Several years ago, we were in college I think, St. Mary's did away with the children's mass (unless you had children...) and we showed up late to church- still 20 minutes early, but 45 minutes past the time of the last seat inside the church. I was leaning against a table, Brad was pacing and the 'rents were standing next to each other. It was noisy in the Narthex and we had no idea that mass had started until half the people started praying together. 15 minutes in, Brad looked at Mom and said, "I'm all for being reverent, but this is about as un-reverent as it gets."
The Merrys dipped. No one missed us, too many people were talking to each other, and someone needed to drop the a/c about 15 degrees. Feeling the need to give thanks, we headed to Aldersgate Methodist. A friend of Mom's was "warming up" on the harp and she plucked away at Silent Night, O Come All Ye Faithful, and another before the preacher came up to the lone 4 in the pew and asked if there was anyone he could pray for... assuming we were there for a distress in our family. Turns out, we were not just really, really early for church, we were 14 hours early.
Back in the car and we are off again to a small Episcopalian church on Wrightsboro Road. The priest welcomed us in as he was rehearsing his homily for the midnight mass. Reid Presbyterian... letting out from their service. Another church, whose name escapes me... standing room only.
The Merrys hopped from church to church trying to find room in the inn, all to no avail. We back-tracked over to St. Mary's and bypassed the church. We went straight to the chapel of perpetual adoration. Quietly, we sat and prayed for 15 minutes along with a handful of other quiet people. At the end of 15 minutes, we were ready to go home as a family and have our Christmas Eve traditions.
Fast forward 364 days. We are a year older and wiser about the children's mass. We made plans. We were organized. We had a schedule. We were going straight to perpetual adoration and then home for some of mom's cooking before Santa runs and bedtime. At the end of 15 minutes, Brad looked at Mom again and said, "That was reverent, but is there anything else we can do?"
Our Aunt was in the hospital-alone. She had fallen and was there alone with a skeleton staff of nurses who were not excited to be working Christmas Eve. We showed up and within ten minutes she fell nauseous. Brad, Dad, and I stepped out and Mom helped her as she got sick. No nurse in sight. We found one and found her to be less than helpful. Brad looked at Dad and said we were not leaving her there to fend for herself. Two minutes later, Dad is on the phone with a friend who is a personal nurse- also with no family. She hopped off the couch and left Jeopardy in the dust to come and sit with my sweet old aunt.
Fast forward three years... more like five... maybe six and I welcome you to Christmas Eve, 2009, the first time in a long time that we stepped foot back into church on Christmas Eve, together as a family. Most Holy Trinity welcomed us with a cool temperature, a breathtaking altar, and a brother and sister in the pew behind us with humbling voices as they sang in perfect harmony- stark in contrast to the 5 who cannot sing. Period.
The organist spoke from above and said, "Our first hymn is Number 387, 'O Come All Ye Faithful' Verses 1-3. Please sing verse 1 in Latin."
We had come a long way from the Fa-La-La-La-ing in the Children's Mass.