A really good, holy priest told me to always sit in the front row at Mass so the children could see; if anyone criticised, I was to remember Jesus’ words of “let the little children come unto Me.” I have tried to follow his instructions ever since then, even though I no longer attend his parish. I think of him frequently at Mass, though.
This morning at Mass, it was difficult. Leo decided his shirt was “com-pull” (uncomfortable) and screamed until it was removed. He stole Charlotte’s dinosaur purse, which upset her. I mistakenly thought Kieran was trying to lick my arm (he was actually trying to nuzzle me), so I scolded him. I had to get up repeatedly with Leo.
In the midst of all that, I thought of Jesus’ words and Father Theo’s instructions to me. I thought about how I agree with that completely, and yet it gets stressful worrying about how others will react or whether the priest will glare or comment during or after Mass. Thankfully the latter happens infrequently, but it has happened, to me and to others. It saddens me, really, as I feel the children can probably sense that I’m uptight, and so aren’t focusing as well on Jesus. Neither am I, for that matter.
Then I remembered how my friends who are in the Eastern Catholic rites or are Orthodox have talked about how children are met in their parishes. They’ve told me it is common, accepted and expected, in fact, for the children to walk around looking at the icons. By doing that, they are kept quieter and active, instead of being expected to sit still and be silent. More than that, though, they are learning about their faith as they wander around the sanctuary. I have to admit, I’m jealous. I wish it were accepted in the Latin rite for children to do that. While I point out various things, I can’t point out everything from the pew, and of course then I still worry about comments as Leo loudly identifies the various things (side note: he quacked loudly at Mass recently because he decided the dove of the Holy Spirit was a duck).
So, what does it really look like to say “let the little children come unto Me” and then not accept that children are children? It seems like a contradiction. Thankfully, there are parishes who work really hard to welcome children; one I know of has little flyers in the pews instructing other parishioners to welcome the children and telling parents not to worry too much. Recently a Bishop instructed his priests not to criticise parents of louder children. I wish all parishes and priests were so understanding and welcoming, and I also wish it were acceptable for the children to walk around some. In the meantime, I’ll keep on doing what I’m doing, knowing that sitting in the front is the next best way for them to learn since they can actually see from there. And when I receive comments, as I’m sure I will again, I will try to smile and just use Jesus’ words.