While this blog might be titled Confessions of a Catholic Dad, there hasn’t been much confessing on my part. Ranting, maybe. Bloviating, most certainly. But confessing? Let’s give that a try.
Every Sunday (or Saturday night if the social calendar of our 12-year-old allows it), we generally follow the same routine for Mass. Despite the fact that I’m always the last one out of bed, I’m always the first one ready. This gives me plenty of time to poke and prod my kids and my beautiful, devout, habitually late wife.
The first step to getting my family out the door is nixing my boys’ clothing choices. They have attended Mass every single week for their 9- and nearly 6-year-old little lives, but does that stop them from trying to convince me that their “nice” sweatpants are acceptable? No, it does not.
Once the boys are dressed (and my anger has subsided over having to go on the weekly scavenger hunt for their shoes), I can focus on getting my wife out the door. She gets a two-minute warning, shouted up the stairs. And she must have an incredible internal clock, because she always manages to time her exit perfectly, looking great, just before I put the van in reverse.
But the problem, and the need to confess, arises once we’ve settled into our pew (15 minutes before the start of Mass, thank you very much; maybe that’s where the term “grace period” comes from). While my boys have always had a difficult time focusing during Mass, it has gotten worse over the past two months. And it has spread not only to their normally very attentive sister, but also to the pew behind us and the one behind that.
It started out as a little problem, but at 13 pounds now, he has gotten bigger. And cuter. And more distracting.
My older three cannot keep their eyes (or their grubby little hands) off of their little brother, Dominic. And it doesn’t matter if Father is reading the Gospel or giving his homily or the collection baskets are being passed or we’re kneeling during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, their gaze is squarely fixed on Dominic. And during the Sign of Peace? Forget about it. They lose their minds, stampeding over anybody in their way to shake his tiny little hand.
Throughout Mass, they’re constantly asking if they can hold him. I always tell them no — and here’s where I confess — not because I’m concerned they won’t get what they need to out of Mass, but because I’m just as obsessed with the baby as they are. Is there any chance I allow them to take my adorable child from me? Nope. I’m a baby hoarder. So, lately, I get as little out of Mass as they do.
To keep the confession going, I’ve always been easily distracted at Mass. Holding Dominic is just the latest in a long line of distractions. I’ll list a very small sample, in no particular order, from last week alone:
- The lady in front of us who bathes in perfume before coming to church
- People-watching while waiting for our turn to receive Communion
- (Side note: When did leggings become pants, and how is that acceptable church attire?)
- Look, another baby! I’ll bet I can get him to smile!
- A comma isn’t the same as a period, lector; let’s pick up the pace
- Wait, is it pronounced gree-vous or gree-vee-ous?
- Seriously? The Roman Canon? Sorry, knees.
The holy sacrifice that takes place during the Mass is supposed to be the center of our faith, and I can’t even make it the center of my attention for an hour once a week.
And I’m sure I’m not alone, so I’m asking for advice. How do you tune out your distractions during Mass? How do you shut off the portion of your brain that wants to make the baby in front of you laugh, or the baby in your arms smile? How do you focus on both getting your kids to pay attention and doing so yourself?
I’m hoping to change. For an hour each week, I’m hoping to focus less on my son and more on God’s. But, I confess, it’s not going to be easy.
Scott Warden is the associate editor of OSV Newsweekly. Follow him on Twitter @Scott_OSV.
For more of Scott's Confessions of a Catholic Dad, click here.