Our church no longer has a cry room: it's the Training Room, thank you very much. But let me tell you, the scene in the Training Room this morning was enough to make a saint cry.
Our day began auspiciously enough. Tim was serving Mass, and we were - drum roll, please - early! Ainsley had just fallen asleep as we arrived. I figured she was out for an hour or more. Throwing caution to the wind, we passed up the nursery and took John into the big church with assurances that he could be quiet.
That lasted about as long as the processional hymn.
John squirmed and squawked, eventually loudly enough that he woke up slumbering Ainsley who decided it was high time for a bite to eat. I exited stage right and headed for the training room.
Not much training going on in there, let me tell you.
Now, the babies were just being babies, and the toddlers were just being toddlers. There was also an older man with his disabled adult daughter. I have seen this gentleman around for many years. He's a daily communicant, and I think recently widowed. His daughter is probably thirty or forty and has profound physical and emotional disabilities. If she's having a good day, she and her father sit in the back of the church. On rough mornings, he retreats to the training room.
The problems didn't stem from any of the above, but from two mothers who began talking in normal conversational tones and would not stop. Yak, yak, yak, yak, yak. And then more yak.
The dad and I strained to hear through the mediocre sound system and above the din of the endless chatter. We joined in the communal prayer for vocations and gradually I found us praying louder and louder.
Nothing stopped these two.
Finally the man leaned over and asked them to stop talking. They responded kindly and did in fact button it.
A few minutes later John joined Ainsley and me. Dave had been recruited to usher and there was no leaving energetic John in Kolbe's tender care.
Eventually, behavior was such that we washed out of the training room. Not ready for prime time on any front! Out to the narthex we went. I gently cajoled, I hissed a threat or two, all to no avail. Apparently John missed the memo that clearly explained: You are no longer two! Shape up! There was no shaping up to be done this morning.
Suddenly we three Dolins were joined in the narthex by - guess who? - Chatty Cathy and companion. And what do you think they started doing? Chatting! Non-stop.
Kids clothes, what so and so said to so and so, shoe sizes. I promise you, they never paused for a breath. The consecration went on and so did they. I finally leaned over and said, "I'm sorry, but it's really hard to hear."
Usually this kind of thing can get me angry, but I found myself very sad instead. These mothers made the effort to get everyone dressed and transported to Mass and to what end? To converse just as if they were at the pool or the bowling alley? Bread and wine became the body and blood of Christ, and they chattered about everything and nothing, perfectly oblivious.
Rather than getting upset, I turned to reflect on my own lack of interior recollection.
While I don't engage in the nonstop banter I witnessed this morning, I often let my mind drift to earthly concerns on par with what these women discussed - What's for dinner? Did I call so and so back? Ohh, cute shoes! Boy, it's hot in here.
No doubt my haphazard thoughts can be as noisy to God as these conversations were to me.
My favorite priest and spiritual mentor, the late Father Edward Randall, had a sign in his vesting room that read, "Priest of God, Say this Mass as if it were your first Mass, your last Mass, your only Mass."
I am going to take this to heart.