If the ladies at daily Mass were responsible for choosing the next pope, I think they’d vote Jacob into the office now—even though Benedict XVI is still serving, and even though Jacob can barely talk. Jacob is like the homecoming king of daily Mass: all the ladies know his name and want to be around him. He is pretty cute, so I can’t blame them. The ladies will often tell me how sweet it is to hear his voice during Mass, and as long as that voice wasn’t screaming that day, I believe them and take their kindness to heart.
The truth is Jacob has been easier and more fun to have at Mass in the past few weeks. I attribute a good deal of that to the fact that I’ve started to bring a snack cup for him to keep him entertained. His snacks are admittedly a bit crunchy, but with only eight teeth, he’s still pretty quiet.
The other part of the equation is that I’m starting to believe he’s paying attention. Yes, he is barely fourteen months old, but he goes to Mass nearly every day, and rather than letting him roam the church for the entire service, I try my best to draw his attention to the altar and whisper to him what’s going on. If I ever doubted the power of the Eucharist, the quiet and calm that comes over Jacob once the Host has been consecrated has turned all that around. When I point to the altar, he keeps his eyes trained on the priest and is virtually silent, in a relaxed and very happy kind of way. Almost like an angel, you might say.
This is not to toot my own horn and suggest that I never let him walk around church, or I never get frustrated with the physical workout Mass can become. Sometimes Jacob needs to get his legs moving, but he also needs to learn when to sit still and how to obey when I tell him to be somewhere. I can’t help but get frustrated when I see school-age children ignoring what’s going on in front of them at Mass, not kneeling or standing at the proper times, seeming to not listen to the readings at all. Given, I’ve never attempted to participate in Mass while caring for a second-grader, or anything like it. But kids are expected to sit still, eyes forward, and pay attention at school for seven hours a day, five days a week, right? So why not an hour on Sunday morning?
Sometimes I think I’m jumping the gun, trying to teach Jacob things before he’s ready for them. But I’m not pushing him or punishing him if he needs to talk a little more some days or take a stroll around the back of the chapel on other days. On the other hand, if we don’t start teaching him this now, then when? John and I decided early on that we would do our best to keep our kids near the front of the church so they can see what’s going on, and hopefully be more interested. I’m amazed and grateful for how well it’s worked thus far.
First American-born Pope? Maybe. But in the meantime, a little boy who understands and appreciates the faith his parents are passing on to him is all I ask.