Sunday, April 24, 2005

Bringing children to Mass

I arrived at Sunday Mass five minutes late.

Isabella’s sandal was missing and once found I was buckling it while securing her into her car seat. And we were off to Mass!

I made the humiliating walk down the center aisle of church during the beginning of the first reading. (I like to sit up front because there is less distraction for Isabella) So there I was sitting six pews from the front when a lady in the pew ahead of me gave me “the look”. Any parent with young children knows that look. It is the look that says ‘Oh great, a little Neanderthal child who is going to fuss, cry and ruin my Mass.” I smiled at her to reassure her that we would behave (please God, let Isabella behave!).

Three minutes later, while she was playing quietly with her Crucifix and her books of the Saints, the woman in front of us huffed loudly in disgust, looked at us and stood up during the reading to go sit somewhere else. To say I was embarrassed would be an understatement. I pray for the woman, who was in front of us, maybe she just had a bad day. I was late to Mass, and I accept responsibility for that. But to make my child feel unwelcome in the house of God was unacceptable.

So I began to think ‘When did it become unacceptable to bring children to Mass’ and ‘Why are parishioners so openly rude to parents with young children?’.

It isn’t easy to bring children to Mass. My husband sings in the 11:30 choir at church and he stays home with our colicky son so I can take our daughter to 8:00 AM Mass. Having a toddler washed, dressed and fed to leave the house by 7:45 can raise issues but I believe she has just as much right to be there as anyone else.
I have heard the objection ‘Go sit in the crying room/children’s chapel’. My answer: Why?

Why should I have to be exposed to a crying room filled with sick children, screaming children and parents who don’t understand that a crying room is not a social gathering room? You don’t discuss your children’s favorite activities when Mass is being celebrated! So, I sit in the main church. This is not to say that we don’t have our rough days. Sometimes the kiddos don’t use their “indoor” voice or fidget. But when that happens we act accordingly, and take them to the back of church.

I returned home after this recent incident, frazzled and upset. This is when my husband made a really good point. “Is Isabella’s Baptism any less valid than that woman’s?” He made a good point.
Looking at the Gospel of Mark (10:13-16), we can see how Christ would react:

And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, "Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it." Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them.

We are called to be the Disciples of Christ. But, let’s not be like those who rebuked those who brought their children to Him. God is happy to see children in His house, even if they are missing a sandal.


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