Monday, 31 March 2014

Laetare Sterilis

It is Monday after the Laetare Sunday before, and oh but do I have a lot of dishes still to wash! But it was a lovely day, from the glorious rose vestments to the rose-coloured icing on the cakes. And right there in the readings was a command that childless women should rejoice:

Galatians 4:27 Scriptum est enim laetare sterilis quae non paris erumpe et exclama quae non parturis quia multi filii desertae magis quam eius quae habet virum. (For it is written: "Be glad, O barren woman, who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you who have no labor pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.")

Well, I have a husband, and this all probably applies more to nuns, and St. Paul probably meant it figuratively anyway, but I'll take it!

At lunch a young Polish guest, in Edinburgh just for the weekend, surveyed the rest of the dozen people around the pink tablecloth and remarked that none of us had children. And, indeed, I can see that this would look strange to Polish eyes, for Poland is a country that really loves children, and most Polish adults prefer to have them. We were of all ages ranging from 25 to 69.

I explained that everyone except BA and I were unmarried and BA and I had married too late for children. And I went on at great length about my parish friend currently away in Asia, who is married and had two children while attending our EF Mass. This was in part to prove that some people in our EF community actually do have babies. (And there are others, of course.) But I had to admit that this friend never comes to Sunday Lunch, and indeed socially the community is roughly divided between those who have children and those who don't. However, this is partly because families with children don't really have the time or the inclination to come to Sunday Lunch.

Here is where I should write something clever and poignant about the message of the Gospel being partly about the inclusion of those left without children or husbands or family ties into society, but poppets I am wiped. Lunch for 14 means a lot of work, and BA always snores after parties.


Heather in Toronto said...

"and had two children while attending our EF Mass"

That sounds like a particularly dramatic episode of Call The Midwife.

Seraphic said...

Ha ha! Well, you know what I mean.

Aquinas' Goose said...

According to my Anglican priest friend, the whole reason why yesterday is "Mothering Sunday" in Britain is due to the traditional readings that focus on Jerusalem as representative as being the Mother of the Church. So the whole "mother" thing is supposed to direct you to Church, not necessarily toward your parent :D (And it falls close to the Feast of the Annunciation, so really we're talking about Our Mother Mary, too).

Seraphic said...

Very true. The parent thing is a spin-off. If you went "home" to your cathedral, then you were likely to see your mother there, too, or in town anyway. Hence the 17th century poem about bringing a simnel cake to mother on Mothering Sunday and, incidentally, the Master of the Men's Schola brought a simnel cake to Lunch, which was delightfully traditional of him.

Julia said...

Wow, lunch for 14 sounds like full-on work. Well done. Especially within the confines of the pink theme too!

I'm about to suggest something about EF parishes, but please bear in mind that I have only attended Latin Mass three times in my life and only at one church, so I could be way off the mark here. I think that EF parishes might have fewer families-with-children among the congregation because Latin Mass might just be too difficult for them. EF parishes are not very common, so often it takes a bit of travelling to get to one, and I imagine that when you're trying to organise four kids under eight, just getting to the church around the corner is challenging enough. And then there's the length of the service, which might be trying for little ones, especially when they've been sitting in a car for an hour already. None of this is to suggest that the EF is not good or should change, but I mention it because I don't notice that many children at the EF Masses I've attended either.

Sheila said...

Galatians? Isn't that Isaiah 54? It's always been one of my favorites!

The common separation of the with-kids and the without-kids troubles me, and yet I'm not sure it can be resolved. The without-kids groups think 7 pm is a good time to start a dinner party, whereas I think that's a good time to put the kids to bed. If I take my kids to a childless friend's house, they smash the trinkets left on side tables and quickly find the lighter left on a windowsill. If I try having my childless friends over in the evening, they get too noisy and wake the kids. And there's the constant fear that they are judging the heck out of my slovenly house and lazy parenting!

On the other hand, the childless and the child-full (to coin a word) can mutually enrich each other in so many ways, I strongly feel we *should* be hanging out socially. For one thing, just like mixing men and women at parties, mixing people of different states in life helps mix up conversation topics so we're not always talking about babies (or whatever). But with so many obstacles, we seldom do.

c'est la vie said...

From the perspective of a single woman, I have found it difficult to befriend the women my age at my tiny parish because they have children and hence seem to share few, if any, of my interests. I think their children are adorable, but there is only so long you can spend talking about other people's children, and typically the mothers don't display much interest in my activities.

I've had a similar experience with a girl my age with whom I was great friends. She got married to a very nice chap and had a couple babies, and suddenly wasn't interested in the same things any more. It's hard to be friends now, because no conversation can last more than a minute without interruption from the little ones after which she invariably has forgotten what we were discussing and changes the subject.

From my point of view it feels like the effort is all one-sided. From her point of view, probably it's a huge effort to look after the children and socialize at the same time.

I guess it just seems like people's interests change when they have children, so a natural divide appears between them and their childless peers.

Stellamaris said...

Lots of children in my EF parish! They seem to stick it out just fine too. Of course, there is always the odd fussy one who has to be taken out for a few minutes, but in general I get the impression they are rather quieter than at my old NO parish.

Anonymous said...

Julia, if you ever go to Adelaide check out the Latin Mass parish. Loads of children. Very family friendly. Also, they don't stop going when they grow up. Lots of teens, young adults etc. I don't think it is a fair and true statement that there are less families at EF Masses.

Aussie girl in NZ

Seraphic said...

Well, this is going to depend on the EF parish! We're writing in from all over the world, and every place has different circumstances. For example, Edinburgh is not exactly brimming with Roman Catholics to begin with, and the birthrate is low. I think the Edinburgh "parish" listed with the most baptisms was "Polish Community" and they go to the Polish masses, not the EF.

But even if my EF parish had a ton of families (I think we're roughly half and half), we'd still be a divided socially (i.e. after After Mass Tea) for many of the reasons Sheila points out.

I have a "bring your baby" policy with friends-with-children, but it turns out babies would rather go to bed at home than be tucked into a basket at my house, etc.

One great place for the childless and the childwith to mingle is within their shared family. This is just a fact: family is where single people are most likely to delight in kids and be patient with them. When the child making the racket is your own niece or nephew, and you can cuddle them or tell them off without a thought, it's a lot more comfortable.

Julia said...

Aussie Girl, next time I am in Adelaide I'll check it out! I've only ever been to Mass at the Cathedral there.

At the EF parish I've been to, there are a lot of young adults and teenagers, just not heaps of little tackers. That's all I meant. This could also be because the suburb the parish is located in is not really a 'young families' area (unless those young families are Orthodox Jews).

Sheila, I'm surprised that your childless friends don't have the imagination to put away their breakables when kids come over. I mean, if they leave stuff out, they're asking for it to be smashed.

sciencegirl said...

It will get easier once your kids get older, Sheila! I can remember wonderful visits to my parents' friends' homes after I was about 5. After that age, I didn't break anything or steal lighters because I knew there would be serious consequences later -- especially the consequence of not getting to go again! The friends always had such cool things, and I felt grown-up just going over to a house with so few toys and such nice clean antique furniture.

I would like to have some friends with kids over without rearranging my whole house; their kids are 7+, so I think it would be safe, right? I know about baby- and toddler-proofing, but older kids should be able to avoid killing themselves for an afternoon with supervision, right?

Seraphic said...

Ah. Speaking as an aunt, remove all breakables from tables, remove all small precious items of furniture, remove all plants, put plastic stoppers made for the purpose in all empty sockets, hide the cat, and make sure everyone knows where the bathroom is. Do not serve anything that leaves indelible stains, like grape juice or beets. Most kids do not like sitting still. I'm not sure they can even sit quietly with a book for an hour. At seven I was still amusing myself through Mass by making shadow puppets with my fingers while inwardly chanting "Little Rabbit Foo-Foo, hopping through the forest..."