Organized religion, which sometimes seems futile to me, gained a new dimension Sunday when the two pews in front of me were filled with five or six squirming small children.
They made no noise, having been warned beforehand, and perhaps silenced by the the powerful male voices of the priests and the bellowing of the organ.
But they moved. Oh, how they moved—over and under the pews, through their parents’ arms, on and off of laps. One little boy of five or so received the great gold offering plate when it was passed to him and held onto it, clearly delighted that this beautiful bright object was passing into his possession. The usher who was passing the plate had to kindly, but firmly, wrench it away.
A slightly older boy was watching the choirmaster conduct his choir and then imitated his wide, graceful gestures with obvious delight.
A tiny girl, who couldn’t have been more than two, stood at the railing during communion and with absolute assurance, dipped her wafer into the wine and ate it. I wonder if she believed that she was eating the sacred flesh and blood. If so, she was ushered at a very early age into one of the church’s abiding mysteries.
Another boy, finally beside himself after fishing in his father’s jacket pocket and finding nothing, slid under the pew and lay on his back on the floor.
I know the struggles these parents endured while cleaning, combing and dressing their children, enduring their delays and complaints, and shepherding them into and out of cars. I gave up that battle too soon.
The persistence of these mothers, particularly, the courage it takes to insist on anything, reminds me of a story a friend told me about her adult daughter, who was visiting her here.
While waiting for a table, they sat at the bar in a crowded, expensive downtown restaurant, one of the many Farm to Table establishments that have sprung up here. A woman sat down next to the daughter and began to engage her in talk about wines. My friend noticed, perhaps with misgivings, that this stranger was covered with tattoos—although here that is no longer an oddity or a sign of criminality.
After distracting the daughter with wine talk, the tattooed woman snatched her purse and ran out of the restaurant.
The daughter jumped off her bar stool and gave chase, followed by another woman, a stranger. They cornered the thief a few blocks away and, ignoring her curses, retrieved credit cards, license and cash. The cell phone was found later through the use of an app.
By the time the police arrived, mother and daughter were back in the restaurant, eating their dinner—for which they were not charged.
Of course the mother told me, “What if the thief had a gun?”
That worry might have held the daughter back.
But it did not.
How is this connected to the children in church?
I’m not sure. But the tiny girl who took her place so confidently at the altar rail may mature into a woman who would chase a thief.
At least, I hope so.