“Mama, what are Us Centers?”

The Girl is tugging at my pants insistently, breaking my concentration. We are standing in the Family Center of our church, where her big brother is preparing to join his Wednesday night CCD class. We are praying the Hail Mary as a group, and now is neither the time for conversation nor for puzzling out what she’s talking about. I shake my head, silently indicating that I will answer her question later.

She crosses her arms, looks at me angrily, and stomps a foot. “Why are we praying for Us Centers?”

“I’ll tell you in the car.”

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

I’ve been thinking about this question a lot this week. “Us sinners” is a phrase with a couple of subtle nuances. First off, all humans are by definition imperfect and sinners. So it reminds us gently that we all have room for improvement. Secondly, and more importantly (I think) is the use of the word “us”. The prayer is not “pray for me, a sinner” but “pray for us.” It is a reminder that we are a community. We are all in this together.

I got to see David’s mom, Kathleen, this morning at school when the Kindergartners did a “storybook parade.” My little girl was dressed as Tinkerbell because the Snow White costume she has is “too itchy.” (She likes Snow White better, but comfort comes before looks. She gets that from me, a woman who owns zero pairs of heels.) Kathleen’s twins were carrying storybooks, but didn’t have on costumes. Honestly, I didn’t even notice, but their mom, who had been holding it all together, suddenly broke down. She was mourning the fact that with being so caught up in caring for David she hasn’t been able to give as much attention to her other children.

She turned to me and our mutual friend, Sarah, and asked, “Do you think it’s okay that they don’t have costumes?”

“Of course!” we exclaimed, and did our respective bests at comforting her. (Sarah is better at this.)

Lord, woman, I was thinking, I’ve broken down any number of times this week over your situation, and my imagination of your pain must be only the tip of the actuality of it. But I didn’t say that out loud because I don’t know her all that well, and the last thing I wanted to do was burden her any more. Plus I was less articulate in the moment than I’m able to be after giving things some thought and putting them in writing. But that was basically how I felt.

I did my best at being helpful and comforting, and offered help with childcare or just hanging out or whatever, and I told her I’m praying for her and her family. And I am.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Categories: The Kids


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