Our car is nicer than yours—and other things we learned at Mass


We went to Mass as a family again this morning.

And even though there were several moments when the closing hymn seemed farther off than Christmas, we survived.

We didn’t have to take either of our sons out to the narthex. And we didn’t have any close calls where we almost broke one of the glass holy water fonts—as we did a few weeks ago.

There were high points—such as when Daniel spontaneously leaned over and hugged each of us, saving the last hug for Leo.

Then there was a low point when—not even 10 minutes later—Daniel reached over and bopped Leo on the head with three sound, direct blows. Luckily Leo was too stunned to react.

My favorite part of the Mass came during Fr. Christopher Whatley’s beautifully crafted homily. I wasn’t taking notes, so please trust me that he said this much better than I am going to say it here.

Fr. Whatley was talking about how we can fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. And he started asking a series of rhetorical questions:

“Who thinks you have more money than other people?” he asked.

“Who thinks you have a bigger house than other people?” he asked.

“Who thinks you have a nicer car than other people?”

And Leo’s hand shot up into the air.

I was astonished.

I hadn’t even realized that our 4-year-old was listening. He was sitting on the kneeler, paging through one of the books we had brought. But he stretched his arm up as high as he could toward the ceiling. And he kept it up through a few of Father’s other questions, though I must confess that part of the homily is a bit of a blur for me as I tried to keep a straight face.

Because, you see, our car is a perfectly fine car, but it’s no luxury sedan. We like it because it’s a spacious minivan with room for friends and family, but not many people—besides me—would call it their dream car.

Even if people admired it from the outside, they might change their minds once they saw the crushed Cheerios and pretzels and whatever else carpeting the floor.

But Leo does love our car. He likes storing toys in the cup holders. He enjoys the CD player. He likes that he and his brother can play musical seats every time we climb inside. And he likes sitting in the far back of the van where he has his own little space.

Sitting in the pew this morning, I was speechless for a moment, as John and I exchanged a glance and hoped Fr. Whatley wouldn’t notice this slender arm poised firmly in the air. And he didn’t.

Then as soon as I could trust myself to speak, I leaned down and whispered, “I’m so proud of you for listening so well.”

Who thinks you have children who behave better in church than we do? Probably a lot of people. But we had a chance to pray together, and the boys earned a trip to the playground—and a ride in the nicest car on the church parking lot: ours.

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.