Heathens Heard on High

BonBon Break

I can not be the only parent of a child with ADHD that is dreading the upcoming holiday mass schedule. And even though my son is older now, 10 years old to be exact, he still has issues making it through the mass. The large number of people make it hot inside, the music over the sound system is blaring, there are lots of things going on and he is just overwhelmed. Add onto all of that the need to sit still and be quiet…and well mass can be challenging. 

Heathens Heard on High

Growing up our family went to mass every single Sunday. We never missed,  you had to be dying to get out of mass – and even then it was assumed you could still make it. We were what would be considered regulars.

During the Christmas holiday’s the church would swell from a few hundred to thousands. It set my mother free. She would huff and fluff about the heathens taking up prime seats in the church, after all we were there every Sunday. Our family would have to arrive at Christmas Eve mass an hour and 15 minutes early to ensure a good seat together. If we were late and had to sit in the overflow church – the school gym…hell would be a better place to be then having to listen to her go on and on about how we had to sit amongst the heathens.

Fast forward 20 years and now I have my own family and we are the heathens – those people my mother cursed so loudly (she did this in the actual church BTW). But there is a reason we have become the heathens, it was a gradual process.

I remember one Christmas Eve mass in the crying room of our church when the kids were small. We were packed in like sardines, the hubs was sweating through his dress shirt – giving me the look. Our son squirming, demanding to move, our daughter fine as long as I held her, the entire time. Then there was the Christmas Eve mass that our son was in preschool and a severely handicapped child was seated behind us. Her wheelchair was tilted back to assist with breathing; machines beeping throughout the mass. I leaned over repeatedly urging him to “Turn Around!” “Stop Staring!” “You are being Rude!” as he peered over the pew with only his big brown eyes showing and his little fingers grasping the edge of the back of the bench. The constant handing of crayons, breathe mints, and looks of annoyance did little to resolve the curiosity.

When he was in kindergarten, at a Catholic School, his teacher told me, “an hour of church with him is the longest hour of my life.” Cry me a river lady, at least you are getting paid to take him. That was when the school gifted him with being excused from the weekly mass because he couldn’t sit still. Even after I volunteered to go to mass with him they said, “No.” Digest that for a minute – a Catholic School actually told my child he didn’t have to attend mass. We transferred to another school shortly after that lovely conversation.

Even though he is older now, little has changed. He still can’t sit still, and is capable of sending Mother Theresa running for the hills. This is why we were and still are heathens.

This year at Christmas Eve mass we will again be searching for a spot for our family in the overcrowded church. I will feel the eyes on us, watching us struggle. Yes, we could arrive an hour and 15 minutes early to get a seat – but the chances of surviving 2 1/2  hours in a church with our son…well everyone around us will know what hell is. Instead, we will stand in the back, feeling like outsiders. We will hold our jackets and try to watch and listen, knowing that an implosion could happen at any moment.

I will make a million prayers in that one hour to just make it through it without any meltdowns. I will look at the other parents that are in similar situations and nod, relieved to not be alone in a scenario we are so often alone in.

So if you are a church regular, watching a child implode – try to be understanding and realize that there are reasons that these children are not normal church attenders. But God is in their heart, and I hope you can open your mind to accept that everyone comes, or doesn’t come, for their own reasons. The important thing is that they are there at that moment. And just think, next week they won’t be at mass and you can have a reprieve until the next high holiday.

Merry Christmas.