Before I left for LA, I had a stern talking to with the DC weather and told it it better get warm and stop this winter nonsense by the time I came back! So, DC dwellers, YOU ARE WELCOME because I take full responsibility for this 90 degree weather we had last week and I'm not even sorry. I'm just not.
So Alleluia! It is the Easter Season and finally Spring! The Cherry Blossoms are finally in bloom because they just weren't happening before I left. Here's a sad, sad shot of the (lack of) cherry blossoms on Easter Sunday:
So I spent Easter in DC, then whisked away to LA for the Easter Octave and spent a lovely Divine Mercy Sunday at St. Monica's parish in Santa Monica, CA. I have been to Mass there before and really like the way they do liturgy there. The music was beautiful, the priests homily was concise and heartfelt, and the parishoners play an active role- all the things you hope for when attending Mass on Sunday.
But now I'm back in DC and back to work and in the midst of some stress again as I figure out my move to my new apartment in VA ( at least the weather has been beautiful!) I'm trying my best, though, to hold onto that Easter joy.
I went to Mass today at a parish close to where I live and have found myself at for the past couple of months now mostly because the pastor at my actual parish has changed and my spiritual director is in residence at this other parish. I know you're aren't supposed to follow around or float because of the priest (Mass times also have something to do with it). The parish I have been attending recently has a slightly later Mass, so that's probably the real reason I have been going there. They also have a nice Blessed Sacrament chapel that I like to pray in before going into Mass. I spent much of my Lent praying in that chapel.
So I went to Mass this morning at this *not my parish* parish that I am speaking of and scooted myself into the middle of one of the pews (because let's be honest, I always end up getting scooted to the middle when late arrivals squeeze in, so why not make my start there?) and OF COURSE a family with children squeeze in as the processional music begins. But no big deal, that's what happens. The three elementary aged girls sit down and all have iphones in hand. They are all playing games on said iphones and don't even look up as the priest processes in.
Now, I KNOW I am not a parent. I know getting children to keep still in Mass is difficult. But I also know, some how, some way, that my parents got my sister and I to do it. I may have squirmed and tried to go on a trip to the bathroom ever week to get out of that pew, but more Sundays than not I was sitting, listening to the readings, maybe daydreaming, but always standing and sitting and kneeling and singing.
These girls were doing none of that. I of course wanted to judge them and their mother. I was so appalled that they were not being told to put the phones away! They sat and played iphone games right through the Gloria, the Liturgy of the Word, I had to reach over them to hand their mother the offertory basket...it continued until their family left right after communion. It took all I had within me not to huff or puff or roll my eyes as they did so.
I was upset for many reasons, as you can imagine. 1.) I don't care where you are at, it's probably not healthy to play a video game for almost an hour straight, especially when you are in the presence of a real live community and have the opportunity for actual human interaction. 2.) these girls were old enough to be able to participate in the liturgy. 3.) I was just so sad that God was present in front of them- in the Word and then in the Eucharist and they were missing it! God's Word being spoken to them and they not able to hear it. God coming alive for them in the Sacrament and they not aware of it.
I also was upset at myself because in this situation I become the high and mighty Catholic, judging instead of welcoming. Wanting to condemn instead of setting an example or inviting them to participate.
So in this moment, I actually was having an opportunity to put into practice the "new evangelization" that we talk about and that I studied. Here are some young girls who are here at Mass... And I had to tell myself that, too. They are at least here. But that made me all the more upset that they were here and missing everything going on around them. So I tried to set an example. I tried to really listen, to really pray. To not be hateful or judgmental or disapproving at the sign of peace, but rather joyful. And to keep myself in check for my motives throughout the Mass for what I was doing in each moment that I was there.
It was difficult not to be hopeless in those moments. Here is the youth and future of the Church- playing video games on iphones and blatantly ignoring God present in front of them. But that is only one face of the Church, and they are not hopeless. I see attentive, bright faces each day in my classes and many of my students give me hope for the Church.
And another face of the Church are those of us who want to judge or condemn others for their actions or inactions. That is another reality that makes me hopeless. Our motivation to evangelize cannot be to "save" others or to show others that we are "right" and they are "wrong." I really had to call on to myself what my motivation as a catechist is in that moment. What did I want those girls to see? I wanted them to see a young woman who likes participating in the liturgy, who likes to pray and NEEDS to pray. I wanted them to see joy, not disgust.
We all fall on one side of the spectrum at one time or another. We can be the ones on our phones, not listening or aware of God's presence right in front of us. We can also be the ones letting our judgment and disgust get in the away of effective, helpful, real ministry.
The Fruit of the Mystery of the Ascension is HOPE. I want to enter into these days of Easter before the Ascension and Pentecost with lots of it. We can help each other!