonna and Child. I wish I could have taken a photo of them and given it to the mom after Mass.
I’m not sure why this family has stayed so much on my mind. Maybe it’s because I simply enjoyed seeing, up close and personal, a mother who is obviously teaching her four young sons the importance of family, faith, love, discipline, courtesy, and respect. And maybe it’s because, just a week after seeing Mother Teresa of Calcutta declared a saint, I think I saw another one in church last Sunday.
The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on September15, 2016.
©Betty Liedtke, 2016
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