Last night was our first Student Mass at St. Bernard’s, and it was wonderful. Coming from the West Coast, I’m a big fan of evening Masses so I went into it quite happily (who DOESN’T like a chance to sleep in and trudge around in your pajamas for a few hours longer?), and I loved seeing all the high school and college-aged students there. The music was upbeat, the Scripture readings thought-provoking, the homily accessible. But it wasn’t any of those things that really made me think twice last night; it was something very quiet, and very huge.
Anyone who’s spent any sort of time at Newman Center events has met my daughter, Ainslie. And anyone who has met Ainslie has agreed: she’s flippin adorable. Seriously, there’s the normal level of toddler cute…and then there’s Ainslie. Well, Ainslie accompanied me to Mass last night and while she is neither very quiet nor very huge (quite the opposite, in fact), it was her that really got me thinking. You see, Ainslie has a new friend. No, it’s not her school friends or any of the fine students that frequent the Newman Center, it’s Jesus. Call it good parenting or a blessing from above, but she LOVES the J-man. Every statue we see (including the Civil War statue in the center square of Keene) is Jesus, and every time she sees a picture or drawing of a man with a beard, that’s Jesus too. It makes it very confusing when she comes in contact with the hipster crowd, let me tell you. I love that she’s so into her faith at such a young age–she crosses herself, she kneels to pray, and she loves walking down the aisle during Communion with her arms dutifully crossed over her chest until she’s old enough to receive. Last night, though, walking down the aisle and receiving her blessing during Communion just wasn’t enough. When we got back to the pew, she refused to walk in. I tried tempting her with books and toys and snacks, but she was NOT having it. She stood in the aisle, staring in the general direction of the side altar, where the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus stands.
“Jesus” she said
“Yeah, I know,” I said, “let’s go sit in the pew and you can see Jesus from there”
“Jesus” she said again, and then I realized what she was staring at. It wasn’t the statue, it was the parishoner who was holding the Cup and serving Communion. Rather, it was the Cup itself.
“Jesus” she whispered, blinking those big green eyes very slowly and taking a step towards the parishoner, who looked at us a little nervously. I knelt down next to her. “Ainslie, do you want to go be near Jesus?” She tore her eyes away and looked at me, smiling and nodding an emphatic agreement. Together, we took a few steps closer and sat down on the floor in front of the first pew, watching our brothers and sisters in Christ receive His blood through Communion. And that was enough for Ainslie, just to be near it all.
That’s very quiet. And very huge.
It’s also very fitting, considering the end of the Gospel reading from last night:
“And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.’ Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them.” (Mark 10)
And it made me wonder….do I accept the Kingdom of God like Ainslie did last night?
Do I just shuffle past it, trying to get back to my quiet pew, or do I ignore all the other things that seem so important–the books and toys and snacks–because I so badly want to just be near to Jesus?