'Thank you for not having this demented mother arrested for stalking during Mass'
As I found myself creeping across the altar of a church in the middle of Mass on Sunday, the phrase 'the lengths parents go to for their children' rang loudly in my ears.
My seven-year-old daughter was due to say a bidding prayer (prayer of the faithful) at her First Communion preparation Mass. Three local schools were gathered in the church for the big event. We're talking about 120 children plus parents, grandparents and siblings.
Suffice to say the church was jammed. My daughter was in a tizzy about her 'big moment', going up to say a prayer.
We had had a full week practising the three lines. Even our family cat could have said the prayer by the time Sunday morning finally rolled around.
The morning had been taken up with an inordinate amount of analysis over what to wear - hair up or down, cardigan on or off…
I finally wrestled her into a cardigan as it was Baltic outside and I wasn't having her at home for a week with flu because of one bidding prayer.
We arrived at the church, where we met my mother who had braved the Arctic conditions to witness her granddaughter's 'big moment'.
The Mass began and the seven-year-old wriggled about beside me waiting for her call up. It finally arrived.
The priest mentioned the prayers of the faithful, he called out four names, children from the other schools, hers wasn't one of them.
I urged her to go up.
"But he didn't say my name," she said, her face falling.
"It doesn't matter, it's the bidding prayers. Go on," I said.
"No, he didn't say my name," her lip began to wobble, she half stood up but then sat down again. It was too late now.
She sat beside me, head bent. Silent tears rolled down her cheeks, gently landing on her best dress. My heart broke for her.
I realise there are children in war-torn countries and this is such a ridiculous little thing, but when your young child is sobbing beside you, you'd do anything to make it better…even if that involves making a complete show of yourself.
I have to fix this, I thought. How can I fix this?
The priest called the children up to altar to sing the 'Our Father'. One hundred and 20 children thundered up to the aisle...followed by one adult.
As the children and priest sang the 'Our Father', I shuffled sideways across the altar. The altar boys looked at each other in shock. The Sacristan followed me with his eyes, he was ready to take me down should the need arise. What in the name of Jesus was this lunatic doing on the altar beside the priest?
As the song ended with a rousing "and deliver us from evil, amen", I was almost standing on top of the priest. The children made their way back to their seats, I leant over and whispered into the priest's ear that my daughter had missed her slot and was there any possible way she could get to say her prayer before the Mass was over.
He looked at me and - clearly seeing my desperation - asked me her name. I quickly retreated from the altar before I was physically removed and went back to my seat.
"What are you doing?" my seven-year-old hissed.
"Just trying to sort it out."
I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.
After Communion, the priest announced that he realised he had missed one child during the bidding prayer and if she would like to come up now and say her prayer that would be fine. He called out her name.
My daughter looked at me wide-eyed, I nodded. Up she went and read out her prayer. She came back down, her red eyes now shining with happiness.
I could have let it go. It could have been a character-building experience for her, but she's seven and, you know what, life's hard enough.
As she grows up, she will face all kinds of challenges so I feel it's my job to try to help her, if and when I can.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Fr Tony of Mount Merrion parish for his compassion, kindness and for understanding the act of a demented mother.
I would also like to thank him for not having me arrested for stalking him during the Mass. He is the hero who saved the day.