Sunday, October 6, 2013

Toddlers and Mass

To all my brothers and sisters in the faith who have the courage to put those two together week in and week out, I applaud you! 

From the time our first child was born, my wife and I drew a line in the sand . . . We would not make use of the crying room during Mass. "Hey," we reasoned, "we're both educators and lifelong Catholics. We've got this under control. Besides, how is our child going to learn to behave in the church if he's never actually in the church?"

I think that decision was made under the influence of a lack of sleep from all of those nighttime feedings!

Somehow, we trudged through my son's infant and toddler years. We made a lot of mid-Mass trips outside the church when he got rowdy, and we avoided upsetting any of our fellow parishioners-- at least not to the point where they said anything to us. Now, at age six, he's pretty much got the behavior thing down, and we're working on getting him to actively participate in the Mass.

Unfortunately, we're now in the middle of Round 2-- my daughter. Don't get me wrong, she's a sweet kiddo. I think something happens when kids get inside the church, though. Suddenly they're tired-- even though they just napped; hungry-- even though they just snacked, and so on. And, isn't it great how churches naturally amplify and echo sound?

My wife and I are personally grateful for the two older couples who sit behind us most weekends (because Catholics sit in the same pew each week, like Mass has a seating chart, you know!). They're friendly when we arrive with our backpack full of books and snacks.  They're patient when my daughter lights into one of her tantrums and has to be taken out.  They're even understanding, like the one particular weekend we ended up sitting behind them, and my daughter kicked one of the gentlemen in the head as I was trying to remove her from the pew before her tantrum hit glass-shattering decibels.

Despite it all, we somehow manage to grab that moment of prayer, those few words from the homily that transcend the stream of interruptions, or that connection with the greatest gift of the Mass-- Christ in the Eucharist. 

I know both of us are looking forward to the time when we can once again bring our full and undivided attention to Mass. But, in the meantime, we feel like God's teaching us another, maybe even more valuable lesson-- "Enjoy your current circumstances. Appreciate the gifts I've given you . . . no matter how distracting. Learn to make the most of even the smallest moment with me." 

And we're okay with that.

Photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography via photopin cc