Why do these things happen at Mass? And only to me?
It’s past 105 degrees outside; the Church AC is limping along. My husband is crippled by backache so my clammy arms and lap will have to serve as jail to a fidgety toddler for the next hour. It’s going to be a long hour.
I feel a finger poking at my behind. I pivot to my left side.
“Mama, you’ve got a hole in your skirt,” says my 4 year old. “You need to sew it.”
Wha--? I fumble behind, feel my skirt with the free hand and sure enough, a hole fit for a gofer is there.
Don’t panic, don’t panic, I tell myself. You picked out tan-colored panties today, an excellent choice, because there’s no glare of color underneath the hole. But wait. Tan looks suspiciously like skin tone, which looks like… bottom skin. Yikes! Panic button! I tug on my shirt to cover the hole, but it’s too far down. I hitch the skirt up so that it’s now crossed over from below to above the knee. The shirt barely covers the tear. Stay, clothes, please stay.
“I believe in God…” Maybe if I squeeze my eyes shut everyone else will, too.
The toddler writhes. A hand lifts up my shirt from my right side. I hear my 6 year old in a stage whisper, “Oh I see it! Mama, the hole is HUGE!”
If my backside could blush, it would be a flaming shade of tamale sauce. I swat her hand away and stretch my shirt down. “Shhh.”
My head rotates around the Church to see who saw or heard that. Thankfully, people haven’t learned the new Creed yet and are engrossed in their cheat sheets. But I do notice: two rows up front, there is a woman flashing a top with cut-out holes on her shoulders, each the size of a saucer plate. And further up is a teenager's thigh peeking out of her torn and ripped jeans. Suddenly, my gofer hole is feeling better. At least I’ve got cotton between me and the world. I’m not really mooning the parishioners.
Then… I smell something funky coming from the squirmy diaper in my arms. The usher approaches our pew, which means it’s time for Communion for the last bunch. Uh-oh. Maybe if I ignore the dirty diaper, no one will know. In fact, it’s not even there. It’s just my paranoid imagination, I’m sure.
The busybody to my left sniffs around, points her nose to source of the foul smell and flaps her hands over her face. The busybody to the right does the same thing and booms out her stage whisper, “MAMA, SHE’S GOT POOP. YOU NEED TO GO CHANGE HER!”
The usher is waiting. (Is that a smirk on his face?) It’s the moment of choice: Do I go forward or tiptoe back to the bathroom to change her? I decide that: “No height, no depth, no creature that thrives shall come between me and the love of Christ.” I leap up and bump into the shin of Busybody#1, who screams bloody murder.
I sweep out of our row like a cheetah. I do not know that kid. I don’t know whose kid this is in my arms, either.
“Daddy,” Drama Queen cries, “Mama KICKED me on the knee!”
My head is bowed as low as it can get. I consider turning the mantilla veil around so that it’s covering my face instead of my hair. But how would I receive Jesus on my tongue and right now, Jesus, I really, really need You!
At last, I welcome Jesus and beg for strength (for me and the skirt threads). He gives me peace.
I meditate, “There is a time to tear, a time to sew… a time for everything.” But what if everything falls apart at the seams all at the same time?
Fortunately, Someone I trust can keep it all together:
Blessed Pope John Paul counseled us to invoke "Jesus, I trust in You" often:
“It is a simple but profound act of trust and abandonment to the love of God. It is a fundamental point of strength for every man, as it is capable of transforming life. In the inevitable trials and difficulties of life, in moments of joy and enthusiasm, entrusting oneself to the Lord infuses the soul with peace, induces us to recognize the primacy of the divine initiative and opens the spirit to humility and trust.”
(Please say you’ve got a horror story of your own.)