To quote Betty Duffy, "I had a booger of a sin to confess.” I decided last night I couldn't put it off any longer so I scoured the internet looking for a local church that holds confession during the week (there is only one and it it's 30 minutes away) and I made plans to go. I knew I would have to bring all 5 kids with me because John would be at work and I was dreading it. Had it not been for the blackened condition of my soul, I would have skipped the trip altogether.
But I knew I couldn't and as such, I decided I would bite the bullet and take all of them to Mass since we were going to be there anyway. (That's a good and spiritually astute attitude, isn't it?)
I had boldly dragged accompanied my children to daily Mass the previous week and was very grateful for the kind lady who held the baby so I could collect the toddler, actively crawling up the aisle on all fours with his tongue waging like a dog. I declared myself eternally indebted to her when she continued to rock for my youngest child so I could 'manage' my four other hoodlums precious angels who were busy tossing books, standing and walking fully erect across the pew to get to a desired spot, wrestling, and having full conversations in regular speaking voices.
After the “short” 30 minutes, I confess to having questioned Jesus’ invitation to ‘Let the children come to me.”
Since, however, I’m a glutton for punishment I needed to attend Confession, I decided to recreate the fun again this week. Sadly, my darling progeny’s behavior wasn’t much better save for the fact the three older kids managed to irritate a nun. At the end of mass, she hobbled over and chastised all of them for messing with the Sisters' things.
By the time we collected bags and books and dropped possessions and found the Confessional, the wait had morphed into one you might find at a Bon Jovi concert.
I considered leaving.
They're never gonna be able to sit this long, I thought.
But I filed them into a pew anyway and I took my place behind a group of older women.
The lady positioned in front of me graciously turned and said, "They are just beautiful! Oh how wonderful!"
She noticed the turbo tot--it was hard not to as he was shouting repeatedly "Mine! No! Mine! Mine! MINE!!!!"- and she kindly shushed him.
"I hope you don't mind," she said, smiling at me, "they listen better to strangers. Isn't that funny?"
She patted my shoulder sweetly.
I smiled gratefully and said, "No, I don't mind. Thank you very much."
It must have been pretty obvious I was drowning and in great need of some spiritual CPR because she left the line and asked Patrick, Meaghan, Mary Bernadette, and Christopher to follow her. She gave them a tour of the beautiful church and of the elaborate statues in the narthex.
All the ladies waiting with me in line watched her as she bent down, spoke quietly to my children, and helped them light candles and say a prayer in front of Mother Mary.
"Look at her! She's the Pied Piper! You would think your children know her!" one of the parishioners exclaimed in hushed tones.
The ladies and I all giggled quietly and shook our heads in agreement.
"She's a grandma," another whispered. "She's used to this."
Then, one of the people in the front of the line invited me to take her spot.
When I shook my head to say 'No', she insisted, "Please, that way you don't have to wait so long. It will be easier for you."
I thanked her profusely and accepted the help.
I used the extra 5 minutes to prepare in peace and quiet. When I came out--tears dripping down my face-the lady that let me cut in front of her hugged me and told me the kids were in the basement gift shop.
I went looking for the female Pied Piper and her four new friends and when I found them, my childrens' chubby hands were filled with new packs of gum and candy. She also had slipped Patrick a $5 bill. Tell your mom to buy you a drink or something she instructed him.
I hugged her and thanked her for her kindness.
We exchanged names and she told me how much she enjoyed the kids and then we waved good-bye.
I was humbled by her generosity, of the generosity of all those women who were delighted by my family and so very sweet to all of us.
As I drove home, it hit me that for two weeks in a row, complete strangers have come to my aid when I was in need of help at Church. Last week, I was just grateful for the hand but when it happened again this week--so beautifully and so dramatically at that--I realized God, in His goodness, was providing for me.
But I first needed to accept the invitation to be uncomfortable.
Going to daily Mass or Confession with all of my kids is hard. Plan and simple. It's a lot of work to feed, dress, brush hair and teeth and find shoes for the lot of them and by the time I get out the door, I feel like I've run a marathon. Plus, the poor (even if it is age-appropriate) behavior of my brood can be both humbling and embarrassing.
So I talk myself out of going to avoid the extra work and the inevitable drama.
But today I realized I thwart grace when I refuse what my soul most needs. I thwart the opportunity for others to help a frazzled mom of 5.
It's tempting for me (and probably lots of moms) to say, "I can't go to Mass with my kids. It's too hard."
But what I realized today is I can't afford not to go.
I'm in the battlefield and there are dark forces at work trying to tear down my family and me. I can't afford a Laissez-faire attitude of, "Hey, I got this; I don't need any extra help" because the fact is I'm in dire need of assistance.
Now and all the time.
I need grace and I can only get it through prayer and those tangible signs of God's love for us--the Sacraments.
Just as the body needs food to survive, the soul needs the Sacraments.
To turn off spiritual life support because it's personally difficult or potentially humbling is dangerous.
It might even be suicide.
"Like a deer thirsts for running water so my soul thirsts for you, My God." Psalm 42:1
This column originally appeared at Catholic Digest and we thank them for giving permission to reprint Colleen’s work here.
Copyright 2011 Colleen Duggan
About the Author
Colleen Duggan is the author of Good Enough Is Good Enough: Confessions Of An Imperfect Catholic Mom, published by Ave Maria Press. She is a Catholic writer, teacher and speaker whose work has appeared in Catholic Digest, Creative Catechist, CatholicMom.com, Aleteia, and Integrated Catholic Life.