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I’ve been going to church since…forever. Or for as long as I can recall, anyway. I remember being so small, the only way I could see over the pew in front of me was to stand on the kneeler, something my mother did not like me to do. One look from her, and all thoughts of bad behavior ceased.

These days, things are different. Parents bring bags of Cheerios to placate and bribe their children into ceasing their screaming for ten seconds. Toddlers wail through the readings. (“It sounded like sinners shrieking from the depths of Hell,” my husband observed after one particularly noisy Mass.) Kids run in the aisles, dart in and out of church, play loudly with toys. One set of parents remains seated, even when the rest of the congregation stands or kneels: They can’t move, or their three-year-old will howl with rage because she has to move out of their laps, where she is being petted and coddled. There is a “Cry Room” in the back of the church designed for these children, but most parents don’t use it. New blinds were recently bought for the Cry Room; in a week they were broken. No parent came forward to claim responsibility for their child’s misdeed.

All of which adds up to a compelling case for a blog post about irresponsible parenting and the decline of “kids these days.” But it isn’t, honestly. This post is about me. I can’t see past these interruptions. They bother me, distract me from the word of God. And guess what? That’s my fault.

Why am I using the most important spiritual time I have each week focusing on the wrong thing? Why can’t I stop condemning? And, most essentially, who is really in the wrong — little kids who can’t help themselves or the grown-up woman who spends her time judging them and their parents? Yup, it’s true. I’m the sinner. My focus is off. Moreover, it’s not my job to judge anyone; that’s up to God. And God understands kids. I’m the one who doesn’t.

Lord, remind me to bless parents who manage, by hook or by crook, to get their little ones to Church each week. Bless, too, the children, who will learn what’s really going on, eventually. At least they have that chance. And when things get noisy or distracting, Lord, center my attention on You. Because I’m supposed to know better. It’s time to demonstrate it.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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