For many reasons going to Mass is a production for us (I documented some of our more memorable visits), and so we do not attend as regularly as I would like. The politics of the Vatican in recent years did little to stoke my religious fervor but we do make frequent trips to the empty church to say prayers for those we love, and in particular to remember the young friend my son lost to leukemia last year. The choice of Pope Francis I last week led us to venture to Mass this past Saturday afternoon, in honor of the forgiveness, renewal, and the promise of a fresh start his papacy and this Easter season may hold for all of us. It didn’t hurt that our boy, after a sigh, seemed willing to brave the crowd if it meant a chance to recall his friend. So off we went, arriving early so we could get a seat with a good view of the altar and the Blessed Sacrament.
We usually sit in the front section a few rows back. Hanging from the vaulted ceiling high over and in front of the altar is a massive crucifix with a fairly graphic representation of Christ. It has always been there, in that spot. There we sat, with my boy and his iPod open to a picture of his friend. He had used the paint app to put a yellow halo on his head, and he held it up high so that it faced the Blessed Sacrament. As I reached up to lower his arm gently he looked at me in alarm, pointing to the crucifix as if seeing it for the first time.
“Is THAT Jesus?!” he said in a stage whisper. I nodded, two fingers presses to my lips to remind him to speak quietly and to keep myself from smiling.
“Is THAT the Holy Child?!” Suddenly, the connection between Christmas and Easter began to forge in his mind.
“What HAPPENED?!” I told him we would talk about it later but the questions kept coming.
“Is he dead? Who killed him? See the blood?” He turned the iPod so his angel friend could see, too. That almost did me in.
Finally, in the car I did my best to tell him the full narrative, Christmas to Easter, promising him that we will go back during Holy Week and see the stations of the Cross that tell the entire story of the Crucifixion. He was wary, and raised his hand, palm toward me.
“I’m good.” Then he thought for a minute, playing something in his head. I mentioned that we have a movie at home that tells the story of Jesus.
“Wait! I get it!” And then he did a perfect imitation of the announcer’s voice on the preview from one of his Christmas videos:
“JESUS of NAZARETH!! That’s him!” It only took, like, fifteen years.
When we returned home he bounded up the stairs to say hello to his sister. She came downstairs, laughing.
“What happened? He came up to my room, jumped on my bed and said church was AWESOME. He never does that when he comes home from anything, ever.” I told her everything, and she went up to his room and hugged him. A while later he emerged and called down to me, standing at the railing where I could see him.
“Mom, does Jesus make our hearts happy?”
His smile, his voice, and the way he had his hands clasped over his heart told me it wasn’t really a question.