Today is Palm Sunday. The beginning of Holy Week! The end of Lent is near! This day marks a time when Christians should focus on the Passion of our Lord. His suffering endured, the torture, the death of a cross…all for us, so that we may one day return to our Creator, our Heavenly Father.
Today is Palm Sunday. For parents, it is one of the most dreaded Sundays of the Church year. Yes, we should have all of our attention turned toward our Lord, praying and meditating, and getting all holy-like, but it is impossible when you have children. You love your children and strive to teach them good church etiquette, but that any progress made goes out the window on Palm Sunday.
Palm Sunday Mass is really beautiful, but it is LONG. If you’re lucky, your kids can handle one hour in church. At the 61st minute, however, they turn into little creatures of unknown origin determined to make you scream and get the attention of the whole congregation turned on you, including the priest. You know they were baptized. Shoot, you even splashed holy water on them as you entered the church, but that doesn’t stop kids’ behavior from becoming hellish when you expect them to be little saints. And that’s on a good day.
Also on Palm Sunday, our parish, as many others, start Mass outside, and process in, waving palms, reminding us of Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey. This is a very lovely, beautiful display of our faith, but it doesn’t work well with kids. You see, when you are in the church, your child is more or less confined to the length of your pew, unless you have children with a tendency for spelunking and they crawl under the pews as if exploring a cave. Even if the kids escapes your pew, there are walls to keep him/her inside. But when you’re outside, the boundaries are endless, and the little ones love to explore God’s creation and take off running. Sometimes into the parking lot. Or picking the beautiful flowers in the church landscaping that the ladies of the parish so tenderly care for.
What would Palm Sunday be without palms? Easier. Much easier for parents. When handed a palm, a child suddenly has a weapon. A sword or whip. Oh, look, little Johnny and little Bobby are having a light sabre battle with palms. How angelic! Palms can also be used as a tickling tool. Have you ever had your head bent, deep in prayer, only to feel a light, wispy feeling on the back of your neck. Sorry. That’s not the Holy Spirit touching you. It’s little ornery Susie behind you, seeking revenge for the time you shushed her seven weeks ago. Oh, yes, she can make it look like an accidental, random act, but behind that sweet little smile is a well-calculated maneuver designed to make you shiver from head to toe.
Even though my children are (mostly) beyond this point, the memories are still fresh and the embarrassment is still raw that I strongly sympathize with my fellow parents. Palm Sunday Mass is a wonderful celebration, and a great opportunity to share our faith with our families and learn and grow. Parents are just thankful it happens only once a year.
Have a blessed Holy Week!