You grow up going to Mass. You know to sit quietly, join in the responses, listen to the readings and homily, pray and sing. At some point, you begin to truly appreciated the beauty of the liturgy – the beauty of continuity in worship throughout the ages, the peace of having times to enter the recesses of your heart to pray and reflect… the joy of being united to Jesus mind in body and soul. Or maybe you don’t feel anything special, but you really BELIEVE in your faith and are focused on what is being said in the readings and homily.
Suddenly, all that changes. Now you have children. Mass becomes an hour of rocking, whispering, teaching, and praying that nothing TOO conspicuous will happen (you know, like your child running onto the altar to get to grandpa, who is doing the reading!). Between working with your kids and trying to still focus on the Lord as much as possible, you intermittently fear the stares and comments you might receive from others… usually people that have never had children and don’t understand
- All that you’re juggling and…
- What kids are like and how they learn (it’s IMPOSSIBLE to keep toddlers completely silent and still for an hour, but they’re never going to learn unless the congregation is understanding enough to be patient with them while they’re little and learning).
I might – just might – be thinking about this particular subject right now because of a dear little 1 ½ year old that decided to SHRIEK in Mass this week (cheerful shrieks, but SHRIEKS all the same), then choked on his water bottle and went into a 10 minute coughing fit – first natural, then contrived. On top of other antics. He had the congregation distracted a lot of the time, and me distracted all of the time!
Anyway, my heart definitely feels for all the other parents out there that also face these challenges and persevere through them to keep bringing the kids to Mass.
In spite of the effort it takes, I’m convinced that it really is one of the most worthwhile things we can do for our children.
I believe in the grace of the Sacrament of the Mass. Bringing the little kids to Mass lets us ALL receive this grace, as a family.
When kids are brought to Mass from the time they’re infants, they learn about the faith through osmosis. Taking time for God on Sunday and learning about him becomes normal for them from the beginning.
We, as parents, might be more distracted than otherwise, but I think the added doses of humility and patience we receive makes up for that!
It’s the easiest way for the parents to regularly make it to Mass. If we don’t bring the kids, we need to find a babysitter, or juggle schedules so we can go to different Masses. That’s hard to do, and, while that’s fine, doesn’t bring all the same benefits as being able to share our faith together.
These are just some of the benefits a family experiences by bringing the kids to Mass. I believe, however, that it brings an even greater benefit to the Church as a whole: it makes the Church community COMPLETE for worship. Children are a very real part of the Church community. Jesus was very clear when he said, “Let the children come to me.” Jesus is truly present in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, which we celebrate each week. Shouldn’t we let the children come to him with us? Of course, it’s not a sin if the kids don’t go, but they bring so much with them when they come. They are already baptized members of the Church, so when they aren’t there, the Church community isn’t complete. Bringing them enables the whole community to worship together, and lets the rest of the community benefit from the innocence, purity and goodness of the children.
So… to all the other parents with small children out there – courage! Despite the challenges involved, we are doing a favor for ourselves, our kids and the Church community. I’m sure God is smiling down on both us and our kids (probably even laughing at the antics we find so embarrassing!).