This morning before Mass I took some treats over to the restaurant at which Monica works – a sampling from her Easter basket and a generous slice of my Grandma’s favorite coffee cake. We didn’t want her to miss out on our Easter Morning tradition just because she had to work!
Coming out of the restaurant, I saw two groups of people, all in Sunday-best attire. I could tell that they knew each other.
“Hey! You look just like the people from Church,” one woman chided. They all laughed as they entered the restaurant together.
Across the parking lot, there was a little boy of about 7 years of age and his dad, both in jeans, tennis shoes, and T-shirts. When the little boy heard the word “church”, he gasped.
“Huh? Today’s church?” he exclaimed. “Dad…?
“Yup,” his dad responded. “See how they’re all dressed up?”
That was the end of the conversation. The father nudged his son to climb into their into their van and they drove away.
My heart broke for this little boy, and tears welled in my eyes. He apparently had an internal compass for things holy and was showing an obvious interest in going to church. But his father simply ignored it. Who knows if a moment like that would ever come again? Likely in another seven or eight years, the boy will have entirely lost his interest in going to church. What was that father thinking? I was so angry, I wanted to bean him!
By the time I’d arrived at our parish church, I’d calmed down considerably. As I sat in the pew, I looked around at all the beautiful Easter lilies. I looked up at the Crucifix, at our Lord’s eyes filled with love. I looked at the various families who had come together to celebrate this High Feast of our liturgical year, and my heart began to ache. I thought of the little boy again. I prayed for him and for his dad. I prayed that, somehow, there would be more to that conversation. I prayed that somehow, the father would have a change of heart and mind and take the little boy to church. I prayed for all the little children who have no one to take them to church on Easter morning. Then I said a prayer of thanksgiving for our Catholic faith and for the privilege to go to church myself.
This has been a long and difficult Lent for many of us. Some have carried especially heavy crosses that seemed unbearable at times, as though at any moment we’d be crushed beneath the weight. In spite of our burdens, we have reason for tremendous joy and gratitude. We have our Catholic faith to carry us, even in the darkest of time. Someone – either our parents or someone else – brought us to church. We didn’t have to look at the people all dressed up, we are the people all dressed up.