You don’t have too look very far on the Catholic internet to find tales of parents of small children being given the stink-eye at Mass, breast-feeding moms ordered to leave the church by officious ushers, and snide comments and idiotic questions being posed to parents of large families.
If there was a Catholic Reddit, it would be a very busy Sub-Reddit.
I don’t doubt a single one, but I have to tell you what happened this morning. It illustrates the truth that perception can be deceiving.
I was at Mass by myself. A bit into it, a woman slipped into the pew ahead of me with two little boys, ages maybe two and four. They were…little boys. I know about little boys. No problem.
As we knelt for the Eucharistic Prayer and slid down my (empty) pew a bit so I wasn’t right behind the little boys, but instead, on the other side of the mom. Why? Because she was tall, the two people sitting ahead of her were both tall, I’m short, and I prefer to see the altar, if possible, rather than the backs of peoples’ heads.
At the sign of peace, she turned to me, and after we exchanged the sign, she hesitated, looked at me ruefully and said, apologetically, “I’m sorry. I know they’re…wiggly.”
And it struck me…she thinks I moved because I was bothered by her sons. When it was nothing of the sort! I said, “Oh, heavens. They’re fine. I have five kids.”
And that was that. Except…do you see? As she initially saw it, I was bothered by her kids. Add to that the fact that I didn’t dawdle and left as soon as the priest was out the door, she could have easily have been composing a blog post in her head about the woman at Mass who moved to get away from her kids and couldn’t wait to get away from them at the end of Mass. Unwelcoming! When in fact, I just couldn’t see the altar, and right at the end of Mass, felt my phone vibrating and saw that it was a call from one of my two sons off on a rafting trip for the weekend. So yeah, I wanted to see what was up with that.
No, you can’t mistake a glare or unwelcoming words. But I guess the bigger point is to never be too quick to judge anyone, no matter what end of the dynamic you happen to live on at that moment….right?