Cryroom Choirs

by

“And she gave birth to her first-born and wrapped him in swaddling clothes.” The much awaited Christ had to be swaddled, clothed and laid to bed. This was the culmination of thousands of years of prophecy and theology perfectly intermingled with earthly life. Mary was a perfect example for all parents: while participating in God’s fulfillment she was fully aware of her earthly duties as a mother. To participate in heavenly worship, yet be mindful of earthly parental duties, is an exercise of meditation on the spiritual life of our most blessed Mother.

To many who attend mass on a regular basis, mass offers an hour-long retreat from worldly worries and temptations and allows us to focus all of our faculties on God. But while most people are given the opportunity to leave their worries and tasks for an hour, parents of toddlers and infants maintain their duties as they walk into church. In the cryrooms, parents have made the vow to merge the two worlds together. There is an inescapable struggle to be at mass with a little one pulling at you, asking you questions and climbing all over you, but the spiritual gifts are of infinite value. Each moment is a small window of meditation on the perfectly woven parenthood and spiritual life of Mary, the mother of our Lord and God.

I can already hear Father Andrew saying, “Your kid is not Jesus.” And he would be right, because there are differences. Mary was a pure vessel for God’s grace, while we struggle to remain in a state of grace between confessions. Mary’s child was God incarnate and, as highly as we might think of our kids, they are only an image of God. However, keeping these differences in mind, Mary is still the perfect example of how to convert daily tasks as parents into small prayers that lift up adoration and thanksgiving to God. When Mary fed Jesus, when Mary held Jesus, when Mary cleaned Jesus, when Mary rocked Jesus to sleep – all of these were times of lofty adoration. During mass, parents are reliving those moments with Mary when they hear the life-giving words of the Gospel and homily. One wonders how Mary must have felt hearing the babble and first words of Jesus. Or how Mary had both her child and her Lord within her reach. Only Mary can relate the exact feeling, but we have a glimpse of her moments with Him, like when we’re carrying our child close to us as we walk to receive the Lord in the blessed Eucharist. Mary is not a distraction from Christ as some protestants claim, but rather a window to an intimate relationship with Jesus that can only be understood through her eyes.

In Christ’s parable of the sower and the seed, everyday worries and pressures smother the seed planted by God and preventing the plant from growing roots and yielding fruits. See if you can remember Sunday’s Gospel reading and homily by Tuesday or Wednesday. This may seem impossible, especially if you have shown your true love and sacrifice to God by bringing in two or more kids to the cryroom.

Be sensitive to the tough position another parent is in on the day your child is behaving like a seraphim. Instead of casting judgment, offer support to the parents with a welcoming heart. It may be their first time bringing their child to church, and a single bad experience may discourage them from doing so again. Always offer a smile and assistance (and wipes) to a struggling parent. They may not need it, but at least it will show them you are not upset at their situation. And keep in mind that, while what we receive at mass is essential, it is how we walk out that creates a lasting impression.

Regardless of the theological depth of the homily and the infinite graces in the Eucharist, our first reflection walking out of mass will last us the entire week. How was mass last Sunday? “The room was very stuffy.” “The kids were so loud I couldn’t hear anything.” “We couldn’t see anything.” “People kept staring at me like I was in a fish tank.” As you walk out, take a moment to remember the gospel reading and the homily. Verbalize to yourself and to the kids how amazing mass was. Plant the seed deeper for stronger roots, just as Mary always did – “and she kept all of these things in her heart” – Luke 2:19.

The same goes for your kids – you do not want to be the source of distraction at the cost of keeping them busy and quiet. This especially goes to parents with kids who can understand what is being said. Try to tame playing with toys. Every now and then, bring their attention to the cross, tabernacle and priest, and remind them that this is the core of the hour they are spending in a cryroom. Don’t bring up donut money or the idea of getting a donut after mass. We don’t want them awaiting the end of mass. Quite the opposite, we want to get them more absorbed in every piece of the liturgy. Sing joyously to the Lord out loud – after all, we parents already sing to our kids so now we are able to do it as a form of worship. An alternative to giving them donut money early is to have them donate part of their allowance during the offering. Even if it’s just a nickel or a dime, they can learn early on what it means to sacrifice and contribute to a greater good. The point is to make it become their liturgy, their hymns and their donations That way, when the time comes and they make their own decisions on Sunday morning, they will choose what they participate in and not what they feel obligated to do.

While it may be impossible at times, we must always keep our mind clear from frustration and our souls calm to be receptive to every word in the divine liturgy. This can only be accomplished by constantly reminding ourselves that this moment is a different moment than at home or in the car or at the store. Remember that a single reception of the Eucharist yields infinite graces to sanctify and perfect any man, and the only limitation to the graces we receive is the size of our heart and the purity of our souls.

Here I would like to admit that even though I only speak with less than a year experience in the cryroom and with only one child, the spiritual fruits are apparent and bountiful. As I made the transition from the most front-left corner of the church as a shamasha to the very rear-right corner as a baba, my devotion to our Lady the Mother of our Lord has tremendously increased and I wish for all parents entrenched with me to share in the same spiritual fruits. We are, after all, following the direct orders of our Lord. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” And as Mary and Joseph took their Child to the temple, we do the same so that they may grow in wisdom and virtue in front of man and God.

Edited by Jamie Austria

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3 Responses to “Cryroom Choirs”

  1. Ian Climacus Says:

    What a wonderful, and challenging, post: and congratulations on the birth of your child and your shamasha to baba [like that!] transition. My prayers for all in church, and particularly parents. I think the “Eastern” churches, in my experience, seem to handle noise and distraction a bit better than “Western” ones where things tend to be more ordered and cultural norms as to “church is for quiet” are at the fore — though perhaps I’ve been unlucky in my “Western” experiences and blessed in my time in the East.

    I tend to have a very low tolerance for noise, but I do find stares and scowls at poor suffering parents of noisy kids to be a somewhat concerning response. I remember one father apologised to me for his noisy child beside me: I said, “Do not worry; I wish I could scream and shout out loud and throw a tantrum on the floor at times like her with no fear!” 🙂 It brought a smile to his face and I could see the relief it brought to him. I’d rather have 101 screaming kids than none; and in all honesty, are my internal distractions [what should I do for dinner? do I have to go to work tomorrow?] any less concerning than external ones? And how often can I remember Sunday’s Gospel reading and homily by Tuesday or Wednesday? I look to myself first.

  2. antgaria Says:

    When one of the little ones busted out once during the homily, our priest remarked that she seemed to be more passionate about what he was saying than others. 🙂

  3. Ian Climacus Says:

    I laughed…and then thought “Ouch”: how passionate am I? But proof humour goes a long way to dispelling frustration/anger/etc as well. Thanks for that.

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