When our firstborn Liam arrived, my husband Des proclaimed "There are two things that are non-negotiable: he will be Catholic and he will be a Yankee fan." I've always wondered if he sees these two things as equivalent and with each passing year, I'm more convinced that he does. With baseball season upon us, there will be plenty of time to share my musings on raising five little pin-striped fanatics but for this week, I thought I'd dwell on raising five little Catholics.
For starters, we go to church on Sunday. EVERY Sunday. We're as reliable as the US Postal Service; we show up in rain or shine, showered or unshowered, with sick kids, cranky kids, and sometimes need a spanky kids. And no matter how early our day starts, we always show up about fifteen minutes late. Now that Liam can tell time, I'm pretty sure he thinks we attend the 10:45 mass when in fact, the rest of the congregation dutifully arrives at 10:30.
Now, as you might imagine, there is nothing subtle about our arrival at church -- or anywhere else, for that matter! When the triplets were babies, we would walk to church because it was easier than getting all five kids in and out of the car. Our entry procession included two strollers - a standard issue double for Liam and Ciara and a front to back triple as long as a Cadillac for Kevin, Declan and Cormac. Today, as Liam and Ciara bolt down the aisle and the triplets toddle behind them, our entry is less impressive but far more vocal. "I see Jesus! I see Jesus! I see Jesus!" the triplets can't help but announce, sometimes adding additional commentary like "Why he has no shoes on?"
Thankfully, our priest and our parish are both friendly and forgiving. Our tardiness isn't looked down upon and we seem to get a fair amount of credit and goodwill for simply showing up, no matter how late we may be. Given the antics that accompany our arrival, it's a wonder they don't just lock the door at 10:44. They continue to welcome the Lyons Family Circus and we continue to show up. And, we continue to sit in the first pew since no one else ever does and it's typically the only spot left. From this spot, there have been a handful of standout moments from our weekly 45 minutes of religious obligation and observation:
Cormac following the guy with the collection basket, taking a $20 and running for the door. Hey, charity starts at home, right?
A lady who told me that "my kids just LOVE watching your family at church; it's better than reality TV!"
The day an elderly woman who had kindly settled down a distraught Declan suddenly dropped him back in my lap with a curt "I think he has a present for you," as the stench from his diaper nearly knocked us out.
The time that Kevin ran to the altar to check out the Nativity scene but left his pants behind. Turns out that I shouldn't have ignored him when he said "pants too big Mama!"
Advent. All of it. Between the Nativity scene and Toys for Tots collection, our kids provided a lot of comic relief... which, granted, isn't why most folks go to church but it never hurts to have a good laugh, right? Some highlights were the attempted removal of toys from the altar, failed attempts to "wake up" the Baby Jesus and the near demise of one of the wise men (courtesy of a wobbly triplet).
I clearly recall looking for diversions at church when I was a kid; now my family is the diversion. It started when Liam was just a tot himself, clapping along with the choir and shouting "YAY!" when they finished a song. I'm not sure if or when it will end but, until it does, I plan to just embrace it and enjoy it. While I may not always hear the message of the gospel and while we may never get to church on time, at least I have 45 minutes a week to sit down (when I'm not shooing tots off the altar!) and reflect on just how lucky I am -- lucky to have happy, healthy kids; lucky to be embraced by our community and, well, with the season in full swing, lucky to have so many little Yankee fans... more on that later, to be sure!