From the Mouths of Babes

I can't lie; usually when people are noisy at Mass it really annoys me. I guess it's just one of those things I expect shouldn't happen: people talking to one another, rustling around, reading something non-liturgical, etc. In short, it's distracting.

But, like any rule (even rules I make up myself for my own comfort), there's an exception, and yesterday that exception came in the form of a little boy who babbled and chattered from start to finish of the Eucharistic prayer. At first I was typically drawn into his noise—'I was just getting prayerfully focused! Now this kid is going to start talking behind me... geesh...' Naturally, I couldn't help but listen to him, since by this time I was clearly uninterested in my former meditative ideas. The funny thing is, the more I listened to his words, the more my affection was drawn prayerfully back to the altar.

The little boy said lots of things, but I remember two particularly:

First, his comment at the preparation of the chalice. The priest had already said the prayers of offering for the bread, and was preparing the chalice by mingling the water with the wine. Suddenly I heard: "Mommy! That's water like I can drink!"

And indeed it is. Somehow this little kid, who was clearly uninterested with the Mass up until then, became immediately fascinated with the Incarnate Word; he realized that something in the depths of his personhood was compatible with what was going on at the altar. 'Mommy! The priest isn't doing magic. He's using water, and I drink water!'

By the time I got finished dwelling on his beautiful and childlike insight, it seemed we had sped to the words of consecration. My heart was already more affectionate toward the sacrifice than it had been before. But again, I heard spiritual commentary usher forth from the pew behind me: "That's Jesus' body—the priest is holding Jesus' body," whispered the lady. "Where? Where!" shouted the boy. "I want to see it!" Indeed, his realization that something normal was becoming something super-natural baffled him. 'I just saw water, but now it's not water? Never mind! I want to see what happened to the water and the bread!'

I suppose we can meditate all we want on the sublime mysteries of the faith. They are certainly worthy of meditation. But what happened to that little boy was something much more pure than any meditation—it was an actual realization that what stood before him was something that should never be. He heard the testimony of a miracle, immediately believed, and sought to discover its root. Really, he exemplified the entire Christian life in about ten seconds. Is it any wonder that Christ extols the childlike?