Catholic New World: Newspaper for the Archdiocese of Chicago

The Family Room by Michelle Martin

Easter Gifts

Caroline spends a lot of time in church at Christmas and Easter.

It's not that we as a family only go to Mass at the major holidays; it's just that we go to church a lot more those times of year.

Christmas Eve this year might be a record: All four of us were at three Masses in one day, starting with Mass for the Fourth Sunday of Advent in the morning, through the Christmas Eve vigil Mass, where Caroline sang with her school choir, to Midnight Mass (at 10:30 p.m.) in our own parish, which is our own family tradition.

Holy Week and Easter are almost as intense, starting with Holy Thursday, when both Caroline and Frank go to Mass with their classes in the morning. Then we all went again in the evening-Caroline was singing with the choir.

On Good Friday, Caroline accompanied her dad to our parish, where he organized a meat-free lunch and a movie ("Going My Way" with Bing Crosby) for some of the older parishioners. Then we all went to Holy Name Cathedral for Stations of the Cross in the afternoon- something we have done for the last nine Good Fridays, since Caroline was born-and Caroline joined us for the evening Good Friday service in our parish.

That service was beautiful, with inspiring choral music from the choir and special guest singers.

We didn't go to the Easter Vigil Mass, but made it to 8 a.m. Mass Easter Sunday-after waking up early enough to indulge in a little chocolate from the Easter baskets beforehand.

And through all of those Masses and services, Caroline never complained about being there- something I find amazing. When I was her age, church was something we got hauled out of bed for early Sunday morning, a place where the pews were uncomfortable and most of the words were unintelligible-either over my head or just not easy to understand with a less-than-stellar sound system.

I don't think Caroline understands everything that's going on either, though I try to explain as much as I can. But she enjoys going because she feels like she belongs there.

Sometimes it's singing with the school choir, a job that means sitting away from us and sometimes, her favorite times, up in the choir loft. When we are at our home parish, she often serves at the altar, despite being only in the third grade.

She doesn't yet want to serve by herself, but she's an able assistant when one of her friends, a sixth grader, is there to lead the way. She carries her candle, holds the Sacramentary for the priest and sits still for long stretches.

I watch her on the altar and wonder that she's the same kid who can't sit still in the pew with us and argues with her brother.

Her service-whether singing or on the altar- is her gift to the church. But it is also the church's gift back to her. While Scriptures tell her she is made in the image of God and is a valued part of the Body of Christ, by allowing her to give service, the church is showing her that it is so.

Martin is a Catholic New World staff writer. Contact her at [email protected].