“How was your Palm Sunday?” asked good friends we had dinner with last night. Truth be told, it was not so great. Not that Palm Sunday is a historically a great day anyway, but their question was motivated, I think, by a curiosity about how we juggle five children under seven during mass — especially mass on Palm Sunday which, by my estimation, is the longest mass ever.
We take our children to church every Sunday. We always have. I was raised Catholic and even attended Catholic school for several years (until an unfortunate incident involving a certain Sister Mary Lynch made me go public!). I went to church every Sunday until I was 18 and then took about a decade off, spending Sunday mornings either sleeping off the effects of the night before or running a race in Central Park. I suppose I’ve always been a gal of extremes; it was either up for a healthy morning run or down and out after a few too many the night before; up and out for mass or a decade of religious abstinence.
Then I met Des, who is now my husband. I was stunned that a cute, fun, single guy actually went to church every Sunday. And, since I was instantly madly in love, I started to go with him. We got married, had children and I accepted Des’ proclamation that they “will be Catholic and Yankee fans.” To this day, I still wonder about the equal weight of this mandate of religion and sports fanaticism, but frankly, I’ve got bigger fish to fry so, I just go along with it.
As our children arrived, we took one, then two, then five children to church every Sunday. What a sight we were just a few years ago as we rolled in ten minutes late with five tiny tots strapped into a double and triple stroller. Even today, we joke that the 10:30 mass is really the 10:45. We may be late, we may be slightly more sloppy than I’d like but, we show up. Every Sunday. Including Palm Sunday, which, in addition to being one of the longest masses ever, is also the only day in the liturgical year that everyone is given a slight, wispy weapon upon entry to church. You guessed it: palms!
Imagine if you will, what one seven year old, one five year old and three three-year olds can do with a fistful of palms. If sword fights, fishing, tickling, tackling and tug-of-war come to mind, then you guessed it right. It’s hard enough for us to control our clan at church on any given Sunday but on Palm Sunday, it is downright impossible. It’s no easy task to try to listen to the gospel while intermediating the increasingly violent escapades of the palms of our pew. It’s not easy to keep our cool in the front row (yes, we sit in the front row!) while the kids are clobbering each other, climbing over us and creating weapons from a religious symbol. At one point yesterday, I took a palm to the eyeball and could have sworn I tore my retina. Thankfully, I didn’t. Although, I’m pretty sure I did swear under my breath.
So, in considering the question “How was your Palm Sunday?” I can only recall the power struggle in our pew as the palms waved and the kids whined. And, I think about how I prayed for peace. And patience. This is my wish for Easter, for my family and for all of you. Peace and patience and perhaps even a pretty palm or two to adorn our home until next Palm Sunday — when the battle of the palms will almost surely start anew!