We live near an institution and, on Sunday, they have a 20 minute mass in the chapel there. This is not something to be sneezed at. Over the past three Sundays, I have attended with one or two of my children but not all three. Last Sunday, we took them all.
We arrived late which meant that we only had 15 minutes to get through. The small congregation consists entirely of older adults who all know each other.
The Princess was a disgrace. She stamped her foot, she jumped up and down on the knee rest. She clambered under the pew. People (including me) glared at her. Her father took her out. She came back and swung off the seat. Her brothers, doubtless inspired by their sister, began to climb under seats. Their father took the lot of them out but, alas, the boys could be heard, all too audibly, wailing for their mother. They all came back. By this point the boys were covered in snot as they both have colds and their feckless parents had forgotten to bring tissues. Their sleeves were quite damp and slimy and their faces looked like they were suffering from some alarming skin disease. I offered it all up for the souls in purgatory but it nearly killed me.
When we came out, the small congregation was gathered outside and offered the usual consolatory noises which polite people do when other people’s children have behaved appallingly though one man asked, jestingly, whether I had ever heard of Supernanny. I can only say that he was justified in asking.
We hung around outside as the congregation dispersed and upbraided the children who were somewhat chastened. In due course, the priest and an acolyte arrived and we duly apologised for our children’s behaviour and he said kind words about how it was lovely to see young people in the congregation etc. etc. (words which I cannot believe to be true, at least not these particular young people on this particular morning. When I was a baby, there was a priest in Cork who used to roar “get that child out of here”, if there was any infant noise at his very crowded mass and, while this approach was perhaps a little brutal, I can see that it has merit).
We chatted to the priest and explained that we had just moved into the terrace across the road (not I thought to myself that we will ever see you again as that would be too hideously embarrassing and I am never, never going to bring these children to this church again). “Oh really,” he said smiling, “I’m in number 7.”