Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tears During Mass

I often find myself in tears during Mass.  Not always, but sometimes.  And these tears come out of the blue, when I least expect them.  If I don't remember to tuck some tissues into my purse before I head out the door, chances are I'm going to be in trouble.  I'm going to be wiping my nose on my sleeve like a five-year-old.

Sometimes it's the lyrics of a particularly moving hymn that make me cry, or the stirring music combined with the unequaled beauty of a Catholic church's interior.  Sometimes it's just that in those particular surroundings, I feel closer to God, and that nearness hits me just so and goes right to my core--to my very soul. And I am left feeling vulnerable and unworthy of His love, and yet profoundly loved by Him.

I've talked before about how seeing my sons dressed in tuxes, standing on the altar in the role of groomsmen at one another's weddings, reduces me to tears.  But even when there isn't something particularly noteworthy going on, such as the singularly wonderful experience of witnessing one of my boys exchanging vows with his soul mate, I can be moved just by the sight of any or all of my sons. Anywhere, anytime.  And looking at them in church, during the Mass--watch out!  There will be tears, and hankies, and nose-blowing.  It's almost guaranteed.

This past Sunday, my husband and I went to the 11:00 a.m. Mass with our baby, who is finally home for a few weeks after spending most of the summer off doing Army stuff.  (He's an Army ROTC cadet, about to begin his senior year at the University of Notre Dame.)  After we got seated, he was asked to help out with the collection when the time came.

So I happened to look at him, as he strode to the front of the church carrying the long-handled basket, dressed nicely in khakis and a blue and white-striped button-down shirt, and looking very much like a grown man on the verge of flying away from the nest for good (like his brothers have already done).  He was still sporting his short, Army-regulation haircut, and his normally pale Irish skin was tanner than usual, after weeks spent training outdoors at Fort Knox.  He's a tall, broad-shouldered lad, and he carries himself like an officer and a gentleman, with his shoulders back and his head held high.  "So handsome!" I thought (without a speck of bias, of course).  "And how did he ever get so old?" 

Just looking at this vision of calm, responsible, Faith-filled manhood, I started to choke up and my eyes got watery.  My mini-pack of Kleenex came out of my purse.   But then it got worse.

I started to think about how this boy of ours had lived his whole life in this town, and how before too long, he would be living who-knows-where.  How he'd signed on to be an altar server when he was about nine, and then had served every single 9:00 a.m. Sunday Mass at this church, from 8th grade through his high school years (unless we were out of town), taking his role as head altar server very seriously. How he often used to ask us on Friday nights if we could give him a ride to church the next day, so that he could go to Confession.  People were always asking him--and us--if he was considering becoming a priest.  He isn't; but the strength of his faith has been an inspiration to his father and me, ever since he was just a little guy.

Anyway, just as I was getting my subtle tears under control, our boy passed the collection basket down the pew that held his old pre-school teacher, Mrs. B., and her husband; and I suddenly felt like I was going to lose it--as in break down and sob, right there, in the middle of Mass!  It hit me that Mrs. B. was a piece of his life that was now part of his distant past--a past he barely remembers, but which is still so clear in my mind.

So many thoughts converged in my brain at once, so many emotions: the way the years have flown since he was a dinosaur-obsessed little boy; the humbleness I feel because God chose me to be his mother; the gratefulness I feel for having been blessed with not just one exceptional son, but five; the sadness I'll feel when he no longer has college breaks and summer vacations, and he can only get back home when work allows; the realization of the huge privilege, but also the huge and sometimes terrifying responsibility, of raising the five souls that God entrusted to our care; the fear I feel when I remember that because they are human, they will die someday--but the hope that when they do, they will go straight back to their Father in Heaven and become saints; and finally, just the enormity of it all--of motherhood, of human love, of God's unfathomable love for each and every soul He has created...

It was truly all I could do to keep my shoulders from shaking, and from literally "boo-hoo"-ing, right then and there.  And all that emotion was caused by simply sitting in a pew, watching my youngest son pass the collection basket at Sunday Mass.

God is everywhere, I know that; but when the Body and Blood of Our Lord are right nearby, He feels closer than ever.  And boy, I sure felt Him all around me this past Sunday.  I pray that I continue to feel His loving presence during the coming year, as my baby gets ready to spread those wings of his and fly.

19 comments:

  1. Laura, we really are soul sisters, I get this I really, really do{{{}}} when my big boy comes home and we drive along and I turn back and look and they are all in the car together, I choke up, on mother's day when they are not all together I choke up, when my 4 boys (the older ones who serve) I choke up. Oh and Ordination's I cry, did in the recent one we attended, I tell my boys if any become ordained I'll cry my whole way through, and I know their Dad will too, he's sure a sensitive.

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    1. Awww...I have a feeling if we didn't live oceans apart, we would be good friends! But you're one of my best e-friends, and I'm glad we "met."

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  2. Awww...that's it, just awwwww!

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  3. And now my eyes are filling up with tears!

    I always getting a little weepy at Mass and now that Rebecca has come and gone, I'm usually grabbing for the tissues. I totally get where you are coming from...being so close to God is really powerful.

    And your son is so handsome!

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    1. I imagine it doesn't take much to bring tears to your eyes, with what you've been through. The next time I'm sitting in the pew with wet eyes (and that'll probably be next Sunday), I'll offer a prayer for you.

      And thanks--I think he's the bee's knees. But then again, I'm his mom.

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  4. I just might have been sniffling a little bit myself as I read this. (smile). Beautiful.

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  5. This is beautiful... I cry during Mass sometimes too, although its usually because of the music. ;)
    The Starving Inspired

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    1. The music is often what gets me going.

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  6. I cry during Mass often. I love this post. I love it. Your handsome boys will never be far enough away to not need you. And it sounds like you need to move to VA to be close to a handful!!

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    1. Haha--you sound like my daughter-in-law (the one married to my middle son, who's expecting their first child in October). If we had only one son, or two in the same town who were both planning to stay put, we would do it in a heartbeat. But we have five, and we don't want to choose between them! Plus, their lives might still be in flux, because of jobs and whatnot, so we're not sure how it will all pan out. One of the sons in VA who currently lives about 10 houses away from his brother thinks he might want to eventually move back up to the Northeast. So for the time being, we have just come to grips with the fact that we should keep the family home and do a lot of traveling to see them all.

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  7. Laura, such a sweet heart you have. I love this post!!!!

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    1. Thanks, Aileen. It's hard for me to write about this stuff sometimes, because change is hard for me--and so much is changing in my life right now! I pray for the strength to handle it all with grace.

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  8. Beautiful! My oldest daughter is about to head off to Notre Dame to begin her freshman year. I sure hope she meets your son!

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    1. Your daughter will love Our Lady's University!

      We are going to try to make it to every single home game this fall, since this is our baby's last year there. So if you're ever out at ND for a football weekend, let me know! :)

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  9. Just came across your blog and I'm loving it :) I only have 4 ( all under 2) but I can only imagine what it will be like to see them all grown up one day :)

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    1. Welcome, Audora! I'm glad you found my little String of Pearls.

      I used to be really good at blogging every single morning...but I've been falling down on the job lately! I'm working on a second YA Catholic novel, and I've been spending most of my writing hours on that these days. But I've got over 1,000 posts in my archives, if you're interested in reading any of those when there's nothing new here.

      4 under 2!! You must have twins--how old are they? We have 3-year-old granddaughters who are identical twins. God bless you, you're a busy lady!

      It does all go by in a flash, though. I talk about the perspective from the empty nest a lot on this blog. (I'm not a "mommy blogger"...I'm a "grammy blogger"!)

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  10. Aww. You're such a sweet lady. I cry in the middle of mass too most especially during the Lord's Prayer and when hearing the songs. And you're right, I believe God is there that's why tears of joy and thankfulness flow easily. God bless you! :)

    Jacq
    mycatholicchic.blogspot.com

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  11. Thanks for your sweet comments, Jacq. God bless you, too!

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