Family Ties

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 2, 1999

MARY ANN FITZMORRIS / L’Observateur / October 2, 1999

Church on Sunday is a noble, timeless tradition. It is the time we have tocommune with the Father, a time for quiet reflection, a time of peaceful introspection. This weekly chance to mull over our problems often yields asolution to things which have perplexed us.

I learned this lesson early. My mother and I were sitting in church oneSunday when I was a senior in high school. I was impressed by thesolemnity of her countenance as the priest eloquently addressed his flock.

As the congregation rose immediately after the sermon, my mother broke her steadfast gaze and leaned over to me, whispering in my ear her divine revelation. “I just figured out what you can wear to the senior prom.”Immediately I realized that I might be spending too much time in confession. If my mother can spend her time in church thinking about thekind of dress I should wear to the prom, surely I could spend it thinking about more pressing issues, like who in the world I could find to take me.

Perhaps my husband, who grew up with virtually the same religious training at the same time, might have been in some church somewhere staring faithfully while his parish priest poured out his heart, thinking, “Gee, I wonder if any girl will ask me to her prom. . . naaaah.”I know my husband has had training in these Sunday practices, because not long ago in church, after a lector finished a reading, he broke into a big smile and excitedly said in my ear, ” I’ve got it! I know where we can fit the stairway!” referring to a vexing house renovation problem.

We can only indulge in such ruminations recently, since our children have gone through the various phases of being children in church. Just last weekI watched a child literally run, shrieking all the way down the aisle with older sister and mom in hot pursuit. We didn’t even attend church in thosedays.

Then there was the period where we did make it to the services, but my husband was too embarrassed to sit with me. I brought so muchentertainment that the only thing missing was the Little Tykes Cozy Coupe. We dropped out again.I was reminded of that phase not long ago when I observed two boys at an outdoor Mass digging roads in the sand with very large Tonka toys they had brought. It was not a good memory.A few years later, we tried church again. The children had entered theChurch Stupor stage. It’s best described as a mysterious fever whichengulfs the child immediately upon landing in the pew. They begin to slumpand sleep and hang on you as dead weight. This irritated me to the pointthat once I moved quickly away from my slumping daughter and she fell to the floor. That crash didn’t alleviate my irritation even slightly.On one occasion I sat next to a man who was inordinately curious about the condition, and I defensively whispered that the children suffered from narcolepsy. He gave me a quizzical expression and the next time I lookedat him I noticed he had moved to the other side of the pew. I guess hethought it was contagious.

There is good news about this malady. The minute the congregation breaksinto the closing hymn, the children snap right out of the slumping fever and resume normal activity. Once outside they begin to run with theirfriends and giggle, showing no signs of the mysterious trance-like fever until they hit the pew the following Sunday.

My children are older now, and they are beginning to resemble the rest of the attending group. My daughter proved this just last week. On the way tochurch she had been studying some coupons for Astroworld that my son had gotten from the store. They offer substantial discounts.All during Mass she had been quietly fixed on the priest, who gave his usual clever, insightful sermon. As soon as he finished she pulled me toher and whispered, “Mommy, I just figured out why Astroworld offers those good coupons!” I think she’s got it.

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