Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bringing Small Children To Mass

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, first watch this instructional video on how to deal with rowdy children in a place where they are supposed to be quiet.


Thus far in his short life, Dominic has managed to disrupt a baptism, two weddings, and an ordination. I didn't go to the funeral. I'm not stupid, just crazy. 

At the most recent wedding, he kept shouting, inexplicably, "Nooooooooo! Noooooooooooo! NOOOOOO!" I don't know why. I wasn't even doing anything to him. He was just sitting there, on my lap, making a scene.

From the time one of our babies hits about five months until they get to be about 2 years, Brad or I spend a lot of time at the back of the church. Our church doesn't exactly have a cry room, it's more of a very large entry way, but it has doors to close off the riff-Raff. We have the riff-Raff and it makes a lot of noise. Because when we take a kid out, we take them out. I don't like to let them run around and think it's a good time to be had at the back, so I hold them bodily. Sometimes, there's screaming. And sweating, always sweating. Eventually, they learn that it's better to sit respectfully in Mass than to get taken to the back. It's just that this method takes awhile to catch on. Like, about a year. 

Mass, or any church service, or really any place where your small child has to be quiet and still can be stressful. This is not rocket science. Small children are naturally not quiet and still. Other people, who are either grouchy or who have forgotten what it's like to have small children, shoot dirty looks at us because our kid is being a little too cheerful, or a little bit squally. These are the people that follow you with narrowed eyes as you make your way swiftly down the aisle carrying a toddler with windmill-like arms and the impressive volume of a fire truck.

I have to admit that many a Sunday has found me pacing back and forth at the back of the church, smiling grimly and sweating profusely along with all the other parents, and thinking, "Why do we torture ourselves thus? Why bother? This is not the way to sanity! Who cares about holiness, what I need right now is 10 minutes in a padded room, alone. What am I doing here?" 

And it is that question that brings me to the point. I bring my children to Mass because, like Peter says during the Transfiguration, "Lord, it is good that we are here." It may not be good-I'm-having-such-a-swell-time good, but a higher good. It is the good of receiving God's grace, communing with the saints and the angels all present at the altar for the Holy Sacrifice. 

I've heard it argued that Mass should be set aside, holy, quiet, something distinctly other than the rush of our daily lives. And to an extent, I agree. I love me some stained glass, incense, and actual, beautiful music. At the same time, we all bring our messy selves to get cleaned up, and some of us have messiness that gets really, really loud. The Mass reflects our lives back to us and reminds us that behind the common things in life, the bread and the wine, the diaper blow outs and the sleepless nights, lurks the possibility for the divine.

I gotta say, personally I like a little rowdy at Mass. I like to hear the muffled screeches, coos, babbles, and first words that are the Church militant. For one thing, other people's kids being loud take the pressure off me and my brood, and for another....these are the children we promised to welcome openly during our wedding vows. These are the children with which the Church instructs us to be generous. These are the souls entrusted in our care. I think it would be goofy for any Christian church to frown upon small children within their premises, "Let the little children come to me" and all that, but it would be really, really ridiculous in a Catholic church, whose theology states that the primary end of marriage is the procreation and education of children.

I'm certain that when the Apostles watched Jesus struggle to carry the cross to Calvary the whole thing was a little more than they bargained for. The sight of the man whom they had come to believe was the long-awaited Messiah naked, sweaty, bloody, and filthy had to have been incredibly humbling. But I think in that same way, after the Resurrection, the joy the Apostles must have experienced was also previously unimaginable.

My life as a married woman with children is a little less organized, a little messier, a little crazier, a little dirtier and ultimately way more joyful than I ever anticipated. Here, in my domestic Church, real people struggle with real sins, with real challenges and triumphs. If every Mass is a little Calvary, then I think we should not be surprised when it, too, gets a little messier, and a whole lot more miraculous, than we'd ever expected.


  1. Oh, the sweating! I sweat even if there is full blown AC right on me ... it's ridiculous.

  2. I loved this!! Just went through this with my 17month old yesterday when I went to Daily mass...agh the joys of