Tonight was our Advent Penance Service - always a good time. I love penance services - nothing quite like meditating on my sins to make a scrupulous person like me feel better.
This was my first one with a toddler.
I love my parish, very much. I rarely get a stank eye for bringing Zuz everywhere I go - every service, every Mass, every event and party. I don't like to leave her, so I bring her - and largely, it seems, no one minds.
NOT TONIGHT. The haters were out. As soon as I walked in they glared at me (unusual). I gave them my usual big grin and hoisted her higher trying to show them "isn't she so cute??" They would not be molified. They quickly looked down at their rosaries with deep frown lines. I shrugged and took my babe by the hand to see the Mary statue, where she holds the "bebe eesus." St. John is her second home; we take rude interlopers in stride.
There were others there too, early. Many who know me (most people do). They smile at me - some with great weariness. I recognize that look - the look of waiting. They are ready, they are running the last of it, they are tired and ready for the joy of Christmas. They are ready for the preparations to be done and for the feasting to commence. I shush Zuzu quickly when she is talking - I know they need this, these moments of peace before God, asking "how long, Lord, must we wait?" I don't want Zuzu to be another distraction in a season of busy-ness.
The haters and the waiters, both there early, waiting for the Baby. The haters thought my baby was a distraction from the wait; maybe the waiters saw her as a reminder of what they were waiting for? But I had a different kind of consideration for each group, so where does that leave me?
Bit by bit, the rest of the huddled masses filtered in. Some families, mostly the elderly, a few younger people. Two singles that I counted. Some of my teens, only one of my fifth graders, none of the middle school kids. Everyone eager to receive the gift of absolution. Many were nervous to smile when Zuzu played peek-a-boo with them; some hid their grins sheepishly, others abashedly entertained her. I appreciated them all - it was late and I wanted to stay, since we have one car and my poor husband bums enough rides as it is.
I usually like these services because I get to pick a priest I deem worthy - one who will give me good council, who really does confession right, I think to myself. This time, I just chose the spot that was empty. It happened to be a priest I know, and I had some rather uncomfortable truths to confess. I did so; I could tell he wanted to say something to me, personally...but he chose brevity and professionalism. I appreciated that reciprocation of my trust in the sacrament - he wasn't there as my friend so-and-so, but as Christ. The burden and beauty of the priesthood.
It was a good night. I felt so much a part of my community, my wonderful messy parish. It is so very far from perfect, but it must be, since I'm a part of it. I'm glad I got to confession, glad I had the chance to see some people I haven't seen for a while - glad for a community that comes together to declare we have committed wrongs through our fault, through our fault, through our most grevious fault.
. . .
Tomorrow is the Middle School Christmas Party.
I am sure I will need to attend confession all over again afterwards, but hopefully the lines will be shorter since everyone already went tonight.